Monday, June 20, 2011

The Knack for Finding Gold

A prospector on 47th street in New York City's diamond district? For sure. NyPo reports:

There's gold in them thar sidewalk cracks!

A Queens man has discovered enough hidden treasure -- bits of diamonds, rubies, platinum and gold -- on the gritty sidewalks of Midtown's Diamond District to make a living.

"The streets of 47th Street are literally paved with gold," a giddy Raffi Stepanian, 43, of Whitestone told The Post last week when a reporter discovered him on all fours -- armed with tweezers and a butter knife -- digging through cracks in the sidewalk in a driving rainstorm.

The freelance diamond setter explained that he was sifting through "very valuable" New York City mud for tiny diamond and ruby chips, bits of platinum, white-gold industrial loops for jewelry assembly, and gold earring backs and loops from broken chains, watches, broaches and necklaces -- all carelessly dropped and now his to mine.

"Material falls off clothes, on the bottom of shoes, it drops off jewelry, and it falls in the dirt and sticks oo the gum on the street," he explained.

"The percentage of gold out here on the street is greater than the amount of gold you would find in a mine . . . It comes close to a mother lode because in the street, you're picking up gold left by the industry."

With a reporter in tow, Stepanian took his Styrofoam cup of mud to a friend's polishing studio on 47th Street near Sixth Avenue and demonstrated how he "pans" the precious particles like an old-fashioned prospector -- by hand, in a small metal basin with water and a strainer.

Over six days, he says, he collected enough gold for two sales totaling $819 on 47th Street -- where he first got the idea to mine the sidewalks after finding gold scraps on the floor of a diamond exchange.

"If it's on the exchange floor, it's got to be outside as well," he said. "This was trial and error. Once I found one [piece], I thought there has to be many more.

"The stones are already cut and manufactured -- it's a step above a mine," he added. "I'm finding them already cut and polished.

"You just have to get down on your knees and get it," he said.

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