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Double Standards

Ok, So this couple walks into my shop and the guy selects an
expensive ring to buy for his daughter. Anne, my wife, is helping the
dude. His girlfriend walks over to me in the workshop and asks if I
won’t please straighten out her platinum ring. She bent it the
previous day sailing in a regatta.

It is set with color E diamonds and a 2.5carat flawless Alexandrite,
she says.

My ears do the Bat Fox bit. I have cut stones since I was 16 years
old and I am 51 now. I have seen some things, but never a 2.5 carat
flawless Alexandrite.

“Give it to me” says I… and I sigh as I look at it.

She mistakes my sigh for wonderment, and warbles on about how
beautiful it is, how here ex, who is a jeweller, searched for it for
years and how many, many other jewellers had wanted to buy it off her
for cash and what a stunning colour change it has, blah blah, blah.
And all the time, I am looking at a surface treated Topaz. A
’Caribbean Topaz’. A rainbow topaz. A piece of unadulterated dogpile,
set in a well made platinum setting with two excellent .50ct princess
cut diamonds.

What do you say?

If I tell her the truth, she might totally freak out. (this has
happened to me before when a husband told his wife it was a diamond
and I said it was a Cubic Zirconia, which it was.) Also, I might
lose the sale her current boyfriend is doing with Anne. I figure
bucks come first.

She asks me, “So what do you think”? (of the stone)

I say, “You know what I think? I think this ring should be
straightened out”

Me, the friggin’ politician with weasel words.

“I know it is worth a lot of money and I shouldn’t sail with it.
It’s pretty much irreplaceable, isn’t it?”

“It is very difficult to replace sentimental jewellery”, says I,
doing the running for re-election thing.

The upshot is I kept quite, did the sale, straightened out her ring
free of charge, and sent them on their way.

After some thought, I think that was the correct path of least
resistance, albeit not the most morally right one.

Fact is, when some other jeweller tells her the truth one day I’ll
just look like the Palooka that didn’t know his stones.

That’s much better than an angry woman in my shop, not so?

Cheers Hans Meevis

No Hans I think not. She asked you. You knew but decided not to be
honest. Sorry but you are now with the boyfriend who gave her the


But Hans, if she had appreciated you telling her that you might have
sold a stone as well! It’s not YOUR fault she was duped… she’d
probably be even more angry at that ex! :slight_smile:

I understand why you did that though. Maybe if you let the sale go
through, then said “Hey wait, bring that ring back” and THEN told

Personally, I would have told her. Make sure your security camera’s
on are so you can post the reaction to YouTube :).


Way - el. She basically asked you if it was pretty, not for an

Quite a pickle there.

It sounds like you feel bad about not telling her.

The situation almost falls under the one where you’re an appraiser
at a party, someone whips out a red stone and says, "Is this a ruby?"
and you say, “goodness, in this light, who can tell, come see me at
the office and I’ll let you know.”

Except that, well, you were in your office.

If you feel badly and want to tell her after all, you could do a
"promotion" of free appraisals, send her an offer in the mail. Get
her in, give her the bad news.

Or say that was such a stunning stone you’d like to see it better. Or
she should go see your buddy, Mr. Appraiser, GG, ISA, to make sure
she is properly insured. Then he can tell her.

Elaine, who used to do appraisals and tell people that no, Grandma’s
pearls were not really pearls.

Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

Unless this was a customer who I had an established relationship
with who trusted me, I would have, and have done exactly what you
did. Sometimes people are so locked into their fantasy that even if
you were a Graduate Gemologist, they would think you don’t know what
you are talking about if you do not agree with them.

I have not had a sale in progress when asked about a
synthetic/simulant identification, but when asked, I did recommend
that they take it to another Gemmologist to have it checked because
"I did not have the proper equipment to check it". The few times I
did I.D. a synthetic as such, I never saw that person again. They
usually do not want to pay for an I.D. anyway.

Richard Hart

Hi Hans, I’ve been in that (bearer of bad news) situation a few times
and did the exact same thing you did. Just smile and tell them it
looks great. The only time I speak up is if I had to take it in for
work… Hell knows no fury like that of a women duped!!

Scott Verson
Metal & Stone Design

If I get pushed for an opinion about a stone, I give it. Being
pushed is a call I make which has to do with how I feel at the time.
If someone were asking for an opinion I ask if they want an
appraisal which I charge for,but if it is in that nebulous area
where I don’t have my microscope or even my glasses I would say
something like," I don’t like it ( the stone) for these reasons but,
since I don’t have my glasses I can’t tell for sure".

In my studio I often have to sort out what the client is actually
asking and sometimes I will query them to find out. If it is a big
pile of crap they are asking aout I will treat it like you did and
not answer unless I feel pushed to do so.

I don’t feel an non-answer is dishonest. An off the top of my head
answer may be worse than a non-answer. I have to seperate why I am
answering a certain way from the honest answer, sometimes they are
not for the same reasons. An answer such as," I don’t like that
stone", is honest and if they really want my reasons I may charge
them for the answers, that helps seperate the those quick get myself
into trouble answers.

Also I need to protect myself from accusations of switched stones
which can come from too quick an answer and taking the piece away
from their view for more than a minute.

Sam Patania, Tucson (Patania galleries)

The proper response might be: I can ID the stone but there is a
charge for this service. It requires a refractometer test, etc. to be
certain. You could ask the circumstances of the purchase, etc. In
cases like this you don’t want the person to feel like a dummy. I’ve
had a few queries with Egyptian alexandrite. No one wants to feel
like they’ve been taken so the phrasing of your response is
everything. The “test” gives you some time to consider how to



I think you did the right thing. I only hope that the next guy she
gives it to doesn’t take back into the shop to straighten it out, or
worse keep it overnight. Goodness knows when some unsuspecting
jeweler does give her the news she’ll swear it was switched and all
hell will break loose!


Yeah a ticklish situation to be sure. Just be glad you didn’t have
to take it in for repair and give a receipt, because then you would
have to be explicit about it.

A potential problem beyond being the ‘palooka’ is that now the lady
may think (wrongly of course but that doesn’t matter in her mind)
that you have validated the stone as genuine. So should there be a
question in the future, you may hear more about it.

But saving grace is you did not identify it or value it. I don’t see
that you had any moral imperative to deflate her notions.

In my first job as a jeweler I informed a customer that her sapphire
was synthetic,( you could see it at arms length!) only to have her
reply that my boss had been appraising it over the years as genuine.
That is when I learned the fine art of tap dancing.


There are battles to engage, and those not, I think I would have
done the same.


PS I really like your stuff, if I ever get to your area hope you
don’t mind me stopping by.

Hi Hans;

Wow, you are good! You really should run for public office. I don’t
know what I would have done, but I know what I’ll do if I ever have a
similar situation.

David L. Huffman

Hans, I think you did the appropriate thing in the circumstanses; no
need for a huge drama, the suspicion, recriminations and witch hunt
while making an un-related sale, and the work on the 'Alexandrite’
ring was done in the owner’s presence.

The customer did not need to know the truth at that time, specially
when she was proud and happy - the messenger would surely be shot!

The time for needing to know is when taking custody of the ring for
work and/or describing the stone in writing. If the customer did come
back to you in those circumstances, then your tact, gentleness and
professionalism will be needed. Do some tests in her presence,
express deep regret, advise her to seek a second opinion. She may not
proceed with the work on the ring, but your reputation will be

If I can not positively identify a stone then I would describe it in
this case as a ‘red/blue stone’, no matter what the customer calls
it. If I described it as Alexandrite then I would be obliged to
return an Alexandrite.


No Hans I think not. She asked you. You knew but decided not to be
honest. Sorry but you are now with the boyfriend who gave her the

Wow, I must be getting really distrustful. When I read the story,
the very first thing that I thought was that this women was traveling
around, fishing for an unsuspecting jeweler to pay her more for her
ring than she already knew it was worth. She knew perfectly well the
stone was not worth much. She was trying to take your money.

I sound really mean, I know and I wasn’t there so, this can only be
my impression. Maybe I need some sensitivity training or something.

Kim Starbard

You know, it occurs to me (and I don’t want to insult anyone here
even though it may sound like one) that by not answering honestly
and letting her have a fit you could possibly add fuel to the ‘no
one trusts a jeweler’ mindset.

I don’t know many who trust jewelers as it is. It sounds like many
jewelers on this list would not have answered here query. I
understand the various reasons but doesn’t it make more sense to be
honest, test the stone, and tell her? I mean if it’s a diffusion
treated stone all you should really have to do is show her the
girdle edges.

Anyway, is there really a good reason not to be honest with a
customer? Do we really want to get into the area of tainting peoples
thoughts even more?

Again, I don’t mean this to sound insulting just a query…



While I greatly admire your tact, I think you may have created a
longer term problem. So now you’ve made the sale to the boyfriend,
which presumably means they will become long term customers. What
happens when they come back and she’s broken her ring? Then you need
to take it in for repair. Once you do that, you either have to
properly id the stone (at which point she says, well the last time
you looked at it you said it was an alexandrite —never mind that
you didn’t directly say that–customers hear what they want to hear)
or continue to lie about the stone. If you lie about it and then a
few years later she takes it to another jeweler who tells the truth
then you get slapped with a suit over stone switching. In a business
built on trust, honesty always trumps tact. (But I really do admire
the deft side stepping.)

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Just smile and tell them it looks great. The only time I speak up
is if I had to take it in for work............. ' 

I have always just told them, “Its beautiful, isnt’ it?”… and
then try my best to stay outta that situation. Noone ever wins in
that kinda deal. And I’m not that hungry.



This very simple. Was you being paid for your services as a GG to do
a formal appraisal? If not, you took the correct path. You have no
moral obligation to tell her that her stone is a fake. How many
times have you had to stand there and grin and bear it when someone
is raving about their big diamond that it is a big ugly pig? The
question is this, are you there to make a living or be the worlds
moral compass?


I don't know many who trust jewelers as it is. It sounds like
many jewelers on this list would not have answered here query. I
understand the various reasons but doesn't it make more sense to be
honest, test the stone, and tell her? I mean if it's a diffusion
treated stone all you should really have to do is show her the
girdle edges. 

The actual professional practical answer is to offer an oral or
written appraisal for a fee. Doctors, dentists and auto mechanics
charge a fee for a diagnostic. There is no good reason I can think of
for me to go around identifying gems just because I know what they

I spent 6 months going to G.I.A. five days a week, 8 hours a day. It
is easy and fun to treat Gemology like a magic trick and do it to
impress people. But to treat it like that, in my opinion, seems to
devalue what I worked hard for. With all the misthere is,
within the trade and by those not in the business, it seems that it
should be a valuable service that I can provide. If the woman asked
for identification or an appraisal that would require telling her the
truth. Hans could have asked her if she had an appraisal for
insurance purposes. If she says she wants an appraisal he could then
tell her what the gem was, give her a ball park estimate, and ask her
if she still wants an appraisal for the value of the piece.

If someone is spending $100 for an appraisal, there has to be a value
that is worth protecting by insurance. The woman “knew” what it was.
She was not asking for an identification.

There is a risk in telling someone they are wrong. It is interesting
that it becomes an ethical issue as we all politely avoid telling the
truth or we are diplomatic" with friends and family when they ask our
opinion when we know that we might hurt their feelings or they might
be unhappy with our answer.

How do you think it will play out with the woman who comes in with
her husband and she shows you a ring she says is a diamond her
husband gave her, and you know it is a moissanite ? You tell her the
truth and alienate the husband? There is knowledge and there is

The issue of trust is knowledge and service I provide to my customer
for what I sell them. That is what I am responsible for.

I would only be obligated to identify what the gem was if I was
involved in providing a service involving that ring/gem.

Richard Hart

No Hans I think not. She asked you. You knew but decided not to be
honest. Sorry but you are now with the boyfriend who gave her the

Just for the record,

She was an Australian lass sailing in the Heineken regatta. She does
not live on the island. She did not ask me to identify the stone for
her. She asked if I thought it was pretty. (which it was not)

There was no reason to act the big deal jeweller

All that that would do is cause ill feeling, for her and no doubt
for her ex boyfriend and current one too. The ex boyfriend’s karma
will come, no doubt about that. I would probably have lost the sale,
had a tearful woman in my shop, and ruined the regatta for her.

To make what point? To show her my vast knowledge of To
show her what a fine and upstanding jeweller I am? I think not.

If she was one of my regular clients, or I had taken the ring in for
repairs, I would have absolutely had no hesitation in pointing out
the truth.

But that was not the case.

In this case it was better to let sleeping dogs lie.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the truth is better left unsaid.

And yes, I have checked the FBI’s most wanted list and I am not on
there ----yet:))

Cheers, Hans Meevis