Mining for gold in the Diamond District

Raffi Stepanian has discovered a hotspot for gold mining in the concrete jungle.  West 47th Street, New York City's Diamond District, is one of the most popular places in the world to purchase fine jewelry.

"See over here?" Stepanian asked Chaser Allison Gormly. "That's solder right there. Nice piece of gold solder."

Four years ago, he found a piece of gold on the ground in front of the exchange, so he picked it up. Gold fragments and small gems make their way to the street by clinging to clothes and shoes of people who work in the business.   He thought, if I just spotted this, there must be more.

Well, he was certainly correct. Thus began his mission to gold mine on 47th Street.

Stepanian researched the process extensively and got to work perfecting his own version.  

To learn how to do this Allison headed to 47th Street with him.

They started mining around 7:30 p.m., after most of the businesses on the street closed.

 He brought with him a bucket, magnets, tweezers and scraping tools.

They walked down the street and he eyeballed the expansion joints. When he recognized a place he liked or saw something reflective, they got down our hands and knees.

"I would do a cross-section and then sweep the whole thing up. Get it into a pile then sweep it right up," Stepanian explained.

Now there is a very specific science to it, it's not just luck.

The expansion joints or dividing cracks in the sidewalk emulate the low places in nature where gold accumulates.

The dirt is scraped up and put into the bucket.  Once enough material is collected, he heads back to his home in Queens to begin the screening process, using water, dish soap, heat and a strainer. 

He tests diamonds but scratching the stones against wet stone. If it sounds like nails on a chalkboard, it's a winner.

Stepanian has made as much as $930 in a week, but as little as $100.

In the past year, he has chosen to simply hold on to everything he finds.

For a bit, Stepanian was the only person doing this. However, in recent years, there have been others copying his method. 
So if you're not afraid to get dirty, this can be a rewarding hobby.