"As long as large goods are in demand, New York is in safe hands," the venerable Diamond Trading Company broker Willy Nagel tells me when I run into him in the lobby of 580 Fifth Avenue, on my way up to visit the new DTC sightholder Dynamic Diamonds. "But who knows what the rest of the year brings, or two years from now, when the next list is announced?"
How times have changed. Three years back, when the great sightholder cutters and manufacturers Kwiat, Goldberg, and the National Diamond Syndicate were removed from the DTC list, 47th Street's century-old diamond centrality seemed to have vanished overnight. The stockpile was empty, the right-hand ring augured a shift toward small goods, Zales buyers were placing mass orders in Mumbai, and all of New York employed fewer cutters than a medium-size Gujarat factory. India had become not only the new cutting center, but the world's jewelry warehouse and diamond bourse. The market had become demand driven, with margins and efficiencies awarded to those able to contain costs. The New York sightholder seemed destined to become a glorified trans-shipper.
Today, in contrast, unprecedented U.S. demand for 2 carat-plus stones, an ebbing of the majors' stranglehold at retail, and the Supplier of Choice edict to reach downstream with sophisticated marketing have hit critical mass. New York's raison is no longer in doubt. The 2005 list changes awarded three new sights to the Empire City. Sightholders from around the world have opened New York offices to reach the increasingly important U.S. independent.
The Supplier of Choice paradigm now seems awfully supply-sided: He who has the goods controls the market. And as anyone who's visited a New York sightholder the day the boxes arrive from Charterhouse Street can testify, New York has the goods. And, as several sightholders confirm, if they don't have it, they go and get it from the secondary rough markets, the non-DTC rough sources, the Diamdels, the sources for polished, or by trading boxes with other sightholders.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
So what is a New York sightholder these days? Upstairs at Dynamic Diamonds, the Lax family has returned from the great monthly trip and the boxes are being opened. Small cellophane bags bearing millions of dollars of these strange, clear pebbles are making the final leg of a billion-year journey from carbon vapor to bended knee. Dynamic is the least known of the new New York sightholders. Often grouped with retailer-sightholders after they opened Lockes Diamantaires on Columbus Circle last year, Dynamic's 47th Street reputation rests largely on their role as one of Tiffany's suppliers, although they won't confirm the fact.
I watch when a bag of 100 pieces of eight and nine carat rough is brought into the office of Simche Katz, Dynamic's master marker. Katz's hand pauses over an oddly shaped stone. He uncaps his marking pen, and the magic begins. Less than 30 seconds to mark the stone and put it in a Sarin machine, where it's weighed at 9.04 carats. With two keystrokes, the screen of a computer with 3D software shows the stone rotated internally, as it's analyzed for grain structure and placement of its one inclusion, which is a little more than halfway toward the top. With another keystroke, the image changes from photographic to a simple, block-line schematic, and Katz is able to direct the software's quest for optimal sawing. The almost instant recommendation is a 4.21 asscher from the top, and a 1.83 emerald from the bottom, both VVS.
"OK, I was a little off," he smiles, swiveling in his chair to his computer, which bears the weekly price lists. The problem with his mark isn't the asscher, but the 17 points keeping the emerald from a full 2 carats. As Katz shows me on his computer, magic sizes in emeralds are continuing their uptrend. Back on the other screen, he clicks his marking line down a degree, double clicks. Ten seconds later, the emerald comes in at 2.01. The asscher not only remains plus-four, it's 4.11.