Das Schmuckviertel in Providence, Rhode Island

Das Schmuckviertel in Providence, Rhode Island

As rents rose, jewelers started looking elsewhere. The current home of the Diamond District is a long block of 47th street.

It’s a true melting pot; first generation artisan jewelers from around the world coexist with members of the unhoused population and delicious ethnic restaurants.

It’s best to do your research before you head out here. It’s a bit intimidating and it can be easy to get taken advantage of.
The History

A tucked away gem in downtown Providence, the Jewelry District is a true melting pot. First generation artisan jewelers who moved here decades ago live side by side with young creative types, street vendors and street food stands. Old manufacturing buildings have been converted into lofts and offices while the streets are lined with delicious ethnic restaurants that cater to a fancy clientele.

At the end of the 19th century, when industrial building construction was advancing in Providence, jewelers began to expand their operations outside of the core city into areas south of downtown. At that time, a number of the large, multi-story factory buildings were built, such as the Richardson and Hicks Building at Page and Friendship Streets. These larger factories were designed using the new flat-slab reinforced concrete construction that allowed the floors to be supported with columns, leaving eighty percent of the interior walls free for windows.

These developments helped the jewelry industry move from a small-scale, high craft production to a mass-produced, inexpensive product. By the 1920s, ever-increasing rents demanded by office space hungry financial companies forced small jewelers to look for more affordable spaces.
The Shops

The district is packed with jewelry stores, from tiny shops with the cheapest salt and pepper melee to luxury brands and auction houses. They all have their own culture, a distinct lexicon and rules of behavior.

Many shoppers go to the Jewelry District with very specific needs in mind. Some are couples who are getting engaged and need to pick out the engagement ring. Others are looking to replace a lost or stolen piece of jewelry and need to get it appraised.

Of course, if diamonds aren’t your thing you can find all sorts of alternative metals in the district’s jewelry stores. And if you’re into watches, the district is packed with window after window of Rolex, Raymond Weil and other fine timepieces. The district also has plenty of pawn shops for those who want to sell their old or unwanted jewels. The district is open 18 hours a day and it’s best to arrive before the crowds start forming.
The Nightlife

There’s plenty to see and do in the Jewelry District, but if you want to avoid the crowds, visit the neighborhood on a weekday. Also, make sure to bring cash for your purchases as many jewelers in the area don’t accept credit cards.

You can also take a guided tour to learn more about the Jewelry District’s history and the many shops that call it home. These tours are led by local guides and can be a great way to connect with the community.

The most interesting tour is offered by a jewelry designer and curator named Jules Kim. She has a deep connection to New York City’s club scene and has seen firsthand how it shapes the culture of the city. She explains how hip-hop music has influenced jewelry styles and how the fashion industry has responded to it. She also hosts hearings at the Board of Licenses to help ensure that nightclubs in the area have good behavior.
The Food

The Jewelry District has a number of great food and drink options. Whether you’re craving lobster rolls from Mango Cart, chicken and waffles at Egg Slut or a grilled cheese with pickles from The Good Kind, you’ll find it in the neighborhood. The area also has plenty of coffee shops, including G&B Coffee and a branch of the popular boba chain Teavana.

The Jewelry District is a melting pot of restaurants and ethnic cuisines. You’ll find Orthodox Jews and first-generation artisan jewelers side-by-side. The district’s ambiance is an old-world bazaar, with handshake deals and Yiddish blessings. The area is rife with potential scams, so it’s important to do your research before making a purchase. And don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel uncomfortable. There are hundreds of other jewelry stores and exchanges within walking distance. Also, use a credit card to make purchases. AMEX has a dispute resolution process and will take your side if something goes wrong.

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