Sunday, October 24, 2021

How Do You Know That?



Richard Alan

Questions, questions, always with the questions! And in case some of you out there don’t know it, I happen to be a goldsmith and jeweler to the stars. (This includes the sun, moon and deep blue seas.) So naturally I‘m asked a lot of questions on the subject of gold, jewelry, diamonds and precious gemstones, even subjects that I haven’t the slightest clue to the answer. For instance, “When do you think the price of gold will go up again?” If I knew the answer to that question I would be ruler of the world.

Some are intelligent questions and some not so. You can be the judge.

One example: I recently overheard a phone conversation where one of my employees was dealing with a tough question.

Apparently, the gentleman on the other end of the line wanted to know how much we would charge to replace the diamond that fell out of his wife’s engagement ring. My salesperson tried to explain to him that there was no set price; you must consider the damage, missing prongs, the wear and tear that caused the diamond to fall out in the first place, and of course, the size of the missing diamond. Her question to him was a common sense question that most of us with an IQ above an average Marco gecko would understand.

He didn’t know what size diamond they had lost, and was adamant on getting a price “here and now!” I told her to hand the phone over to me, and after pretty much explaining what you just read above, I once again reiterated the fact that without seeing the size of the hole where the diamond used to be, it would be impossible to give him an accurate estimate. I asked him to “Please bring it in, and I will give you an immediate answer,” yet he continued to insist on a price over the phone. I couldn’t resist. “Sir, I have an idea, why don’t you hold the ring closer to the phone so I can see it better?” Click, click…dial tone.

I doubt he will be in with the ring.

Next case: My mom is waiting on a customer who also lost her diamond. The mounting clearly held a square cut diamond, but the woman insisted it was round. Mom showed it to me, there was no question (did I mention I have been setting diamonds for almost fifty years?). Yes, definitely a square diamond, not round, no way. Obviously this woman flunked getting the round peg in the square hole in nursery school (you know, the ones who keep trying by forcing the wrong peg in until it fits). She refused to believe that the diamond she lost was square! She then grabbed the ring and left in a huff, implying that I’m an idiot!

I don’t make this stuff up folks! And then it gets better.

“It belonged to my great-grandmother; my family has cherished this diamond ring for many years. Can you tell us what it is worth?”

Good heavens! I hate when this happens, I really do. I know many of my readers consider me a bit callous, and that’s being conservative. (Fifty years of retail and dealing with the public would put most of you out there in a strait jacket with a padded room and no window.)

So now my reputation comes into play. The ring I’m holding in my hand is undoubtedly old. Only one problem; the scratched white center stone that everyone in the family has “cherished” is simply a worthless white zircon.

“How do you know that?”

I have often wondered when a “renowned” ancient Egyptian cryptologist reveals the translation of hieroglyphics he has studied for his whole career, why no one ever asks him, “How do you know that?” Because he does!

And it’s because I do! In fact, most experienced jewelers possess “The Force.” I can spot a three-carat cubic zirconia from across the room, and detect a fake Rolex without even looking at it – just by feel. I can assess amazingly real looking costume from fine jewelry faster than speeding bullet. Why? Because I can! I’m not bragging or being pompous. It’s what I do for a living, and I have been doing it for decades. I know what is real and what is smoke and mirrors, what jewelry has value, and (whether sentimental or not) what is priceless or worthless.

It’s not a trick; it’s strictly experience. I have met many a “jeweler” who would not know a piece of coal from a black onyx, but I won’t go there right now. I’ll save that for another time.

And if I don’t know the answer, I know experts that do, and I will find out the answer. So when I am handed a supposedly 22-karat solid gold chain that a customer bought in Morocco in 1964, I immediately recognize it as a solid brass chain awash in cheap 24-karat plate (which I admit held up remarkably well over the years, but is nevertheless worthless)! “How do you know that?”

Jewelry swindles have been going on for centuries. I may have mentioned before that the ancient Norsemen or Vikings were masters of deception in both jewelry and counterfeiting coins. The Romans coined the phrase caveat emptorlet the buyer beware! Not everything that glitters is gold.

I have lost count of the occasions where I was told that the diamond I was looking at was a “perfect blue-white diamond,” when in reality I was looking at a slightly yellow or brown, incredibly flawed, off-round diamond. “Yes it’s very nice.” I admit it’s a face-saving white lie. Then they tell me that they shelled out a pretty penny for this clunker of a diamond. I remain silent.

Just because someone says it’s the best quality money can buy does not mean that it is.

Even if a piece of jewelry is stamped 10-karat, 14-karat or 18-karat it is not an assurance that it is. I have a coffee cup full of imposter jewelry, which I have collected over the years. The pieces look amazingly expensive, and all are stamped gold – yet it’s further from the truth.

I can stamp your new iPhone 18-karat gold. It does not mean that it is.

Richard Alan is a designer/diamond setter/ goldsmith and the owner of the Harbor Goldsmith of Marco Island at Island Plaza and welcomes your questions about all that glitters. Call 239-394-9275, or visit.


Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and business owner of the Harbor Goldsmith who hopes he will not be tarred and feathered then burned at the stake by “the powers that be” in Veterans Park anytime soon. He welcomes (until his public demise) any questions you might have about “All That Glitters.” 239-394-9275,



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