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Helen, With the Gold Teeth

The man at the counter, Joseph Vasquez, 18, offered to clean any other pieces she had. Ms. Harris’s neat French manicure dipped in and out of several pockets until she found the ticket she was looking for. Of the 2,600 businesses in the district, Ms. Harris has found only a handful that she trusts to be as meticulous as she is during their part of the grill-making process. The molding, casting, stone setting, polishing and sometimes laser-perfecting is something that she is interested in doing in-house, eventually.

“I’m bootstrapping everything,” Ms. Harris said in her soft, warm voice. “I have vendors who I have wholesale relationships with and I make stuff with in the diamond district, Florida and Louisiana. I think that those folks are all the best at what they do. The thing that my guys in Florida do, the people in New York don’t do. So, as a business owner and as a designer, I really believe that I’m selling a product with integrity, even if my hands don’t make it.”

Growing up in Milwaukee, Ms. Harris was always certain about her identity and values. She has remained confident even though it has not always been received kindly by others. Dealing with the people in the jewelry business isn’t always easy, she said.

“The diamond district is a tricky place to navigate if you are a diverse person, for sure,” she said as she darted into another building.

“It’s racist, sexist and homophobic,” said Ms. Harris, who is gay, about her experiences in the diamond district. “Sometimes somebody is generous enough to just admit it out loud to me and try to help me find the best path to get what I need to do, done.”

One of those people is Amir Farsijany, 70, who owns Sarah Jewelry and has run a booth in the district for 45 years. Mr. Farsijany advises her on who she can trust and if she is overpaying for any service. He keeps an eye on her. “She is one of the most honest people that I have ever seen,” he said. “If one day I don’t see her, I text her, ‘What happened to you?’”

Circassia News

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