Back in April, New York Times author Ben Schott got an inside look at the 47th block of New York’s diamond district. Bordered by fifth and sixth avenues, the main drag is saturated with jewelry shops and diamond exchanges. Cops also line the streets alongside the district’s endless stream of hustlers and customers.
However, stashed away in the underbelly of these operations is where the real heartbeat of the diamond trade pulsates.
It is here among the countless hidden appraisers, polishers and designers that Ben got an ear full of insider terms which were previously only known to those entrenched in the industry.
These Diamond sellers, or diamantaires, took him under their wing to impart some of the interesting nomenclature used when buying, selling or conducting business with fellow diamond slingers.
Next time you set out to buy a diamond, use this *partial list of our favorite of technical terms to help you more easily navigate this complex industry.
Rough – Stones that filter into the shop in an uncut or unpolished state are called ‘rough stones’.
Tam– Refers to the “flavor” or appeal of a diamond. Usually accomplished by pitting it against a similar stone to assess which is greater.
Strop– If a dealer has a stone that isn’t likely to sell or generally considered a ‘bad buy’, it will be referred to as a strop. Often, these strop stones are kept for long periods of time in the hope that they come back into fashion. It’s where the saying “People get rich on strops” comes from.
Fisheye– Stones which appear flat or overall unappealing are known as flat stones or a pancake.
Bluff stone– A diamond that is impressive at first glance, but ultimately worthless or otherwise less valuable than it appears is known as bluffy.
Estate jewelry– This is term used to denote that a diamond or piece of jewelry is secondhand. Outside the diamond industry, the term post-consumer is widely used. These pieces often satisfy the humanitarian and ecological concerns surrounding newer, more controversial stones.
Good hand– When a dealer has a particularly good understanding of diamonds specific to either locating stones or negotiating deals, they are said to have a ‘good hand’. Ben also discovered that, “A trader with a good hand is also one with the wisdom and integrity to “leave a little profit in the deal” so everyone makes their parnose (“livelihood”). Dealers will say of a lucrative and lucky trading partnership, “We have a good hand together.”’
Touch– In a word, it means profit. The example Ben uses is, “I got a little touch”, meaning a dealer or trader benefitted financially from the sale.
2-10 · When a suspicious looking customer requires extra surveillance, shop keepers will alert their staff of the 2-10. It’s an admonition that means keep “two eyes on 10 fingers” to prevent possible theft. This slag can be traced all the way back to 1860s when it was used in a variety of retail shops that were just beginning to emerge.
Good gee– A ‘G’ or ‘Gee’ always references a customer. A ‘good gee’ denotes a favorite customer, while if you were to kitty the gee you would essentially be distracting them with small talk.
Low liner- When a customer is thought to be a bad prospect and unlikely to buy, he or she is known in store as a low liner. Alternately, a high liner, or good prospect, is a customer likely to buy and may therefore receive preferential treatment.
Magic sizes · Stones that weigh in between a particular range, typically 0.5-1 carat, tend to drastically jump in desirability and price, making them ‘magic sized’.
*For the full list of diamond district slang see the NYT article posted in April.