There was no question that Ellie Mendelsohn would stand behind the glass booth with her father, Hank, on 47th Street once she completed her college education. Her grandfather, who had introduced his son and granddaughter to the world of gold and jewelry, had retired to Florida, and now it was Ellie’s time to join the family trade. “The jewelry is my favorite part of the business, so I said, ‘Why not start my own line? ’” The first piece Ellie ever made was a pair of earrings, based on a necklace that her father had made for her mom. “I loved it so much, I decided to create earrings. ” Indeed, for those who work in the Diamond District, jewelry is much more than an accessory — it is a time-honored link to one’s heritage and family.
After almost thirty years in the Diamond District, Delicate Gem has made a name for itself among the several thousand other businesses that crowd 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. An Armenian family that had lived in Turkey and worked in the diamond industry before coming to the States, the Minnetyans have been in the gem business for generations. When Arthur Minnetyan first came to Manhattan, and founded Delicate Gem, he built up a reputation among the other hard-wheeling diamond merchants by virtue of his expertise. The whole family became involved, as was common in the Diamond District, and has remained so. One afternoon, I enjoyed sitting and chatting with the family and learning more about their passion for diamonds, as it was here that my husband bought me a cherished bracelet a number of years ago. After his father, Arthur, passed away, son Ari took over the shop and has dedicated himself to selling and crafting only the best pieces of jewelry for his clients. Though he had originally planned on becoming an accountant after graduating college, his father's death drove him to come back home and carry on the family business. Ari's dedication to Delicate Gem exemplifies how ingrained the diamond business has become in the lives of diamond dealers and manufacturers on 47th. To those who work in the Diamond District, jewelry is much more than an accessory – it is a link to one's heritage and family that is time honored. As a Gemological Institute of America certified gemologist, Ari explained to me how diamonds were rated – the 4 Cs: color, cut, clarity, carat – and how he was able to help customers both pick out their favorite stone and create the jewelry on-site. On a street where competition is tough and a buyer can be overwhelmed, Ari and his family pride themselves on their honesty in the business. They, like many of the merchants surrounding their store, seek to establish relationships with clients and to gain their trust so that they may become customers for life.
A true mom-and-pop shop started by Maximo Valdes and his wife offers custom artisan jewelry. Orfrebre, in Spanish, translates to “goldsmith, " and Valdes has been a gold craftsman for 35 years. A few years ago he took a chance and opened his dream store at this 7th Street location. In 2015, he expanded and moved to a studio on 10th Street. Maximo not only sells his own jewelry, but also has consignment arrangements with other designers. Our own perusal uncovered collections that feature intricate pieces from a wide range of artists, including Peruvian and Mexican artisans and the great grandson of the venerated Apache leader Geronimo.