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'Bad Jeweler Stories'

Hi All,

I would like a thread on ‘Bad Jeweler Stories’, that is stories of
innovative scams, wild crookery, things no decent jeweler would ever
do. Emphasis on amusing or intriguing rather than sad and painful. I
am collecting for an article (I will cite vigorously and contact you
if used). Urban jeweler legends are ok too.

I’ll start:

When I was studying in Germany in the 70’s one of the refiners found
a bar of gray metal at the bottom of the giant gold melting pot,
about the size and shape of a large gold bar. Turns out it was a bar
of tungsten (same specific gravity as gold). The story goes that in
the 60’s tungsten was on the banned list of metals to export to
communist China (you can make machine tools with it). Someone had
created tungsten bars, coated them with gold, stamped them properly,
exported them to China as gold (that was ok). Then some enterprising
person had sent this thing back to the west (had gold gone up by
then?) and sold it as gold to the refiner.


As a worker in Germany I was the only one on the floor while the
other goldsmiths were on vacation. We had the ‘Cage’ on my floor, a
locked room where all materials were kept and weighed out and in to
the goldsmiths. My back was to the Cage. A large sheet of 14k gold
disapeared from the locked Cage. I was the only one there. I did know
some of the shop staff from upstairs could get into the locked cage
in some way, but not how, and I had not seen anyone. The owners
believed my protestations of innocence, but the owner’s mother came
and spent some time chatting to me about various things for a few
days. Some of her stories of theft made me think she was paranoid.
She told me that in the 50’s when goldsmiths used Brylcreme and
similar hair grease that they would idly brush their hands into
their hair every day and when home, wash it out in a bowl to pan for
gold. I’ve since learned this was true…


I recently heard of a diamond dealer from Montreal in New York for a
summer showing. He had a number of raw diamonds in a bowl as a
display on top of a case in the crowded room. Suddenly a pigeon
swooped in through the open window, pecked up four large diamonds and
quickly flew back out the window. It was a trained robber-pigeon.
This was then deemed to have been the way that diamonds from a
particular mine had been stolen successfully some years past, done in
such a way that the mine could never figure out how it happened:
using trained pigeons. (personally I had some question about crops
and pigeons passing stones on this one…)

best Charles

Charles Lewton-Brain/Brain Press Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta,
T2P 2L7, Canada Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053 Email:

Metals info download web site:
Book and Video descriptions:
Gallery page at:

Several years ago , new in town, I took a job working for a man who
had a custom jewelry shop in an upscale neighborhood. After the
first day I explained to my wife that I was just hired by either the
kindest most generous man in the world or the biggest liar out
there. Well, let me tell you this guy was amazing. I soon found out
he had no resale license yet he collected taxes. He had no alarm or
safe but had me punch a dummy key pad when opening and closing. He
was the owner of this operation yet instructed me to tell anyone
inquiring that the business was owned by a woman from another
state. When dealing with one customer he told them that he would
find them the finest “pigeons blood” rubies available then he
instructed me to get on the phone and locate the cheapest ruby melle
I could find to fill this order. Later that week I watched him
explain why a center stone does not need to be set straight. He held
up his hand in front of the customer and said “Look no one ever
actually holds their hand flat. The stone is set like that to
compensate for this”. I don’t know which was worse the fact that
these people would actually believe this guy or that due to being
young and out of money I ended working for him for almost three
months. This guy by the way is still in the trade. Last I heard is
that he is doing well running a small retail shop in another part of
the state.

Then there is a story that probably falls under the category of
urban legends. Apparently there was this old jeweler in the Clark
Building in Pittsburgh who began to baffle stone dealers. Their
parcels would always come up light after visiting him. They began to
really watch him but he never dropped anything or slid anything away
he did not appear to have any chance to steal their goods. Well,
somehow it was discovered that while he was louping entire parcels
of gemstones in the folds he would quickly flick his tongue out and
touch it to a stone or two and just as quickly deposit them between
his cheek and gum. The story always had a few holes in it but after
having worked for a thief I don’t doubt that someone would try it.

John Sholl
J.F.Sholl Fine Jewelry
Littleton, Colorado

The energy and ingenuity of crooks never ceases to amaze me. If they
put it to legal use they would not have to live looking over their
shoulders. I just figure bad businesses are self eliminating over
time. I completely agree with Dan Spirer with they price/ sale issue.
I have found that in having a sale in my store during the slowest
part of the summer brings in people who I would not normally sell to.
But, I hate these sales as they appeal to bargain hunters who in my
market are more of a pain in the ass than those who come in and buy
because they love the work. I hear from some clients how reasonable
my and my father’s pricing is and my response is," why don’t they buy
more?". I do struggle with the undervalued syndrome and would like to
get a copy of the repair price book I’ve been reading about. Where
are they available? Sam Patania, Tucson