Posted on November 17 2011
After swiping my access card, I was ushered into an elevator with older orthodox Jewish men wearing white dress shirts with all black coats, trousers, hats, shoes and long beards. I was in the elevator of New York’s renowned Diamond Dealer’s Club (DDC), the largest diamond trade organization in the U.S. and one of the leading diamond exchanges in the world. Located in a one block radius between Fifth and Sixth Avenue of New York’s bustling diamond district on 47th Street, an average of $400,000,000 USD worth of diamonds are traded there daily.
I stepped outside the elevator and into a room filled with dozens of tables where dealers sat hunched over showing parcel after parcel of diamonds to potential buyers. A mere mazel, or traditional blessing, along with a handshake is all it takes to finalize a deal.
I was the only woman among thousands of men. They all looked the same, while I was the polar opposite. A young, South Asian woman with long wavy hair, a magenta blazer with matching lipstick and eye shadow — I was keenly aware of just how unusual my presence was at the DDC.
With my heart beating fast and my palms sweaty, I was sure that the look on my face portrayed my anxiety. After all, it had taken me several weeks of interviews and long applications with the board before I was officially accepted as a member at the DDC. But, in that moment, all I wanted was to turn around and run. Just as I turned to do so, I heard someone calling out my name. It was Eli, one of New York’s top diamond brokers with whom my company did fantastic business. And then I was back in my element.
Loupe and colour card in hand (these are gemological tools required for diamond grading), I sat at a table with Eli to begin dealing and negotiating. At first, it was a huge challenge to overcome tradition and deal as an equal with orthodox men, such as Eli, who weren’t used to trading with a woman. But soon enough they all knew I meant business and thus began a wonderful business relationship.
For over two years, I worked out of a 150 square foot office that wasn’t much different than the factory downstairs of the world’s most remarkable cutter who had cut 5 out of the 7 rarest diamonds in the world featured at the Smithsonian one year that was valued at over $100M USD. Or of the sight holder across the hallway whose office holds an inventory of over 10,000 diamonds. I was in the middle of it all, and it was exhilarating!
Taking on a challenge, adapting to new situations and ways of conducting business, and understanding how to build new business relationships were all things I learned on that first day at the DDC. And these were the experiences that helped prepare me to open up my own business, Maharani Jewels.
Visit www.maharanijewels.com for diamond education and information on jewelry Vancouver.