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Bad Jeweler Stories

OK! A friend of mine owns precious metals scrap company that buys and
sells both scrap and bars of precious metals. A couple of years ago
several bars of silver from a well know refining house came in and
was bought. They were then found to be drilled and plugged with lead
from the ends and then silver plugs set in over the lead. They still
weighed the correct amount but eh centerof the bars were lead.

Hi Charles, It was great meeting you and the other 10 or so Orchid
members at the Enameling conference.

I do outdoor shows in the midwest and have two bad
jeweler/metalsmith stories. A different scale than yours but really
sad all the same. The first was the final straw that stopped me from
selling jewelry, the second shows that is happens in any media.

  1. A woman comes up to my booth at a show, admires a large blown up
    image of a piece I had sold the previous year. She tells me that she
    just juried a large show down south and she was so glad I would be
    coming to their show. I tell her I have never applied to a show in
    that state at all. She then informs me that the exact piece I have
    the blown up image of in my booth was entered as a jury slide for
    their show. She is sure because shown as a slide you could read the
    exact same words stamped on it…it was pretty distinctive. I
    remember the guy who bought it and thought he was an odd fellow.
    Really interested in the metals and the technique. Somebody out
    there buys pieces and then juries into shows with other peoples

2.Just 3 years or so ago a friendly woman comes up to my booth at a
show and tells me she really likes my enamels. She is a teacher and
"has no interest in doing shows" but likes to tell her students
where they can see other enamels. She then asks me for a show
schedule and how I do some of my images and I am very open with her.
The next year she has a booth at almost every show on my schedule,
with work of a highly similar theme. Ouch. If she had been honest I
would have likely been pretty open anyway, and we could have been
friends afterwards. I have now seen slides of her work before she
started doing work for the shows, it was really interesting and
totally different. I guess the healthy view to take is that I am now
forced to accelerate my new designs and wholesale opportunities. At
the enameling conference a couple of people saw where I was from and
mentioned similar stories about her. I have to admit that the worse
part is she took some of my themes and did them more nicely than I
did! Double ouch!

Northern Illinois

Hi, all- Don’t know if this qualifies as a “bad jeweler story” per se,
but here it goes. I just returned from one of those “in-home” sales
gigs where housewives peddle tupperware, kitchen utensils, etc, only
this time it was jewelry (My wife got invited to this one, and I was
her transportation, so I was along for the ride.) The company whose
wares were being peddled is called “Premier Jewelry.” They sell
mass-manufactured, stamped and/ or cast pieces, either silver or
gold plated, some set with non-stones (austrian crystal, Swarovski
crystal, fiber optic cabs, etc.) The salesperson begins by extolling
the virtues of Austrian Crystal, which, she says, is “mined from the
ground”, and then goes on to remark that these “stones” are hand-set,
making the jewelry “hand-crafted.” I was transportation rather than an
invited guest to this affair, my sister was the hostess, and several
of my relatives were in attendance, so I maintained a tactful
silence. Damn near killed me to do so.

This is not the first time I have heard this particular line of
prevarication from representatives of this company. Is there any
regulatory agency or trade association which would be willing to set
these clowns straight?

Lee Einer

Hi Lee,

I know that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has a long list of
regulations for the gem and jewelry trade that may apply here. For
example here is an exerpt regard “handmade” jewelry

Misuse of the terms “hand-made,” “hand-polished,” etc.

(a) It is unfair or deceptive to represent, directly or by
implication, that any industry product is hand-made or hand-wrought
unless the entire shaping and forming of such product from raw
materials and its finishing and decoration were accomplished by hand
labor and manually-controlled methods which permit the maker to
control and vary the construction, shape, design, and finish of each
part of each individual product.

Note to paragraph (a): As used herein, “raw materials” include bulk
sheet, strip, wire, and similar items that have not been cut, shaped,
or formed into jewelry parts, semi-finished parts, or blanks.

(b) It is unfair or deceptive to represent, directly or by
implication, that any industry product is hand-forged, hand-engraved,
hand-finished, or hand-polished, or has been otherwise
hand-processed, unless the operation described was accomplished by
hand labor and manually-controlled methods which permit the maker to
control and vary the type, amount, and effect of such operation on
each part of each individual product.

For the entire list of regulations from the FTC, go to or

Hope this helps!


JoAnna Kelleher, co-owner
Pearl Exotics Trading Company, LLC
Phoenix, AZ
Phn# 623.845.0998
Fax# 623.845.0917

I would LOVE to know if any Orchidians have had any success with
stopping the outright lying which goes on in our “trade.” It seems to
me that the public WANTS to be lied to, and it is futile to try to
correct this. One will only get a black eye for one’s effort.

The particular SCAM which burns me up it the sale of plated base
metal chain from spools which is commonly found at swap meets, county
fairs, trade shows (non-jewelry), etc.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to pin down the sellers to the fact that the GOLD
content (if any) is minimal. They imply in several ways (without
actually saying so) that the stuff is karat gold chain. David
Barzilay, Lord of the Rings

   I would LOVE to know if any Orchidians have had any success
with stopping the outright lying which goes on in our "trade." It
seems to me that the public WANTS to be lied to, and it is futile
to try to correct this.  One will only get a black eye for one's

There is an old axiom that goes " the second liar doesn’t stand a
chance". This somewhat applies to correcting a customer’s view of a
piece. The person who sold it to them in the first place had
established some level of creditability with the customer. Now you
are telling the customer two things. First, the other jeweler was a
crook, and Second, you were dumb for believing them. This is a
loose, loose situation.

When I am approached with a question from a customer which might put
me in this bind, I will usually reply with something like “that
jeweler has a good repatriation (true or not), I am sure they made
an honest mistake. I would suggest that you take the piece back to
them and ask them to correct the problem. I am sure they will
resolve it to your satisfaction.”

This will usually get you out of the middle. Will it solve the
problem of misrepresentation? Not a chance. This is not your
problem, as long as it is not you making the false claims. You
can’t control other peoples behavior as they can’t control yours.
It their actions are criminal, you can press charges but you really
need to be sure before you precede.


David, having much experience in the “Indian” jewelry trade (being
in the southwest and all) fraud is the name of the game. The market
for really good stuff it seems to me is always narrow no matter what
he market. Price talks to most consumers. The ones on the look out
for quality do recognize it when they see it. Now can one make a
career of selling quality??? I’m trying. Sam Patania, Tucson

One can make a good living selling quality. There is a great
opportunity here. If you can explain to your customer what makes
your product special and different you’re on your way. The
competition is most intense for low end goods. We do shows from the
east coast to the west coast. One person asks the price of a piece.
I tell them and they react as though I punched them in the chest.
Some people have enough experience to distinguish quality and, more
importantly can afford it… Some people can not afford quality.
Another person approaches and asks questions about a certain piece.
I tell them and they say I’ll take it without asking the price.
There’s an enormous range of potential customers. I try to treat
everyone ( well almost everyone ) with courtesy It’s up to us to help
educate our customers. In one special instance it took me three
years to complete a sale. It was an expensive ring with a most
unusal opal, a type other jewelers have asked “what is it”. The man
loved the ring but had never seen anything like it so how could he
decide if it was a good value. So, it took that long to assure
himself that it was special enough to justify the price. And, I had
encountered this person at a sucession of shows each time answering
concerns that he had. Again we should give other “jewelers” the
benefit of the doubt i. e. : that they are acting out of ignorance
and not larceny. I started out in the southwest and now live in the
southwest. When I began everyone wanted a turquoise ring and there
were rings the for about $15. At the same time quality turquoise (
georgeous material ) was selling wholesale for $25 per caret.

    David, having much experience in the "Indian" jewelry trade
(being in the southwest and all) fraud is the name of the game. The
market for really good stuff it seems to me is always narrow no
matter what he market. Price talks to most consumers. The ones on
the look out for quality do recognize it when they see it. Now can
one make a career of selling quality????? I'm trying. Sam Patania,

Of course you can. Most of the people on the list do just that. It
is, however, up to you to make the effort and to locate the customers
who understand quality and appreciate it. There are plenty out
there. It is also, incidentally, up to you to educate the customer
about what makes a quality piece so that your pricing is justified.
Contrary to popular opinion, in our business, I don’t believe price
is the main selling point for most consumers.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

One situation that has taken place over and over in my experience is
that people ask me if what they are seeing in my display is black
opal. I do a lot of inlay with very fine crystal opal which is what
they are asking about. I assume that other jewelers have presented
similar material as black opal. I tell the customer that what they
are looking at is fine crystal opal and show them what a black opal
looks like. I bring samples of rough opal to show the difference
between different types of opal. ( I have been cutting opal of all
sorts for almost twenty five years ). I’m assuming that the
misrepresentation is the result of ignorance and not deceit. There are
dishonest people in all fields, but don’t accuse another jeweler of
being dishonest even if you know it to be true. If you criticize
another jeweler we all get tarred with the same brush. A customer may
not present to you what actually took place. We all have a tendancy
to embellish or remember events that show us in the best light.
To say that the public wants to be lied to is really foolish.

Truth is, we’re already “in the middle” when it comes to unscrupulous
people in the jewelry trade lying to customers. If you produce
quality, one-of-a-kind pieces, you have to charge for them
accordingly, and the only way for you to do so and survive is to
educate your customers as to the distinction between your product, and
the product of those who mass-produce cliche designs with bottom-end
materials. Those who are lying about their product are doing so
because their livelihood depends on obscuring that same distinction
which you must impress on your customers, the distinction between
thoughtfully designed, well executed pieces and mass-manufactured
junk. It may be prudent at times to avoid head-on conflict with a
customer or a competitor, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that
by avoiding conflict you are avoiding trouble here. If you sell
quality items, you are dependent on your customers recognizing and
valuing that quality; those who seek to misinform the public in this
regard are taking the money from your pocket and the bread from your
mouth. IMHO.

Lee Einer

okay, here’s one of my candidates for, if not a bad jeweler’s story,
at least a ‘geez, it’s a wonder anyone believes us’ tale: selling
through the net’s largest auction system was someone who described
her puau shell cabs as ‘ocean opals’. she went on to state they were
’nature’s stones’ with beautiful (adjective subject to change) opal
fire & nowhere in the descriptions was there any mention of the word
"shell". the images were usually somewhat less than clear so they
looked opalescent. i used to shake my head, but after a bidder
emailed to ask me why my opals were so “expensive” compared to her
’ocean opals’, i approached the ‘she sells sea shells on the shady
side lady’ suggesting she mention that her items were shells & not
genuine opals; let’s say her response was also on the ‘shady side’ &
threatening to file a complaint against me (?). finally i told
myself that if the buyers were that dumb there wasn’t much i could
do to educate them, so ‘to help’ with it! ive

This reminds me - it’s not a ‘bad jeweler story’, it’s a ‘bad
customer story’ - a man came into the boutique where I sometimes work
and looked in the case at an alexandrite ring.

He asked what it was, and I told him it was alexandrite, and he
started yelling at me, ‘this isn’t alexandrite! if this was
alexandrite, you wouldn’t have to work ever again if you sold

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or ask him to leave. I just kept my
mouth shut and asked him if he wanted me to unlock the case so he
could look at more, but he left in a huff.

The most entertaining thing is that nyc rents for commercial
businesses aren’t exactly cheap, and selling one alexandrite ring
might pay part of the rent, for the month…


All, Here is my number one candidate for “Bad Jewelers.” Gemstones
damaged by jewelers is very common. At one time I repaired stones
for 10 jewelers I know of and three gemstone salesmen who picked up
stones at the 100s of store they called on. My estimate is that in
over 90% of the cases of repair or replacement the customer was
never notified of the action. This includes repair of insured
I am not talking about cheap 1.5 mm accents. Try 5
carat rubies, 15 carat aqua’s, 5 carat emeralds, 15 carat tanzanite,
etc. Get the picture. In my opinion this is fraud. I have stopped
doing repair work for all but a handful of reliable, honest
customers. Now I always ask them if the customer has been notified.
Just last February I sold a custom cut, concaved blue topaz to a
lady at Tucson. Our policy is to get the name and address of
customers to whom we sell custom stones. We explained to her that
our stones were quite unique and readily identifiable. If at any
time a question arose about the stone I would be able to track it
down by calling the purchaser. In March I received a call from a
jeweler who said that they had chipped the stone during setting. I
asked if he had informed the Lady her stone had been chipped. He
said yes. I told him that normally the stone could be altered and
repaired for $50, or I would replace the stone for $250. He balked
at the prices. About a month later the jeweler called back again
and said that he could not find anyone capable of replacing the
stone I had cut. He was sending it to me to be repaired and wanted
a replacement cut. When I received the package the jeweler had
written on a card that he wanted the stone repaired and a new stone
cut. I called the jeweler and told him that I had looked at the
stone and could repair it without changing the shape, but the look
into the stone would be different. He said to go ahead with the
original order. I repaired the stone and cut two new ones to get
one to look like the original. With the project complete I called
the jeweler to inform him that I would be mailing out the stone ASAP
and how much the bill would be. He refused to accept the newly cut
stone and wanted only the repaired stone. Things got heated. I
agreed to send him just the repaired stone and told him to never
call me again. We mailed the package out COD. Next I called the
Lady whom had purchased the stone. She said that the jeweler had
told her that he had chipped the stone and would replace it with a
new stone. At this time I informed her what had transpired, wrote
it down in a letter, and mailed her a signed copy. I have not heard
what transpired after that. I will never do business with this
jeweler again. My attitudes towards business with jewelers has been
molded by many years of like experiences. Form my standpoint this
is fraud.

Gerry Galarneau

Here’s a great stpory about the chairman of Ratner’s - a low
quality, low cost high street jewelers in the UK.

Ratners specialize in very thin 9ct gold items at very low prices.
The stores windows are jammed with nasty, flimsy pieces of work, all
machine produced, Bracelets are made with so little gold in them that
they bend and warp easily, rings deform on the finger from a
hanshake, necklaces break with the slightest tug… They do sell
better lines - but most of their stuff is in cheap and fashionable

The Chairman was addressing a group - with the press present - and
made a few honest comments.

I quote from the report at

"When Gerald Ratner famously began the lexicon of modern corporate
gaffes in 1992 by describing his jewellery as “crap”, the undoubted
truth of his observation, no matter how light-hearted at the time,
struck home with customers.

The Ratners chain went into a tail spin, Ratner himself resigned and
the company’s salvation lay ultimately in changing its name to Signet
and starting all over again"

Honesty is not always the best policy!

Tony Konrath
Gold and Stone

Dear Lee Einer, Thank you for such a clear expression of the fall-out
caused by the few dishonest (bad) jewellers. The majority of honest,
thinking jewellers will agree totally with your comments. It is all
about educating our clients to recognise quality and develop an
appreciation for what we as professionals actually do as we design
and make their jewellery.

Bad jeweller stories and their dissemination raise two immediate
responses. Should we widely disseminate these stories, risking an
ignorant and suspicious public reaction which tars all of us with
that same brush? Or should we circumspectly circulate the accurately
researched incidents around the trade as cautionary advice?

The “Bad Jeweller Stories” currently coming through Orchid is one
way of acting and exposing criminality. Should we exercise an active
committment to obtaining evidence which would stand up in a court of
law so that these criminals can be charged? What about our own will
to act? If we have sure evidence, don’t we have a moral obligation to
initiate or support consumer legal action to protect our own
reputations and that of the industry in general?

But what if some stories are wrong - or maliciously inspired? What
can seem like genuine evidence of malpractice in the public’s eyes
may be, for example, a misunderstanding of a common trade practice
like rhodium plating or gilding. These are hard questions.

Perhaps one solution is to join those industry organisations which
promote honest practice through the professionalism of their members
and at the same time supply technical and gemmological education so
that jeweller members can continually upgrade and be proud of their
skills and integrity. We are lucky in Australia to have a number of
organisations which are founded on this need, addressing it from both
gemmological and technical points of view. Perhaps there should be an
expose column in their newsletters, although I suspect most would
shrink from that for fear of expensive litigation. As you say, Lee,
it affects us all. Kind regards, Rex

When I was an apprentice, I worked in a shop that had around 180
retail accounts. A couple of those were opticians. We would regularly
get in gold filled eyeglasses that were in need of a solder.

One time I took in a pair of glasses from a retail client that was
in such a hurry that he managed to work around the optician and came
directly to us. He had possibly the thickest lenses that I have ever
seen. They were perfectly round. I didn’t give anything a second
thought. I disassembled them. Soldered them. Polished them. Cleaned
them. Reassembled them. And finally delivered them. When he put them
on, he immediately took them off and started wiping them on his
shirt. Put them on. Take them off. Wipe. Put them on. Take them off
…Pays for them and goes off to do his business. After the store was
closed, he calls. Is it possible that I have switched lenses right
for left? Can we help him out right now? Of course, I tightened him
right up. Felt really bad for him. I’m really glad that he didn’t
have some kind of accident because of my thoughtlessness.

A note. At the time, I was unaware of astigmatism. This is an
irregularity of the cornea that requires correction with a lense that
needs to be oriented correctly for the lense to work. Eyeglass repair
should be supervised by an optician.

Here is a classic. No this is not a urban legend about stone
switching it is a real story. I was getting on the elevator one day
in the jewelry building I office in here in Ho…n. The elevator
stopped at another floor and a person I did not know got on. This
gentleman was obviously very mad. Steam was truly rising from his
ears. Being a compassionate kind of guy ( or maybe it is just morbid
curiosity) I asked him what was wrong and why he was so obviously
upset. The story he related was that he had purchased a Vs1 G color
1carat round diamond from one of the other jewelers in the building.
When he went to pick up the mounting he louped the stone and found
not a Vs1 but and Si2 stone. This really made him mad and he refused
to accept the delivery and refused to pay the jeweler. He was very
disillusioned at the whole industry. Calmly I reached in my pocket,
removed my card case, and handed him a card and said, “When you are
done screwing around with the rest of these guys give me a call”. He
called me the next week and purchased a 1ct Vs1 G color round diamond
from me which I gladly set in a Tiffany mounting. Since that time I
have made the rest of his wedding set, the engagement ring and
wedding set for his brother and the same for his best friend as well.
Not to mention his sister. I have become the family jeweler for these
fine folks… Jewelry customers should be treated as long term
relations and not as a one shot, how bad can I screw them deal.
Frank Goss

I believe (and I could be wrong) that in California, at least, ONLY
an optician is allowed to repair eyeglasses. (Information comes from
my late father-in-law, who was a dispensing optician for many, many

They can sub-contract part of the work to a jeweler, but jewelers
probably should not take in the work themselves. Any comments from
Orchidians with more knowledge of the subject?

David Barzilay, Lord of the Rings

A friend of mine does glasses repairs through our shop. It is a
sideline for him as he works full time for Shreve Crump and Low here
in Boston. He gets his customers by leaving a card at all the local
opticians who then refer them to us for the work. I can’t believe
that it could be illegal to do this in Massachusetts given that he
has 10-20 opticians referring people to us at any one time.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140