Are The Streets of New York Lined With Gold?


A persistent urban myth dating back to the early days of European immigration concerned the streets of New York being paved with gold. Although meant figuratively speaking, this remains a gross exaggeration to say the very least. And yet for one unemployed man the tale is not so far fetched after all.

Since 1941, New York’s busy Diamond District has been located on West 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Former jewelry setter, Raffi Stepanian, aged 43, claims to make about $475 every week by crawling on his hands and knees combing the streets of this area for dropped pieces of gold and gems. Armed with a pair of tweezers, his haul includes chips of diamonds and rubies, bits of platinum and gold fragments from watches, earrings and necklaces.

According to Raffi:

“I’m surviving on it. I may be about to trigger a new gold rush on the streets of New York. The soil in the sidewalks of 47th street is saturated with the stuff…. It is a rich area and people simply drop things, or their jewelry falls on the street, and it gets stuck in the mud or the gum…”

Raffi claims that he has sold most of his discoveries to metal refiners or diamond sellers, but has kept some for safekeeping to be melted down for future use (sort of like a secret nest egg, but his is made of gold and platinum chips).

Stapanian has seen chips and fragments on the ground and on building floors many times during his gainful employment in the jewelry business over the course of the last twenty-six years and he has always been tempted to pick them up. In those days, such actions might have proved embarrassing, but today it is his bread and butter!

He has developed his own system and often removes soil from the area (as much as 25 pounds at a time), takes it home and sifts it at his leisure.

Whether he returns the soil after examining it is not known.

Is a new gold rush in the works?

Probably not, for mules and gold prospectors don’t care much for New York City traffic, which is another kind of rush altogether.


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  1. factchecker says:

    Wasted time for most folks especially in a busy intersection, if you are talking about occasional hobby with a metal detector in a yard or woods or on the beach then its different, seriously who would drop jewelry that is precious, it happens but usually its covered and secured.