Anyone who has ever been conned resulting in the loss of money or merchandise will remember it for the rest of their lives. It’s a bitter memory you try to tuck away in your subconscious, yet every time you find yourself considering a substantial purchase the unpleasant experience is quickly remembered.
It could have been a used car purchase, or worse, an entire house! Done some dumb things in my past… a used 1963 Chevy Corvair—that darn near asphyxiated me while in high school. A used jacuzzi tub that leaked like a sieve… bittersweet memories. I’m sure many of you have your own stories to tell. I’m a practicing goldsmith/jeweler and also an appraiser of fine diamonds and jewelry, so I deal with diamonds and important gemstones and handcraft jewelry on a daily basis, so I’m aware of every ingredient that is involved in a finished piece of fine jewelry and the costs to make the pieces in real–time.
I do a hundred or more written appraisals a year; some are for insurance or estate purposes, hundreds are verbal estimations… “Hey, Rich, we just got this in the Bahamas, What’s it worth?”
The answer I would like to give them is, “What you paid for it and that will include the jeweler’s profit!” But you know me, I would never want to come across as a smartass! So now I have something on the end of what I assume is a gold chain thrust into my face in a dimly lit restaurant while I’m trying to enjoy a peaceful dinner with the one I love. The first problem is I could barely read the menu earlier without the use of my cellphone flashlight—a wonderful invention by the way! Second, what I’m supposed to appraise is apparently a Spanish coin in a gold frame that’s still around her neck and she is so uncomfortably close to me that the total view leaves me nothing to the imagination. I forgot whether I was appraising her recently purchased pendant or her recent plastic surgeon’s handy work! And thirdly… now my wife is noticeably appalled by all this unexpected drama! Talk about ruining the mood.
It was apparent they both had a pretty good glow going on. I begged them to bring it by the shop on Monday where I can actually examine it and bid them a very good night.
Monday came way too fast and there they are first thing in the morning… Mr. and Mrs. Buzzkill—not their real names of course! So now it’s like an episode of the old “Jonny Carson Tonight Show.” I’m now “Carnac The Magnificent” and I have to read their minds and figure out what they paid for the gold chain and “Old Spanish Coin.” So, on close examination in bright daylight, I notice the chain is not solid gold but gold-plated silver (vermeil). I said to them, “Are you folks aware the chain is not solid gold?”
Their answer was, “What do you mean?”
I’m off to a great start! On closer examination, the “Old Spanish Coin” is not even silver but a cheap base metal knock off that is even stamped “copy.” I can assure you the Spanish Conquistadors did not stamp their coins with the word “copy” in the 1600s! My appraisal value is around $75 and that’s pushing it!
“WHAT?! We paid a heck of a lot more than that!”
I asked for the receipt. If I had to guess, it was purchased from some guy on the beach, right? Probably the same guy who sold me counterfeit Cuban cigars when I was there a few years ago. They paid $500… ouch. Could have been worse, I’ve seen people pay thousands for fake Atocha coins with corresponding bogus paperwork, at least the chain was silver, so she can wear the pendant until it gets rusty.
The worse is people paying crazy money for really bad diamonds or “precious gems,” it’s a common thing I hate to admit. Remember the old phrase from P.T. Barnum, There’s a sucker born every minute, and someone who will swindle you every thirty seconds. You are easy pickings on cruise ships bargains and side street deals when abroad, they figure you will never be back and even if you came back a year later to complain… “Raul” will be lost in the wind with your hard–earned money
Never get convinced to max out your cash and credit cards on so–called deals of a lifetime; they rarely exist. Only deal with someone you trust, a professional in a brick and mortar establishment will make sure there is a detailed description of the article you are purchasing, know the return policy and never fall for an inflated store appraisal, that’s the oldest trick in the book. The price tag reads $15,500, and the salesperson says, “Only today because I like you. Oh, and please help yourself to another glass of bubbly! You can have this ring for $9,500!” And along with it comes an in-store appraisal for $20,000, if you fall for this ploy, you deserve to suffer the pain later when your deal of a lifetime appraises back home for less than $3,000.
As far as any advice from me on major on-line jewelry purchases, you are so on your own on that one! And please don’t ask me!
Gents, that’s as bad as applying for a mail–order bride from a goat farm in upper Mongolia sight unseen! I’m sure she sweet and she’s accompanied by one goat!
Good luck with that! Stay smart, stay safe!
Richard Alan is a designer/Goldsmith—among other things—and is the owner of The Harbor Goldsmith at Island Plaza and has been serving Marco Island and the surrounding communities since 1994. He welcomes your questions and comments at www.harborgoldsmith.com.