New app reveals secrets of London’s diamond geezers

By Jennifer Lipman, June 13, 2013

New light is being shed on the London’s diamond trade, and the role played in it by Orthodox Jews.

Following the publication last year of Diamond Street — the Secret History of Hatton Garden, author Rachel Lichtenstein has now devised an app that uses film, photographs and text to take people on a virtual tour of London’s historic jewellery area.

The app, which is free, and available to smartphone and tablet users, has been created with support from the Arts Council.

It uses GPS technology so that visitors can pinpoint sites of interest as they walk round the area.

Jews have been involved in the jewellery trade since the 17th century. In the square mile that Hatton Garden covers, there are 300 separate companies and 60 shops, most of them run by Orthodox Jews, many of whom arrived as refugees from the Nazis.

“The jewellery quarter of Hatton Garden is one of London’s most mysterious areas — home to diamond workshops, underground vaults, monastic dynasties, subterranean rivers and forgotten palaces,” said Ms Lichtenstein.

The author added that one aim of the app was to utilise new material sent to her in response to the book. “Readers have been very generous sharing their memories and photos,” she said.

Mazel! doing deals in hatton garden
* Jews first arrived in Hatton Garden in the 17th century when Portuguese diamonds cutters and polishers settled there.

* In the 1820s a company called Johnson and Cock established a reputation for refining precious metals in Hatton Garden, which triggered the development of the jewellery trade. Skilled Jewish immigrants flocked to open workshops.

* Until the Second World War, business was conducted on the street, or in one of several kosher cafes. Prices were agreed with a handshake and a cry of mazel.

* The London Diamond Bourse and Club, the regulator of the trade, which also serves as a dealing room, has 800 members.

* Working in Hatton Garden are Orthodox and secular Jews from Israel, Iran, America, Holland, and other countries, linked into an international network of jewellery markets in Antwerp, Tel Aviv, New York and the Far East.

Last updated: 9:45pm, June 13 2013