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Raffi Stepanian, the Man Who Makes his Living by Foraging the NYC Sidewalks for Gold, Diamond, and Other Precious Metals

Raffi Stepanian

The streets of New York may sparkle like gold, but they are not made of gold. But, there is one person who hunts down gold and other precious metals on these very streets. His name is Raffi Stepanian, and he is known for his unique freelance life – he looks for precious metals such as diamonds, rubies, etc., on the sidewalks of New York City streets. He claims to make around $800 after six days of scavenging through the cracks of the sidewalks. Although many people are skeptic about his career choice, Stepanian plans to continue doing this as long as he can.

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Raffi Stepanian, a man from Queens, forages the sidewalks of the streets of New York City in search of bits of diamonds, platinum, rubies, and gold to make his living. 

Raffi Stepanian
Raffi Stepanian. Image credits: Splash/Dailymail

Raffi Stepanian is a unique man. He is unique in his thinking and in the work he does. Stepanian walks down the streets of NYC looking for gold and precious metals, and that’s his daily job.

At first, this might sound confusing and even hilarious, but it’s true. Raffi Stepanian is a street gold miner. He looks for precious metals such as diamonds, rubies, gold, and platinum – mostly bits of it – in the cracks on the slabs of the sidewalks. He explains that “Material falls off clothes, off the bottom of shoes, it drops off jewelry, and it all falls in the dirt and sticks to the gum on the street.” People are always running around and dropping stuff without realizing it. And, by the time they realize, the fallen-off bits may have already been scattered to a different place as a result of wind or rain.

These pieces of precious metals that have fallen off people help Raffi Stepanian to make his living.

Stepanian was first spotted by a reporter of The Post on a sidewalk where he was on all fours with a pair of tweezers and a butter knife in his hand. He was digging through the cracks on the sidewalks.

Reporter and Raffi Stepanian
Image credits: Thejewelerblog

A reporter from The Post saw Raffi Stepanian in 2011 on all fours on an NYC sidewalk during a rainstorm. Out of curiosity, the reporter approached him and surprisingly got a story.

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Raffi Stepanian normally starts working around 7.30 p.m. when most of the businesses start closing for the day. The foot traffic decreases, and it helps him to search for the gems better and without much interruption. Stepanian told The Daily Telegraph that the cracks on the sidewalks of 47th Street are filled with precious gems. To be precise, it’s filled with 60 years worth of lost, precious metal bits and pieces. “It’s like a mine, but more concentrated. I’m surviving on it,” says Stepanian.

Raffi Stepanian got the idea to search for precious gems on the sidewalks when he was near 6th Avenue. He saw that there were gold scraps on the floor of a diamond exchange. This meant that there might be lost scraps and bits on the outside as well. 

Once Raffi Stepanian was visiting a diamond exchange near 6th Avenue at the corner of 47th Street. He noticed that there were gold scrappings on the floor of the diamond exchange. This made him realize that if there are precious scraps on the floor of the exchange, there might very well be bits of precious metals lying around on the sidewalks. This is especially true near the jewelry shops and exchanges that can be found in abundance on 47th street. In fact, 47th street near 6th Avenue is known as NYC’s Diamond District.

Stepanian scavenges through the mud and dust of the NYC streets, and it is unbelievable what he finds. He has uncovered very valuable ruby chips and tiny diamonds along with platinum bits, white gold loops that are used for assembling jewelry, and gold from broken earrings, chains, brooches, and necklaces.

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Having worked in the jewelry industry for 26 years is an advantage for Stepanian when it comes to identifying precious gems lodged in the cracks of the sidewalks.

Process
Image credits: Thejewelerblog

Raffi Stepanian works as a freelance diamond setter. Basically, his job entails fixing diamonds and other precious gems to jewelry. This has given him an immense knowledge of the various types of precious metals. This makes it easier for Stepanian to identify precious and valuable metals on the sidewalks. It would be impossible for people without any experience in the jewelry business to be able to identify the shiny objects lying around in the mud and dirt that might be actually valuable.

He says that he has always been intrigued by sparkling things that are either lying on the streets or inside elevators. He has always been tempted to pick them up. And now, he gets to do exactly that.

He claims to have collected $1,010 worth of precious metal bits in just a fortnight and believes that he may start a new gold rush on the streets of New York.

Gemstones
The tiny bits of gold or gemstone he has retrieved from the pavements. Image credits: Splash/Dailymail

With Raffi Stepanian’s success reaching the media, it may not be long before people end up coming to the streets looking for gold. He might start a gold rush in New York City soon! In 2011, Stepanian claimed that he was able to make $1,010 in just 15 days. Chasing News did a story on him in which a reporter followed him around while he did his daily business. He showed the reporter how he scrapes for precious metals, and even took his collection of six days to a polishing studio and earned $819.

Many people are skeptic about Stepanian’s earnings as the money he makes is not enough for a comfortable life in NYC, but he loves his work and plans to continue doing it. 

Mr Stepanian
Image credits: Splash/Dailymail

Raffi Stepanian said that he will continue to keep doing this as long as he keeps finding precious metal bits on the sidewalks. Many people are skeptic about this and feel that looking for precious metals in sidewalk cracks would not provide a reliable income. Moreover, being in one of the richest cities in the world, earning just around $3,000 per month is not considered a suitable career option.

But even though Stepanian’s work is not sustainable, he derives pleasure from it, and sometimes, that is enough for a person.

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