Friday, January 28, 2022

There’s a Difference Between Living and Living Well


Submitted Photo | An example of a poor quality purchase.

I’ve rambled on the past few months about so-called great deals at “special seizures” at hotel auctions, or a mindless alcohol soaked purchase while cruising abroad, or the ones who forked over a large quantity of hard earned cash to some unknown entity in cyberspace using a credit card over the internet for jewelry they have never even seen. The fact is seven out of ten people purchase sub-standard jewelry.

The average person, quite honestly, doesn’t know jack about the difference between fine jewelry and not so fine. I have been preaching, teaching, educating and informing people in my store and with my column for over 18 years on how to avoid getting duped by a large percentage of “dubious jewelers” who live to do just that… dupe, swindle, misinform and downright rip you off. It’s a disgrace to the trade.

Like any business in tourist areas, it’s simply the bottom line. They buy cheap inexpensive jewelry, create the illusion it’s expensive and sell it at a high price, even after the “discount” they give you. The unsuspecting jewelry buyers are an uneducated, trusting breed that are 80 to 90% of population. Rarely does a day go by where I have to reveal the bitter truth of a purchase that quite frankly is a downright dismal quality purchase. Another island jeweler (who is no longer in business) had “70% off” sales the whole month of November and most of December year after year. Most people fell for it; there were no bargains to be had.

So what is it that makes me such an expert in these things? For those of you who don’t know me, I have been a practicing goldsmith/jeweler/appraiser for over forty-five years, twenty years in the downtown Boston Jeweler’s Building and twenty-five years right here on Marco Island. I have pretty much seen and experienced it all. I have sold, and still sell, diamonds for hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, and also design and create jewelry the way it should be made… to give endless joy to both the presenter and the wearer, and most importantly, to last a lifetime or longer. Quality control is alive and well on my watch.

I constantly repaired recently purchased jewelry customers would bring in that disintegrates the next day or a week after they leave the boardwalk on the cruise ship. I no longer accept these headaches. I have to inform folks the sad news of the deceitful transactions in the Caribbean and overseas, regardless of the fact they have sheets of puffed up paperwork, trumped up appraisals, and bogus certifications that claim their purchase is the best investment they could ever make. And yes, I’m upset especially when a regular customer paid a lot of hard earned money on a lot of nothing. Plus the fact I lost a decent sale, and to add insult to injury, guess who is asked to “fix it” when it falls apart.

It comes down to one simple thing… what you buy either has value or it does not. When it all goes right you pay a good quantity of money for a good quality piece of jewelry, and this would be from a reputable jeweler. I can honestly see a bad quality or quality diamond and/or gemstone from across the room. Yeah! I’m that good! And humble, too.

I love the old saying, “The sweetness of a low price fades away while the bitterness of low quality lasts forever.”

On the other side of the coin, you pay a large quantity of money for basically something that is next to worthless. Not a great feeling when the buyer later finds out. There is a big difference between the two, a high quality gemstone such as a sapphire, ruby or fine emerald is, of course, expensive, but there is nothing worse than finding out you paid the same cash for fine, and wound up with basically trash. That is a painful difference!

There is jewelry, and then there is fine jewelry, and there is not so fine. When one professional compares quality to sub standard quality it can be like comparing a moped to a Ferrari or a paint-by-the-numbers Granny did to a Monet; I can see it while many do not. It’s simple… experience, experience, experience.

And know what else I learned? The average Jack and Jill doesn’t know the difference! And a shady smooth-talking sales associate will push that envelope if they sense you are that naïve!

Say goodbye to your money, say hello to your new crappy jewelry.

I am fortunate to have a large percent of clientele that for the most part have learned a thing or two from my experiences and they know the difference between the best, the good, the bad and the downright ugly. All one has to do is ask me about anything that has to do with quality diamonds, precious gemstones or gold jewelry. It’s all I have ever sold to my customers and I can even tell you a thing or two about which high grade watch is the best investment.

I personally buy jewelry from all parts of the globe. Certain countries make great jewelry, some make cheap junk. My opinions, suggestions and advice will save you thousands of $$$$$.

This is what I love about writing this column. Some of you new readers may consider me a pompous jerk. (I don’t consider myself pompous — no three piece suit or manicured fingernails here! And yes, I can sometimes be a jerk. Try working with the public for 45 years! Especially when some folks press all my wrong buttons, and are asked to leave my establishment. Many come back apologizing for their behavior, and the ones who don’t return… well that suits me just fine!)

Then again some folks respect my “tell it like it is attitude” and decide to make me their new jeweler! One thing for sure, my educated customers never get burned buying fine jewelry from my showroom. It’s a nice feeling to know your precious purchase was an intelligent one. Now that’s the difference between living and living well!

I just want to set things straight, I mentioned I am sliding into semi-retirement. I’m not retiring just yet. The response from my announcement has been mind blowing! My shop has never been so busy, so much for taking it easy! Thank you for that!

Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith and welcomes your questions about all that glitters, call 239-394-9275 or email

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