By  on August 20, 2007

While Manhattan has long been known for its powerful but gritty Diamond District, a flurry of retail openings is due to turn 10 blocks of Madison Avenue into the center of high-end jewelry.

While thousands of diamonds and gemstones are traded and set in the caverns of West 47th Street each year, New York hasn't been able to match the luxurious splendor of the Place Vendôme in Paris, which houses the flagships and workshops of storied brands including Van Cleef & Arpels, Fred and JAR, or the elegant strip of London's Bond Street that is home to the likes of Asprey, Graff, Tiffany & Co. and Cartier.

Several high-end jewelers are either expanding or opening stores on the stretch of Madison Avenue between East 60th and 70th Streets. Graff and Chopard are moving into larger quarters, Kwiat has plans to open its first store nearby, Ivanka Trump is slated to open a diamond jewelry store next month, Bulgari recently renovated its Madison Avenue boutique, Asprey has opened a gem-infused flagship and estate jeweler Kentshire Galleries is opening a retail shop.

One of the most notable additions to the lot is Leviev, a two-year-old diamond jewelry brand that is going up against rarefied houses Graff and Harry Winston with its large and impressive stockpile of colorless and colored diamonds.

All this news is in addition to an existing stable of jewelry boutiques on the avenue such as Cartier, Fred Leighton and Judith Ripka.

"People laughed in our face when we opened our store on Madison years ago," said Henri Barguirdjian, president and chief executive officer of Graff in America. "But look how everyone followed. Fifth Avenue is very touristy, but here you have a higher volume of traffic. Sixty-third and Madison will become the most important sector for high jewelry."

The exodus to Madison reflects the high-low mix that Fifth Avenue has become. Whereas stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Bulgari and Harry Winston once signified the totally patrician nature of the famed shopping street, now it's chockablock with everything from the steroid-infused, tourist-packed flagships of Abercrombie & Fitch and Disney to fashion brands like Prada and Louis Vuitton and soon-to-open megaflagships from Giorgio Armani and Gucci.

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