The public face of New York’s diamond district is Diamond and Jewelry Way, a block of 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues lined with dazzlingly lit shops and exchanges and cluttered by hawkers, hustlers, cops and couriers. But beyond these street-level operations, in back rooms, upper floors and looming towers, toils an army of cutters, blockers, polishers, sorters, appraisers, graders, designers and dealers — most of whom the diamond-buying public never sees.
Unless otherwise noted, all non-English terms are Yiddish or are derived from Yiddish and are rendered using the transliteration system developed by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
Carat or CT · A carat (200 milligrams) is divided into both 100 points and four grains. A “20-pointer” weighs one-fifth of a carat (or 40 milligrams), and a “six-grainer” weighs 1.5 carats (or 300 milligrams). Dealers say “light” to indicate weights shy of a common fraction; a “light-half” can weigh from 0.45 to 0.49 carats.
Rough · Uncut and unpolished stones.
Strop · A stone that won’t sell; a bad buy. Some dealers are anxious to unload their strops, even at a loss, to release capital or just to dispose of a dud. Others reckon that strops are not actually costing them anything, so they let them “sit in the back of the safe,” literally or metaphorically, for years (generations, even). Sometimes forgotten stones surge back into fashion, hence the saying “People get rich on strops.”
Khazeray · Junk; trash.
Links-shtivl · “Left-footed boots”; a parcel of khazeray in which nothing matches. “I can’t find a pair of stones to make earrings in this links-shtivl.” Also, linker: left; awry; illegitimate; illegal.
Shlok · Junk; rubbish; fake; second-rate merchandise.
Shvimers · “Swimmers”; especially impressive stones that seem to “swim across the surface” of loose diamonds, improving the appearance of lesser ones. Also, floaters.
Mame-zitser · “Mother sitter”; a very large diamond.
Tam · “Flavor”; appeal. When comparing diamonds, an expert will instinctively sense which has the greater tam.
Trip(le) (e)x · Any stone with an “excellent” grading for cut, polish and symmetry.
Fisheye · An unappealingly flat stone. Also, pancake.
Roval · A nearly round, fat oval; ugly; undesirable; unsalable.
Matzo · A stone made to look larger by cutting it flat at the widest spot.
Fir-kantike eyer · “Four-cornered eggs”; an impossible request; a stone (or price) that doesn’t exist. “You’re looking for fir-kantike eyer — go down to the Smithsonian.”
Bluff stone · An impressive looking (bluffy) diamond that is not as valuable as it appears.
Estate jewelry · Secondhand. The term post-consumer has recently been adopted to appeal to those concerned about the humanitarian and ecological costs of newly mined stones.
Melee · From mêlé, French for “mixed”; small cut-and-polished diamonds (often 0.18 carats or less) used as accent stones or in dense pavé settings, where many stones cover an area of metal. Melee is commonly sold in parcels or lots, for which the price rises as the buyer becomes more selective: