Man Makes a Living Scraping the Sidewalk for Gold and Diamonds

Believe it or not, the streets of New York really are paved with gold, but you have to get down and dirty to get your hands on it. For urban prospector Raffi Stephanian this isn’t an issue, just a great way to pay the bills.

Using only a Styrofoam cup, a butter knife and tweezers, 43-year-old Raffi scours the streets of New York’s Diamond District searching for gold, diamonds and other precious jewels. You’ve probably walked on 47th Street countless times and didn’t realize the riches that were right there in front of you, but don’t beat yourself up about it, Raffi was probably the only one who ever thought there was something valuable on the sidewalk. And that only because he worked as a stone setter, years ago, when he found gold scraps on the floor of a diamond exchange. He realized if he could find gold inside, then people must have carried it outside, as well.

The gold and precious stones industry is a hectic one, and you can see people running from one shop to the other, from a diamond supplier to a diamond dealer, and so on, and in the process, they drop tiny valuables without even realizing it. Most of the fragments found by Raffi Stephanian were carried into the streets by diamond merchants who accidentally picked them up on their clothes or on the soles of their shoes. He also finds platinum chips, loops from broken necklaces, watches or bracelets, all of which were dropped by mistake.

Raffi Stephanian scrapes the mud from cracks in the sidewalk, using his trusty tools, puts it in his Styrofoam cup and takes it to a polishing studio, where he uses a bowl and sieve to get rid of the mud, just like old prospectors used to do. Only he says the percentage of gold on the streets of New York is actually higher than in a mine, plus all the precious stones he finds are already processed and ready to be sold. And he sells all his loot to jewelry sellers in the area, to whom it belonged to in the first place.

But is this kind of modern prospecting enough to make a living in New York City? In the last six days, Raffi made $819 selling found gold to dealers in the Diamond District, and he says if done right, his method can produce up to $200 a day. He claims he makes between $40 and $60 in just one – two hours, every day. Asked if he sees himself doing this for a long time, Mr. Stephanian said he would, if the Diamond District weren’t so small. He’d probably end up cleaning the place up in order to make a living off its gutter riches.

While other people would have probably guarded this secret with their lives, Raffi even did an interview on how he does his prospecting and says he would actually like other people to enjoy doing what he does. I have a feeling he’ll be out looking for another job pretty soon, after this.

via New York Post

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