Saturday, March 28, 2020

Have you been swindled today?

A 14kt. gold ring consisting of a four carat created sapphire with highly imperfect diamonds. Auction price $10,000. Sold for $5,500. True value  $675. Submitted

A 14kt. gold ring consisting of a four carat created sapphire with highly imperfect diamonds. Auction price $10,000. Sold for $5,500. True value $675. Submitted

Many years ago I touched on this subject: Hotel Auctions. It begins with a full page newspaper ad, at a major hotel here or in Naples. Promises of seized jewelry or art to be auctioned off at ridiculously low prices for two days only! (Supposedly procured from drug busts, tax seizures and my favorite, “from the B. Maddoff estate”.) My advice: Run!

Only last week I was asked to do an appraisal on an “estate bargain.” Although the accompanying laminated paper work and certifications of authenticity were indeed impressive and very professional, it was a bunch of horse hockey! The piece was valued by the sellers at $20,000. The paperwork, of course, affirmed this and the bidder acquired the auctioned piece of jewelry for the unbelievable price of $7000. WOW! What a bargain! Wrong! The true value when appraised by an actual jeweler was only $1200! HUH? I explained to the customer, that this was common at these so called “Auctions.”

It starts with a trumped up price on a glitzy piece of inferior made jewelry that is mass-produced weeks ago in a Hong Kong sweat shop. Next, the make-believe auctioneer sets the mood with the “fish” who have attended this farce. The frenzy begins with a set price of the piece to be bid on at seven or ten times the piece’s actual value. There can even be planted ‘buyers” who can purposely raise the bidding, and if you get caught up in it, you wind up owning it.

There you have it?a piece of jewelry that, with the illusion of smoke and mirrors, may appear valuable but in fact is worth nowhere near what you paid. You have in fact been scammed.

This would be considered a home run to anyone who would be running this underhanded business. Now just imagine if they did this to even only twenty more naïve buyers over the weekendÉ One hundred and forty thousand dollars! Not bad for two days work, especially if their inventory is basically worthless. Early Sunday morning they pack up the medicine show and are gone with the wind and wind up doing the same thing in another town, in another state, with the same kind of jewelry. Believe me they have a suitcase full of those “one-of-a-kind estate pieces.” Oh, and good luck getting anyone to answer the phone after they promised a full money-back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied with your purchase.

What infuriates me is the fact that days after they have scammed a number of islanders. I get deluged by people wanting free appraisals on their Cracker Jack prizes.

Nobody wants to find out they just got taken to the cleaners by these con-artists, so they curse me and doubt my assessment of the real value of this dreck and I suggest they ask another jeweler’s opinion. Guess what? They get the same report: “I hope you folks didn’t pay a lot for this!”

Another similar ploy is a “going out of business” or a “store liquidation” sale. The store having the sale will be in cahoots with an outside company that brings in some real crummy or out of style jewelry and fills up the showcases. They then jack up the prices by three or four times and claim to sell everything at 50% to 75% off.

Once again, the unsuspecting public winds up paying a lot for jewelry that no one would want at the regular price.The scammers are laughing all the way to the bank, off to another town and another state. Some simply change the name of the auction company and change the faces of the salespersons and can actually come back next year and do it again. It never ceases to amaze me!

There are no regulations or laws and you have no recourse against the host hotel. They are simply renting a room to the auctioneers for the weekend. In my forty years in this business I have yet to see a piece of auctioned jewelry that was worth anywhere near what the person paid.

When you see the ad in the paper, try calling the office in the state of origin. I have found that no one in my business has ever heard of them. A call to the Better Business Bureau wouldn’t hurt either. Just remember, once they have your money it will take a lot of persistence and heartache before you will get back one thin dime, if any at all. Save yourself the painÉ RUN! If it is too good to be true, it most likely is.

Richard Alan, designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith’s on Marco Island welcomes your questions 394-9275.

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