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.
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From 'Man digs for treasure on the streets of NYC' - https://nypost.com/2011/06/20/got-his-mined-in-the-gutter/
“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, brooches 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 to 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.
“The stones are already cut and manufactured — it’s a step above a mine,” he added. “I’m finding them already cut and polished.”
“It’s the same principle as collecting cans on the street and redeeming them for nickels. It’s redemption of reusable gold. This is the gold that has been on this street for 60 years. I know how to look, and I know where to look for it.”
Onlookers were amazed at the urban prospector.
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