Friday, June 30, 2006

Striking Gold with Gold

(ARA) - People collect silver, gold, platinum, and other precious metals for several reasons. For many, a jewelry collection of any kind has enormous sentimental value, having been passed down from generation to generation, with pieces symbolizing milestones in life. For some, precious metals serve as a status symbol - if you've got it, flaunt it! Others collect jewelry and coins as an investment, one that is much less volatile than stock investments.

No matter why you possess these metals, your passion (or investment) has recently reached a peak in value. This increase in value is a trend that is expected to continue over the next couple of years and across several precious metal markets.

"Countries such as China and India have emerging economies that are using precious metals for industrial and jewelry use; this increases the demand for such metals, which in turn increases the price," said Roger Ponn, appraiser and owner of Roger Ponn Associated Appraisers LLC. "In the current market it is safe to say that the prices of gold and platinum aren't coming down to any large extent for any long period of time, at least not anytime time soon."

In the past few years, metal prices have been on a steady and consistent climb. Gold and platinum values have doubled in the past five years, while silver has tripled. In May 2006, gold reached an all-time high of $700/ounce, a figure that has been on a steady and consistent climb. To the average consumer, this means that a family heirloom jewelry collection could be worth substantially more now than it was appraised for just a year ago. But if something were to happen to that collection, would insurance cover the current value?

"Consumers who collect and appreciate fine things are generally aware that it is important to have their valuables appraised every few years," says Chris Heidrick, vice president of personal insurance at Fireman's Fund. "However, the jump in the value of metals has subsequently created a gap between what consumers have insured their jewelry collection for and what it is actually worth."

Experts agree that it is important to have a collection appraised to determine its current value. But equally important is to have insurance that covers the current value, not just the last appraised value. "Jewelry and coin collection values have really skyrocketed in the last five years, leaving many consumers vulnerable to a potential catastrophic loss if their insurance is limited to an outdated appraisal value," explains Ponn.

Of course, with any family heirloom or fine jewelry, there is the sentimental value to protect in addition to the market value. In addition to insuring a collection for its financial worth, it is equally important to work with an insurance agent or appraiser who will offer guidance on how to properly store and care for jewelry to protect it from theft or damage.

"We understand that the emotional attachment to a jewelry piece is just as important as the actual value. To reflect this, our Prestige CollectionSM policy includes preferred pricing with a highly regarded appraisal service, and expert advice on protecting a valued object or collection," says Heidrick. "We also work with our customers to have damaged pieces restored to their original splendor, and work closely with law enforcement to have stolen pieces found and returned to the rightful owner when possible."

What steps should consumers take to ensure that they understand the current value, and protect their jewelry collections accordingly? Following are a few basic tips for protecting your jewelry collection:

1. Account for, and take pictures of each piece of jewelry. In the event of loss or theft, this will expedite the claims process.

2. Keep a copy of the appraisal, along with photos, away from the actual jewelry or coin collection. That way, if the collection is lost or stolen, your paperwork is not.

3. Keep your collection in a safe, dry place, away from the elements and out of view of common visitors to your home. A fire-proof safe is ideal.

4. Have your jewelry collection appraised regularly - especially after a reported increase in metal or gem value. In the current market, jewelry and coin collections should be re-appraised every two years.

5. Ask your insurance agent to recommend a reliable, trustworthy appraiser.

6. Talk to your insurance agent about what policies will best protect your collection.

Following these tips will not only ensure that your collection is adequately covered by your insurance plan to its current value, but will also allow you to quickly expedite a claim in the unfortunate case of loss or theft. Properly caring for your collection, both physically and as a financial asset, will allow you to enjoy it for years to come.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Don't clean antiques too well

When dust, body oil, grime and oxidation occur on our drapes and upholstery, we call it dirt and go to great efforts to clean it off.

When it settles on our bronze sculpture or folk-art collection, it is called patina and we wouldn't touch it if we were paid to.

Cleaning some family heirlooms can reduce the value tens of thousands of dollars. Consider the poor lady on an "Antiques Roadshow" episode who scrubbed her Tiffany lamp base clean. I don't blame her--the polished bronze base and sparkling shade looked absolutely stunning. But where an untouched lamp may have been worth $50,000 or $60,000, hers was worth something like $10,000.

I must admit that I don't get patina. In many instances it looks like dirt to me. In fact, I don't even pronounce it correctly. Most of us say "pa-teen-a" to rhyme with "Katrina," yet the "Antiques Roadshow" Web site says it is pronounced "pat-in-a" to rhyme with "cat-in-ya."

However we say it, "Roadshow's" Keno twins, Leslie and Leigh, go bonkers over it. They explain that patina tells the story of where the piece has been, how it was used and where it came from. In many instances, true patina can authenticate a piece and separate the genuine from fakes.

So the question arises whether to clean or not to clean an antique piece. The rule of thumb: If in doubt, don't. It is always safer to preserve patina until the piece is appraised and you know for sure whether you are inadvertently removing the history that makes the piece interesting.

According to the "Antiques Roadshow" Web site and other antiques experts, here are some tips on what to clean.

Ceramics: yes. With warm soapy water and soft, lint-free cloth.

Glass: yes. With warm soapy water and soft, lint-free cloth.

Wood furniture: yes. Clean, but only with beeswax and soft, lint-free cloth. Don't strip.

Painted furniture: no. There is a history there in the chipped paint and stenciled decor.

Silver: yes. But only with a mild silver cleaner and soft cloth.

Bronze and copper: no. Patina is appreciated and valued on these pieces.

Jewelry: yes. With distilled water, dish soap and soft cloth. Do not soak.

Toys, dolls, stuffed animals: no. Best to store these items in acid-free paper away from light and moisture.

Textiles: no. Leave cleaning and repairs to the experts.

Clock mechanisms: yes. Take your clock to a repairman to keep the mechanism clean and ticking on time.

Oil paintings: yes. Have these cleaned by an expert.

Needlework: no. Store safely in acid-free paper away from light and moisture.

Posters, framed prints: no. Only a conservator can remove water marks and mold from printed items. Make sure they are mounted on acid-free paper.

Books: no. Dust only. Keep away from heat and moisture.

Guns: no. Store safely to protect from heat and moisture. You may paste wax the barrel.

Coins: no. Patina is appreciated and valued on these.

The "Antiques Roadshow" Web site contains a vast assortment of information. Go to

Clareo Designs Shatters Price and Quality Barriers With Two New Fused Dichroic Glass Jewelry Collections

New Dichroic Glass Jewelry Collections are targeted for retail distribution and feature spectacular dichroic glass jewelry individually hand-crafted in the US with retail prices starting under $10.

San Diego, CA (PRWEB) June 29, 2006 -- Clareo Designs, America’s leading designer and manufacturer of fused, dichroic, glass jewelry sold through retail distribution, today announced two new collections, dramatically expanding their highly successful line of individually hand-crafted fused dichroic glass jewelry sold through hundreds of retail locations nationwide.

The Gateway Collection: Incredible artistry at a fraction of the price.
Fine, dichroic glass jewelry hand-made by American artists is often sold between $50 and $150 in fine shops and galleries. Until now. Featuring a variety of pendants as well as adjustable, sterling-silver plated rings, the Gateway Collection from Clareo Designs brings a new level of affordability to hand-crafted wearable art, with estimated retail prices under $10 for many designs.

“For the first time, retailers have an opportunity to offer spectacular dichroic glass jewelry individually created by artists here in America at equally spectacular price points,” said Richard B. Freeman, National Sales Director for Clareo Designs, Inc. “And like all Clareo products, the Gateway Collection is designed for retail distribution, complete with point-of-sale packaging, support, displays and outstanding profit margins.“

Each Gateway gem is handmade by our artists from layers of dichroic glass fused multiple times with other materials at temperatures approaching 1500 degrees. Each one is a unique work of art; no two are ever identical. Pendants feature sterling silver plated bails and premium 18” chains. Gateway Rings are adjustable, fitting sizes 5-9, and feature sterling silver plated shanks. All Gateway gems are carded for easy display on a variety of fixtures. Rings are also available pre-merchandised in 36-piece trays complete with a header. Displays, point-of-purchase graphics and pre-selected best seller packages are also available.

The Signature Collection: Spectacular fused glass artistry in sterling silver.
The new Signature Collection is quite simply the finest jewelry ever produced by Clareo Designs. Personally hand-crafted and signed by Clareo’s lead artists, Signature Collection pendants and rings contain up to 25 layers of dichroic coatings and are custom-set in beautiful Sterling Silver.

The Signature Collection includes 10 stunning Sterling-intensive pendant designs along with 3 different ring styles, all stamped with the .925 Sterling Silver hallmark. The rings are also adjustable, fitting ring sizes 5-11. Freeman remarked, “Although our Signature Series Gems will be at home in any fine-art gallery, dealers and customers alike will be as surprised at their affordability as they will be impressed by their beauty.”

Clareo Designs is showcasing the new Gateway and Signature Collections at nine showrooms nationwide and at major gift shows this summer. For more information visit or contact the company at 866-456-1616.

About Clareo Designs, Inc.
Clareo Designs is the leading US designer and marketer of hand-crafted fused dichroic glass jewelry, with over 200 different products marketed through hundreds of retail outlets, galleries and shops worldwide. The company’s proprietary ‘Mass Crafting’ process allows Clareo to create a high volume of gems based on a single design, yet each one retains the beauty and quality of an artist-crafted individual. Clareo Designs is a privately held company based in San Diego, CA.

About Dichroic Glass Jewelry – High Tech meets High Art
Clareo’s dichroic glass is created using a high-tech process originally developed for NASA to coat astronaut visors and satellite dishes. Up to 25 microscopic coatings of various metallic oxides such as titanium and magnesium are bonded to glass in a vacuum furnace. These coatings serve as color filters, reflecting some wavelengths of light while transmitting others.

Our artists hand cut layers of this “dichroic” glass and fuse them with other materials multiple times at temperatures up to 1500 degrees, giving Clareo Gems their spectacular color and brilliance. Each resulting Gem is unique, a one-of-a-kind piece of wearable art.

Three Arrested for Jewelry Store Robbery

Three teens are behind bars, charged with robbing a jewelry store twice in two days.

Durham police say a 14, 15 and 16-year-old hit Friedman's Jewelers on North Roxboro Road.
Right after the second break-in was reported, police say they saw the teens walking away from the building, wearing jewelry from the store.

They're also accused of breaking into the Army Surplus Store in the same shopping center.

Garage sales still in style

Online auctions have only enhanced appeal of traditional rummaging.

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) - The dirty and tarnished bracelet sold for 50 cents, but cleaned up to reveal a sterling silver and 18-carat gold piece of jewelry worth several hundred dollars. It's one of Jenn Callum's best garage-sale finds, and an example of why - even in the age of the online auction - many treasure hunters still seek out traditional rummage sales.

Call it a garage sale, a yard sale, a tag sale or a boot sale, but don't call it a relic that online auctions have rendered obsolete.

In fact, the Internet is increasingly complementing traditional garage sales, making it easier to connect buyers and sellers who once relied solely on newspaper advertisements and roadside signs. Many newspapers post sale listings online, and other Web sites try to help sellers ramp up foot traffic by allowing them to post information about their events.

A greater amount of pricing information on the Web via online auction sites also is creating more savvy "garagers," said Callum, whose Web site,, offers information for buyers and sellers. Some shoppers search the residential sales specifically to find items that will fetch a much more attractive selling price online.

And despite the ability to point and click to purchases from home, many shoppers of second-hand gems simply crave the sensory experience that online auctions aren't able to provide, said John D. Schroeder, author of "Garage Sale Fever!," published last year.

"Garage-sale buyers thrive on the thrill of the hunt and like to see, touch and ask questions about their purchases - and even dicker on the price - plus take the item home immediately from a garage sale. That does not happen in online auctions," he said.

Many municipalities charge a nominal fee for a permit to hold a garage sale. But there is no national database that tracks the number of sales nor the amount of money that clutter-clearing homeowners reap from them. Judging by the growth of online sites that focus on the sales, business is booming.

Searching for sales

On Saturday mornings, Callum heads out with a clipboard of garage sale addresses found on the Internet, arranged geographically to make the most of her time. The 38-year-old from Toronto can hit dozens of sales in a day, deciding with a glance if they're worth a stroll through.

"The online garage-sale-listings sites are slow to catch on, although they are certainly gaining in popularity," Callum said. Online newspaper ads are usually her sources of choice.

But they're not the only sources. Sites like Garage Sale ( and Garage Sale Zone ( offer free listings to visitors.

Diana Matheou, a 32-year-old from Cleveland, created Garage Sale Hunter with her brother in 1999 as a pilot project for their information-technology firm, E-ffective Services, Ltd. More than 1,000 garage sales are posted on any given day during the peak season of June through September, Matheou said.

At the time the site launched, classified ad Web sites had been created to help sell cars and homes, but the pair didn't know of one that helped advertise garage sales.

"There wasn't anything targeting this market," Matheou said.

The site allows visitors to search not only by a sale's location but also by what will be sold there. Visitors can have e-mails sent to them when sales come up that meet their criteria. Next up on the development list: a tool that will map out a garage-sale circuit for shoppers.

Listings of garage sales have also grown substantially at in recent years, said Susan MacTavish Best, a Craigslist spokeswoman. In April 2002, a couple of months after the listings first started appearing on the site, 2,447 notices were posted there; in April 2006, 46,129 garage sales were advertised on Craigslist.

"The Craigslist community is really about people connecting with other people in their 'hood, usually in person," Best said. More than 90% of Craigslist sales and transactions take place within the same community, she added. "With that in mind, it's really an obvious choice for people to advertise for free their garage sales on the site, as they know locals will see the ad, read the ad and come to the sale."

All of the online options are bringing an end to the days of searching in the local paper and circling the sales you want to visit, Schroeder said.

Priced to profit

Online sites like eBay are also assisting in the pricing of specific items.

"I had an old plate from the early 1900s I got from a garage sale, paid $1 for it, and got all the info I needed on the Internet to find out the entire background of the plate," Schroeder said. In the end, he estimated that the plate was worth $65.

Looking around online can help sellers be smarter when deciding asking prices for their merchandise. Savvy buyers will move on items that are greatly underpriced and can turn around a hefty profit in some instances.

Callum, for example, once spied a Hummel figurine priced at 50 cents at a garage sale. Another shopper got to it before she did, and knew it was a steal -- the collectibles fetch handsome resale prices, and at least one Web site,, has a corner that connects buyers and sellers looking for specific pieces.

But the extra information available to sellers can have a downside, Callum said. She has been to sales that seem more like roadside shops than garage sales, with noticeably higher prices.

When to have a garage sale, when to sell online

Can't decide whether to unload your unwanted items online or at a garage sale? Fees for both are nominal, but your choice can determine what kind of profit you'll rake in.

Schroeder offered the following tips for people deciding what method to use.

When to sell online

  • When you have an item that requires a national prospects rather than local. It may be a specialized collectible that needs a wide audience to sell.

  • If the item is small and easy to ship.

  • If the item does not have any flaws or imperfections that prospects would need to see.

  • Sell online if you can offer sharp and multiple view photos of what you are selling.

  • If you want maximum money. You usually don't get into bidding wars at garage sales.

  • If you have some time to wait and let a buyer find your item. Online buying can require patience for seller and buyer to find each other.

When to sell at a garage sale

  • When the item is common and does not justify a national ad to find a buyer. Examples are CD players, toasters, books and videos.

  • When the item is large, heavy or common and would be a pain to ship to someone. Examples are a nice sofa, or a kitchen table and chairs.

  • When you want to get rid of clutter and money is a secondary factor.

  • When the item has imperfections that a potential buyer would want to see before buying. This includes electrical items that buyers can plug in and see it work.

  • When you enjoy the interaction of meeting new people and selling.

  • When you want to get rid of clutter quickly.

  • If you have the time and energy to organize and hold a one-day sale.

  • If you have lots of items you want to get rid of all at once.

LUXOR, Egypt — Archaeologists yesterday fully unveiled the first tomb discovered in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings in more than 80 years, and cracked open the last of eight sarcophagi inside to reveal embalming materials and jewelry.

“This is even better than finding a mummy — it’s a treasure,” said chief curator Nadia Lokma, beaming at the sarcophagus packed with fragile fabrics and other materials that would crumble into dust if touched.

“It will tell us about the religious plants and herbs used by ancient Egyptians, what they wore, how they wove it, how they embalmed the dead,” she said.

Dug deep into the white rock, the tomb is known only by the acronym KV63 — the 63rd tomb found in the valley — and was discovered accidentally last year by U.S. archaeologists working on the neighboring tomb of Amenmeses, a late 19th Dynasty pharaoh.

It is believed to be more than 3,000 years old.

Scientists cut a hole in the tomb’s door and got their first glimpse into the 12-foot-by-15-foot tomb in February. But yesterday was the first time researchers and media were free to walk into the small square pit.

Dozens of researchers and journalists excitedly crammed into the site to watch officials crack open the last of eight sarcophagi found inside. Instead of the expected mummy, the coffin revealed embalming materials, dozens of necklaces made from woven flowers and various other religious artifacts.

Covered in resin cast to their owner’s faces, all eight coffins were empty of bodies. Instead of mummies, they were found to contain mostly pottery shards. One small sarcophagus, made for a baby, contained pillows that appeared to be stuffed with feathers.

But Lokma hoped hieroglyphs would help scientists identify who the coffins were made for, and perhaps where the bodies were ultimately buried.

Termites and possibly ancient tomb robbers had damaged the sarcophagi so much that it took months of labor for archaeologists to excavate them. Sixteen of the 28 funeral jars found in the tomb have yet to be opened.

The tomb’s discovery last year broke the long-held belief that nothing is left to dig up in the Valley of the Kings, the desert region near the southern city of Luxor used as a burial ground for pharaohs, queens and nobles in the 1500-1000 B.C. New Kingdom.

The last tomb discovered there was the famed King Tut’s, in 1922.

Zahi Hawass, who heads the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, said he believed the new tomb could have belonged to King Tutenkhamen’s mother. Closely related Egyptian royals tended to be buried near each other, and graves of the rest of Tut’s family have already been found, he said.

“It would make sense, his tomb is so close that it looks like he chose to be buried next to his mother,” who died years before the young king, Hawass said.

This sarcophagus was found inside tomb KV63 in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, across the Nile River from Luxor, Egypt. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Fine Things Crystal Jewelry

Ahh, the finer things in life… Today’s site celebrates the finer, yet affordable things in life. It’s called Fine Things Crystal Jewelry, and it’s the site of a good friend of mine who uses her genius to create beautiful pieces of jewelry and sells them at discount store prices!

Using semiprecious stones, Austrian crystal, freshwater pearls, and sterling silver, she has designed and created stunning pieces that are amazingly affordable! Why buy a piece of factory-made jewelry when you can buy a custom-designed piece for the same price, or less?

Check out her wedding jewelry for that upcoming special occasion. Take a look at her bracelets, especially the topaz and Austrian crystal piece! Get the perfect gift for that special "young" lady in her Children's Jewelry section. Take a look at the designed sets for complete premade ensembles. See Teresa's cutting edge with her brand new designs. And get a real bargain on a fine black Austrian crystal and sterling necklace in the Sale section! Guys, your wife, daughter, or special one will love you for it.

And order with confidence. The online shopping cart is secure, and you get a privacy statement right up front laying out the guaranteed safety of your personal information.

Thai cop convicted of stealing stolen Saudi gems

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A top Thai policeman was sentenced to 20 years in jail on Thursday for stealing jewelry stolen from a Saudi palace, a heist which disrupted diplomatic relations, after a trial which spanned 13 years.

Police Lieutenant-General Chalor Kerdthes, sentenced to death in a related case, was found guilty of conspiring with six other officers to steal several pieces of the jewelry worth $20 million a Thai worker stole from a Saudi palace in 1989.

Chalor's team arrested the original thief, Kriangkrai Techamong, in Thailand in 1990 and he was jailed for five years.

But when the jewelry was returned to Riyadh, an outraged Saudi Arabia said only 25 percent of it was genuine.

Relations between the two countries worsened further when a Saudi Arabian businessman close to the Saudi royal family and been assigned to look into the case was abducted and killed.

Three months later, three Saudi Embassy officials were gunned down in Bangkok. The murderers were never found.

Saudi Arabia stopped issuing visas for Thais to work in the oil-rich state and declared Bangkok a city too dangerous for its people to visit. Diplomatic missions were downgraded to charge d'affairs level.

Chalor was sentenced to death for ordering the 1994 abduction and murder of the wife and son of a gem trader who bought some jewelry from Kriangkrai.

Shells May Have Been Earliest Jewelry

WASHINGTON — Ancient beads that may represent the oldest attempt by people at self-decoration have been identified from sites in Algeria and Israel.

The beads, made from shells with holes bored into them, date to around 100,000 years ago, some 25,000 years older than similar beads discovered two years ago in South Africa, researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"Our paper supports the scenario that modern humans in Africa developed behaviors that are considered modern quite early in time, so that in fact these people were probably not just biologically modern but also culturally and cognitively modern, at least to some degree," said study co-author Francesco d'Errico of the National Center for Scientific Research in Talence, France.

In the past some researchers have argued that the ability to use symbolism did not develop until people had migrated to Europe some 35,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Alison Brooks, head of the anthropology department at George Washington University, said the new find reinforces that people developed behaviors gradually.

That this find is older than the beads uncovered in South Africa "does not surprise me," she said in a telephone interview. "There were no revolutions in human behavior, there was a gradual accumulation of behaviors."

The perforated shells from Blombos in South Africa and those now coming to light are of the same genus, Nassarius, she noted.

"So, the question is, is this a single cultural tradition? Probably not," she concluded. "Clearly it's learned behavior."

By the time people were populating Europe, behavior had continued to develop and beads were being made from teeth, bone, stone, "every sort of material," said Brooks, who was not part of the research team. "It just is improbable that that sprang from nothing, and this is a logical antecedent."

Sally McBrearty, an anthropology professor at the University of Connecticut, also was pleased with the find extending the time range for such symbolic activity.

"It's the category of object that everybody is willing to accept as being something that signals modern behavior," McBrearty said. "It's not quite as wonderful as Blombos ... but it is fairly securely dated." McBrearty was not part of the research team.

The new find involves just three shells, two from Skhul in Israel the researchers said were about 100,000 years old and one from Oued Djebbana, Algeria, estimated to be 90,000 years old.

The researchers said the shells were found many miles from the sea, indicating they were brought to those locations deliberately, most likely for beadworking.

Brooks agreed, adding that the shells are too small to have had any food value.

"I think we're looking at symbolic value ... it's very exciting," she said.

D'Errico had been part of the group that found the earlier perforated shells at Blombos and he and other scientists were trying to find similar beads in other locations.

The newly identified shells were found in a study of museum collections.

The shells from Skhul were excavated in the 1930s. The researchers were able to date them by comparing sediment stuck to one of them with layers containing human skeletons that were 100,000 or more years old. The Algerian site was excavated in the 1940s and the researchers said the date of 90,000 years is based on the technology and style of the stone tools found there.

The research was funded by the European Science Foundation, the French Ministry of Research and the Fyssen Foundation.

Undated photo provided by the journal Science shows two perforated Nassarius. Ancient beads that may represent the oldest human attempt at self-decoration have been identified from sites in Algeria and Israel. The beads, made from shells with holes bored into them, date to 100,000 years ago, some 25,000 years older than similar beads discovered two years ago in South Africa. (AP Photo/Science, Drs. Marian Vanhaeren and Francesco d'Errico)

$250,000 Of Jewelry Taken In Car Break-In

A jewelry heist worth thousands happened in Austin. The suspect had no idea what he took.

A quarter of a million dollars worth of jewelry was stolen from famous Austin designers, AnthonyNak.

Because of the jewelry's uniqueness, police have recovered most of it, but some is still missing.

Police have charged and arrested John Anthony Perez for felony theft. In his affidavit, Perez claims he was just going up to a random car on June 7 looking for change. He happened to break into Nak Armstrong's car where he found a bag, ran off with it and had no idea he had just stolen $275,000 worth of jewelry.

Armstrong and Anthony Camargo design jewelry for the rich, the royal and the famous.

"They range anywhere from about eight thousand dollar for these earrings, to a hundred thousand dollars for this bracelet.. these are fifty thousand dollars," jewelry designer Nak Armstrong said.

The tanzanite collection is worth more than $200,000. Armstrong and Camargo thought they had lost the jewelry forever.

"I walked into the garage, saw that the driver's side door was wide open. So, immediately I knew somebody had been in the car and didn't know what I left in the car, so I didn't know exactly what was stolen," Armstrong said.

Armstrong had left an important piece of luggage in the car.

"I had thought I had taken it in. I had taken in the wrong bag," Armstrong said.

The bag Perez found had all of their jewelry in it and more.

"Perez confessed to the theft and said he was looking for some change when he stumbled upon this jewelry," APD Detective Matthew Greer said.

Apparently, he had no idea what is was worth. Police say Perez sold a bracelet to someone, worth $100,000, for a couple hundred bucks.

"There's all diamonds running through here, diamond beads. It's specifically also, the tanzanite stone, that's a very valuable stone," Armstrong said.

The jewelry soon made its way to pawn shops. Because police had distributed pictures of the pieces, most of it has made its way back to its owner.

"Even though it's jewelry, it is just jewelry, I'm more grateful that my partner didn't get injured in case he had been a target or that the dogs didn't get out because they broke through the fence," Camargo said.

However, Armstrong and Camargo are still very grateful to have most of their jewelry back. They don't have it all though. There are still a few pieces out there. Police ask if you've seen them or you know anything to call APD.

Officers still plan on pressing charges against the people who bought the jewelry from Perez and tried to sell it to the pawn shop.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Police hunting for jewelry thief in Town and Country

Police were searching for two jewelry thieves who ambushed a salesman in the parking lot of a Town and Country shopping center this week.

The out-of-town salesman was carrying a briefcase filled with jewelry to his car about 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Lamp and Lantern shopping center at Clayton and Woods Mill Roads. Two men armed with some type of "stun gun" threatened the man and took the briefcase. They fled in a light blue or silver Chevrolet Cobalt with no license plates, police said.

Several people witnessed the robbery. The salesman was not injured. Police would not say exactly how much the jewelry was worth, but said it was in the hundreds of thousands.

Town and County police were investigating. They had no suspects in custody.

This is a composite sketch of the man who robbed a jewelry dealer at a Town and Country shopping mall Wednesday.

GIA to grade synthetic diamonds

In an effort to distinguish the rising quantities of gem-quality, lab-grown diamonds entering the marketplace from natural diamonds, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) announced Wednesday that it will soon begin issuing synthetic diamond grading reports for the first time.

"GIA is a public benefit institution and, as such, has an official obligation to protect the public by providing the critical information needed to make informed decisions," GIA Chairman Ralph Destino said in a statement. "As a nonprofit entity serving the public trust, it is simply the right thing to do."

GIA's new synthetic diamond reports will provide a clear description of the synthetic, containing color, clarity, carat weight and cut information when applicable. The design of the report will be markedly different from the current GIA Diamond Grading Reports for natural diamonds, and reports will be printed on distinctive yellow paper to immediately signal that it is a synthetic diamond grading report.

To further help the public and members of the industry readily distinguish synthetics from natural diamonds, the GIA Laboratory will laser-inscribe the word "synthetic," along with the GIA report number, on the girdle of every synthetic diamond it grades.

Tom Moses, senior vice president, GIA Laboratory and Research, noted that GIA's research scientists have been studying synthetic diamonds for more than 30 years and have carefully monitored the new technologies that create these stones.

"Once we start grading them, we will be able to study a far greater number and variety of synthetic diamonds and we will report our findings as we proceed," Moses said. "As a nonprofit education and research institution, GIA has the ability to conduct comprehensive research into synthetic diamonds and other gemstones. It is imperative that GIA continues to expand its understanding of synthetic diamonds and to share that information with the industry and the public."

A 128-Carat Diamond, but No Sterling Telephone Dialer at London Tiffany Show

LONDON — The impetus for "Bejewelled by Tiffany: 1837-1987," a show encompassing 150 years of Tiffany creativity that opened here at Somerset House on Saturday, began four years ago in Manhattan. It took root when Fernanda Kellogg, president of the Tiffany & Company Foundation, sat next to Lord Rothschild of England at a board meeting of the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts.

"He said the history of Tiffany's was so unknown in the United Kingdom, he thought it would be fascinating to do something on it," Ms. Kellogg said.

Lord Rothschild, the former chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Britain and now honorary president of the Gilbert Collection Trust at Somerset House, shared his idea with Timothy Stevens, the director of the Gilbert Collection. Mr. Stevens suggested an outsider to organize the show: Clare Phillips, a curator who specializes in jewelry at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which has one of the world's largest jewelry collections.

"The Gilbert Collection had to assemble the team for the Tiffany show, and Clare had a fresh viewpoint," Ms. Kellogg said. Ms. Phillips wrote the chapters on jewelry for the V & A's recent exhibitions on Art Nouveau, Art Deco and International Arts and Crafts.

The Tiffany show, which runs through Nov. 26 and is sponsored by Tiffany & Company, is full of revelations. The world may be familiar with Tiffany's signature blue box and Audrey Hepburn's role as Holly Golightly in the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but even few Americans know that the New York store originated as a modest "fancy goods" emporium on lower Broadway.

In 1837 Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812-1902) and his school chum John Burnett Young opened a store to sell fine stationery, soap, parasols, a bit of jewelry and novelties, mostly European imports. By 1845 they had created "Blue Books," catalogs that allowed people all over the country to order goods.

"Tiffany created the earliest known mail-order catalogs," Ms. Phillips said.

By 1850 Tiffany had established a Paris branch under the leadership of a Boston shareholder and jeweler, Gideon Reed. He cleverly bought up heaps of diamonds from panic-stricken aristocrats after the abdication of King Louis-Philippe in 1848.

The New York shop also sold souvenirs, including one in the show: a tiny section of steel cable that commemorated the laying of the first trans-Atlantic cable in 1858. Cost? 50 cents.

"Charles Lewis Tiffany was a real entrepreneur, a great merchant prince," said Annamarie Sandecki, director of the archives at Tiffany & Company. "In the 1830's, for the first time, Americans had disposable income and a great thirst for luxury goods. He was able to anticipate people's needs and desires before they knew what they were."

What Americans wanted then were diamonds. In the exhibition catalog, John Loring, design director at Tiffany, writes about a spectacular ball staged for the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, at the Academy of Music in New York in 1860. He quotes from a newspaper account of the event, with Mrs. Edwin D. Morgan, wife of the governor of New York, opening the ball "in a cloud of crepe alive with diamonds" from Tiffany.

During the Civil War, as a supporter of the Union, Tiffany supplied regiments with badges, swords, guns and surgical instruments. The show includes a magnificent diamond-encrusted presentation sword made by Tiffany for a war hero.

Charles Tiffany, nicknamed "the king of diamonds," naturally was the one who acquired the fancy-yellow 128-carat Tiffany Diamond that is still at Tiffany. It is shown in London with a small, bejeweled bird sitting on top.

By the 1870's, Tiffany had fallen under the spell of japonaiserie, along with most of Europe. With input from its chief designer, Edward C. Moore, Tiffany produced a hand-hammered triangular sterling-silver tray in the Japanese style with an engraved spider's web and applied dragonfly, spider and leaf decorations in variously colored metal alloys. The tray, also in the show, contributed to the company's winning the Grand Prix for silverware at the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris.

"Both in silver and jewelry, Tiffany extracted from Japanese works of art the best Japanese techniques and use of inlay," said Katherine Purcell, director of the London firm Wartski and a jewelry historian who contributed to the catalog. "It was for silver work, not jewelry, that Tiffany won its first prize at an international exposition; the scale of the mixed-metal pieces at the Paris fair in 1878 took people by surprise."

Certain 19th-century Americans were seduced by the aristocratic provenance of items at Tiffany. "In 1887, when the French crown jewels came up for sale, Tiffany bought a third of them," Ms. Phillips said. "Just as it had in 1878, when Tiffany bought some of the Spanish crown jewels, including a parure set with yellow diamonds that Isabella II once owned. It was all about the provenances for the stones, not just the size."

In the 1890's Tiffany decided to design more "all-American" jewelry by incorporating materials native to the United States. The show boasts one of a handful of chrysanthemum brooches that Tiffany made using a spray of irregular white dog-tooth pearls from Mississippi.

"They are incredibly rare," Ms. Purcell said, noting that at that time pearls were as precious as diamonds. "Lillian Russell had one," she added, referring to the actress and singer.

Tiffany's great advantage was its gemologist, George Frederick Kunz, who sought out unusual colored stones all over North America: emeralds and rock crystal from North Carolina, diamonds from Virginia, topaz from Colorado, sapphires from Montana, yellow beryl from Connecticut and fire opals from Mexico. The American pink stone called kunzite was named in his honor in 1902. "Kunz personally went to the mines to buy the best stones for Tiffany," Ms. Phillips said.

Nature also became a theme in Tiffany jewelry. There is a bottle in the shape of a squid with a diamond eye; an iris brooch drenched with sapphires; and pins that resemble lilac blossoms and daisies.

Most famous are the enameled orchid pins from the 1880's and 90's by Tiffany's in-house designer G. Paulding Farnham. "Each orchid was based on a fine botanical watercolor," Ms. Phillips said. "Farnham was working from life."

But these orchids have diamonds set into them. Like all Tiffany creations "after nature," they were never to be confused with the real thing.

Moscow Diamond Bourse receives WFDB membership

The General Assembly of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses has accepted the Moscow Diamond Bourse as its 26th member organization at the World Diamond Congress, taking place in Tel Aviv. The WFDB decision to accept the Russian bourse’s membership was unanimously approved.

Newly elected WFDB president Ernest Blom said the Moscow exchange would be a welcome member of the family of bourses.

Moscow Diamond Bourse president Lev Polyakov said the new exchange would help develop the Russian diamond and jewelry sector.

“We are most grateful and firmly believe that what you have done will help in developing the diamond business in the Russian Federation and in the countries in our region,” he said.

Fischer reelected as IDMA president

The General Assembly of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association, which represents 12 diamond manufacturers associations in 11 countries, has unanimously re-elected Jeffrey Fischer for a second term as president, during the World Diamond Congress in Tel Aviv, held June 26-29.

Also elected were vice presidents Eduard Denckens, Belgium; Moti Ganz, Israel; Maxim Schkadov, Russia; and Vasant Mehta, India. Stephane Fischler was re-confirmed as IDMA secretary general and treasurer for a fifth term.

The Canadian Manufacturing Association, which had applied to become IDMA’s 13th member organization, participated as an observer pending full membership at the next congress.

The IDMA General Assembly voiced its support to a proposal that the 33rd World Diamond Congress take place in Shanghai in 2008 and that the 34th World Diamond Congress take place in Moscow in 2010. The 2007 presidents meeting will take place in Amsterdam.

Once Tacky Resort City Gets More Class

By Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press Writer

Once Tacky Resort City Gets More Class With High-End Shops, Dining

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- Move over kitsch; step aside, tackiness. Make a little more room for the newest feature of this resort city: upscale shops and eateries.
A Tiffany & Co. store and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant are arriving this week at high-end Atlantic City developments that are redefining a city once known for sprawling discount buffets and yesteryear's lounge acts.

The emphasis on luxury comes as Atlantic City seeks to buttress its nearly $5 billion gambling industry against increasing competition from Indian casinos and neighboring states, especially Pennsylvania, which is slated to open its first slots parlors later this year.

The first retailers at The Pier at Caesars opened Tuesday. By the end of the year, it's expected to have 90 stores and 10 restaurants.

While some of the stores are standard mall fare -- think Victoria's Secret, Gymboree and the Apple Store -- some are super high-end. A whole level is dedicated to couture, where the floors are blue terrazzo marble and the shops sell Burberry clothes, Tiffany jewelry and Tourneau watches.

The gleaming, 900-foot pier is in stark contrast to the nearby Boardwalk, where shopping can be done at stores that advertise "Everything's 99 cents" and where seagulls circle waiting for people munching slices of pizza to drop a crust or pepperoni.

The developer of the Pier, Sheldon Gordon, is the man behind the Forum Shops, the Las Vegas shopping and entertainment complex which is seen as a key part of the transformation of that city from a gambling mecca to a place where people could spend plenty of money even if they didn't want to gamble.

He said Tuesday that his $200 million Atlantic City project, which is connected by a skyway over the Boardwalk to Caesars Atlantic City, could have the same effect on the New Jersey Shore. "That is to change the whole attitude," he said.

Atlantic City today has more going for it than Las Vegas did when the Forum opened there 14 years ago, he said.

The resort has been heading more upscale for three years, since the Borgata opened with not just a casino and hotel rooms, but also a spa and restaurants run by celebrity chefs such as Philadelphia's Susanna Foo.

While other casinos have themes such as the Wild West and Ancient Rome, the Borgata emanates luxury and hipness. Scantily clad waitresses patrol the casino floor, the rooms have showers built for two and tour buses are not courted for their normally low-rent business.

Since the Borgata opened, there's been a building boom, with several of the city's 12 casinos getting upgrades and adding restaurants run by celebrity chefs.

On Friday, the Borgata is scheduled to open a $200 million expansion, featuring restaurants by Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay and Michael Mina, along with a second night club, an upscale food court and a new 85-table poker room.

Borgata spokesman Michael Facenda said the casino realized soon after it opened that there was more demand for upscale living in Atlantic City, so the expansion started quickly.

On the Boardwalk on Tuesday, Marcia Wilhelm, 62, and Joseph Gotto, 81, who regularly make gambling day trips from Elsmere, Del., said they personally did not have much use for shops peddling couture or high-end restaurants.

"It's better than having it fall down the way it was," Wilhelm said, pointing to the new shops, which replaced a dilapidated building. "It will be a nice thing to walk through."

And if Las Vegas is the role model for the new Atlantic City, where there's more to do than gamble, there's another touch at the Pier that fits right in: the city's first wedding chapel.

Felt Possibilities for Jewelry Makers

Fiber fanatics will find a lot to consider in this book that combines felt making and beadwork: Hand Felted Jewelry and Beads by Carol Huber Cypher (Interweave Press, $21.95 US; $29.95 CA). If you always wanted to try your hand at felt making and you enjoy creating jewelry pieces that make an artistic statement, then the unique techniques covered in this text might be for you. If you prefer toned down jewelry designs but have wanted to incorporate fiber into your work, then while most of the projects might be over the top for you, many of the fiber methods may still have an appeal.
My personal jewelry taste usually leans towards classics and every day, easy to wear styles, but I could still appreciate the way Cypher uses felt as a sculptural medium, creating stemmed flowers that wrap around a neck or wrist and felt beads to incorporate with more traditional jewelry components such as gemstones beads.

In fact, what I found most interesting in this book was the idea of making felt beads. Even though I tend to be a little conservative with my jewelry tastes and I may not want to wear a sculpted flower around my wrist, the idea of making felt beads got my wheels turning. Considering the difficulty many jewelry makers have when it comes to being accepted into high-end art shows, felt beads might be a great way to include a unique medium that allows you to make your own beads and thus be able to qualify for more shows. It is akin to the idea of lampworking, but instead of hot glass, you use fibers to make beads – definitely some wonderful possibilities there!

I can’t say that every jewelry maker will find this book appealing, but if you love fiber and have wanted to learn to make felt, or want to break out into a new medium and make your own felt beads, or if you really like unique and artistic jewelry projects to try, then you will probably like this book.

A Civil War sword from the Fitchburg Historical Society will be on display in England

FITCHBURG -- A Civil War presentation sword owned by the Fitchburg Historical Society will be displayed in England this summer.

The Gilbert Collection in London, England, will exhibit the sword as part of its landmark exhibition, "Bejewelled by Tiffany, 1837 - 1987", said Helen Obermyer Simmons, the society's interim director. The exhibition will run now through Nov. 26 and will introduce Great Britain to the rich history of the jewelry crafted by Tiffany & Company, the internationally renowned New York jeweler.

The Gilbert Collection asked the society to loan the sword for the exhibit in February. The ornate, gold-inlay sword, designed and made by Tiffany, was presented to Col. Edwin Upton by his fellow officers of the 25th Massachusetts Volunteers in 1862 at the end of his service in the Civil War. It has the initials "EU" set in diamonds. Upton's descendants gave the sword to the society in 1942.

Da Vinci Code Jewelry Movie Prop Copy - Already on Ebay

An exact copy of the Da Vinci Code's central Jewelry prop - Already on Ebay. Under license from Sony Pictures, Royal Link, a Hong Kong based company is offering a limited edition of original jewels inspired by the movie. Designed in Gold, Silver, and Platinum, these jewels convey the feeling of mystery that surrounds the secrets portrayed in The Da Vinci Code.

May 18, 2006 -- Anticipation of the upcoming release of The Da Vinci Code motion picture has reached a frenzy. For some, the Code seems a threat to long held beliefs, but to millions of Da Vinci Code fans around the world it's about connecting to a fantasy so real you can almost touch it. The movie only premiers at Cannes later this week, but a genuine piece of this fantasy is already for sale now on Ebay.

The world famous designer, designed the unique jewels depicted in The Da Vinci Code, drawing from traditional sources as well as using the designer’s own unique style.

Now, under license from Sony Pictures, Royal Link, a Hong Kong based company is offering a limited edition of original jewels inspired by the movie.

Designed in Gold, Silver, and Platinum, these jewels convey the feeling of mystery that surrounds the secrets portrayed in The Da Vinci Code.The pre-movie launch is already causing a stir amongst Ebay bidders, as time for the anticipated movie of the year approaches. Although the company did not announce which item will be auctioned first, Ebay buyers discussion forums have mentioned the “Fleur De Lis” Cross Key, a jewel central to the storyline.

Only serious Da Vinci Code fans will be taking part in the bidding. These high-end jewels are not for everyone – as bids are expected to rise considerably after the film’s release. For Da Vinci Code fans looking for a greater selection of Da Vinci Jewels, Royal Link is unveiling its showcase site at as well as a site for affiliates at

One mystery remains. Will The Da Vinci Code live up to the hype surrounding this movie? If it does, Merchandise associated with the movie is sure to be a hit.

Ernest Blom elected WFDB president

Ernest Blom, chairman of the Diamond Dealers Club of South Africa, was unanimously elected WFDB president, during the 32nd World Diamond Congress, held in Tel Aviv, June 26-29. He succeeds Shmuel Schnitzer, who completed two successive two-year terms as president.

Blom previously served as WFDB vice president. In addition, the general assembly honored Schnitzer by bestowing upon him the title of Honorary Life President of the WFDB.

Israel Diamond Exchange President Avi Paz was unanimously elected as WFDB vice president. Michael Vaughan, secretary-general, and Dieter Hahn, treasurer-general, were reelected. Following a vote, three additional members of the executive board were elected: David Marcus of the Diamond Club West Coast; Freddy Hager, President of the London Diamond Bourse & Club, and Sergei Oulin, chairman, Diamond Chamber of Russia. They join Anoop Mehta, president of the Bharat Diamond Bourse of Mumbai, Jacob Banda, president of the Diamond Dealers Club of New York, and Julien Drijbooms, president of the Vrije Diamanthandel in Antwerp.

In his acceptance speech, Blom urged the WFDB membership to realize its collective strength as an influence in the market.

"There is a Northern Sotho belief that a river runs deep because of its source. Likewise, I believe in the WFDB as an entity," he said. "Wisdom teaches us that careful planning results in a rich and prosperous business. By harnessing this wisdom, we can create solutions that deliver exceptional returns. It is my belief that these solutions will be a resource that is beyond expectations."

Tiffany Settles Product Hazard Claims

Tiffany Agrees to Pay $262,500 Penalty to Settle Consumer-Product Hazard Allegations

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday said upscale retailer Tiffany & Co. agreed to pay a $262,500 civil penalty to settle allegations that the company failed to report on time that its infant teether rattle may pose a consumer hazard.

A spokeswoman for the federal agency said its three-person commission unanimously approved the penalty. The settlement is provisional, pending a 15-day public comment period. Once that period lapses, the settlement will take effect, provided there are no major issues raised, the spokeswoman said.

In agreeing to the settlement, Tiffany denied that it violated the Consumer Product Safety Act. A company spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

CPSC alleged Tiffany was aware that its Farm Teether Rattles could break, releasing small beads and animal figures that could cause babies to choke, but did not report the hazard as required by federal law.

Tiffany received at least three complaints about a defective solder joint on the rattles, but only disclosed them once the commission began an investigation, CPSC said.

The company stopped selling the product in March 2004.

Tiffany shares rose 15 cents to $32.62 in recent trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Powerful Platinum

Symbol: Pt
Melting Point: 1774 degrees C & 3225 degrees F
Specific Gravity: 21.4
Hardness: 4-4.5

Originally, platinum was discovered by the Spanish explorers in Columbia, South America in 1538. They called it platina because it looked similar to silver (called Plata). Believe it or not, at one time, people didn’t know what to do with platinum. They used it for pots and pans. It didn’t become a popular jewelry metal until the early 1900s. Then during World War II, the U.S. government banned the use of platinum in jewelry making, and white gold was used instead. However, it has become popular again for a number of reasons. First, it is a very dense white metal that resists tarnishing. Platinum jewelry has little alloy in it, usually only 10%, so it is considered hypoallergenic.

There are six metals which belong to the platinum family:


All these metals require oxygen to be mixed with the fuel when melting since they have such a high melting point. They resist tarnishing and do not require flux when soldering. Metals in this group can also be cast, but because of their high melting point, a special investment must be used.

Today, most platinum used in jewelry in mined in Russia which controls the amount minded (much like the diamond industry). A large percentage of platinum is used in jewelry making. However, it is also used in other industries such as the medical industry and the automotive industry.

What happens when an eBay steal is a fake

A Gucci wallet for $120. A Burberry scarf for $32. A pair of Tiffany earrings for $35. If prices like that for some of the hottest luxury brands seem unreal, it very well may be because the goods themselves aren't real.

The estimated multibillion-dollar counterfeit market has become a major headache for the luxury-product industry - and for unwary consumers. Though many fakes are sold in stores, others wind up listed on auction Web sites such as those of eBay Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Inc., bearing attention-grabbing low prices.

Companies are stepping up their efforts to protect their brands by hiring attorneys and private investigators, and buying software programs to patrol eBay and other sites for fraudulent listings. Some investigations have led to arrests, and many have led to lawsuits. Tiffany & Co. filed a lawsuit against eBay in 2004, alleging that only 5 percent of the Tiffany items it bought through the site were authentic.


To find out what recourse people have when buying counterfeit goods through an online auction, we purchased five designer items on eBay, the leading auction site, at bargain prices for goods sellers advertised as being authentic: Chloe and Fendi handbags, a Gucci wallet, Tiffany earrings and a Burberry scarf. Finding the items was easy - a search for any designer's name turned up dozens of results, with prices ranging from as little as 10 percent of the retail price to as much as full price. We picked the listings with the best deals from sellers who had mostly positive feedback and who guaranteed the authenticity of the products.

Though our sample was small, four of the five products we purchased turned out to be fakes. (We couldn't determine the authenticity of the fifth one.) We then followed eBay's recommended course of action: First contact the seller, and then file a formal complaint with eBay itself.

EBay ultimately refunded a portion of the purchase price after we complained. The site's policy is to cap refunds at $200 - minus a $25 processing fee. EBay sets $200 as the limit because many of the transactions on the site are under that amount, says spokeswoman Catherine England.

EBay said that experiences like ours are rare. "I don't think that (the test) is representative," says Chris Donlay, an eBay spokesman. "Given the amount of trade that happens on the eBay platform, the large, large, majority of transactions on eBay are satisfactory for both sides."

In our test, the black leather Fendi Spy bag ended up being the most expensive purchase, and also the biggest headache. At $260, the bag was 87 percent below the retail price of $2,000. Yet the bag was sewn together sloppily, with the monogrammed fabric on the inside protruding at some of the edges; and the light, flimsy hardware was suspiciously inferior.

It took three messages and a threat to notify eBay to finally get a response from the seller, in which he promised a refund and asked us to ship the bag to an address in New York. But days later, we found out that the address belonged to his next victim: another defrauded customer, who also paid the seller $40 for shipping charges.

After a month passed since we paid for the bag, we filed a "refund not received" complaint with eBay through a form on the site, and then, at the site's request, an "item not as described" claim. EBay investigated the claim, asking us for proof of payment and proof of return, then refunded $175. Including the shipping costs, we lost about $133 in the ordeal.

We also had to file a complaint and a claim with eBay for the Gucci Eclipse French flap wallet, which retails for $375 and that we bought for $120. The interior of the wallet we received didn't match the real version in style or color. Gucci representatives weren't permitted to authenticate merchandise, but confirmed that our description of the fake wallet didn't match any of their products. The seller was courteous and promised a refund, then disappeared after we paid $29 to mail the wallet back to South Korea. EBay refunded $95 after closing the investigation in our favor, making our loss on this item $71.

The Tiffany earrings in sterling silver, designed in a teardrop shape by Elsa Peretti, retail for $195. The United Kingdom-based seller we bought them from was listing them for $35, or 82 percent off, and said in her listing that the jewelry came from "a Tiffany & Co. manufacturer, due to a family member who works at the factory." The earrings arrived in less than one week, but the packaging was a slightly different color and texture than the normal Tiffany blue box. When we brought the earrings to the Tiffany store in Manhattan, a sales associate compared our pair with a new pair in the store and pointed out that real ones are significantly smaller than the pair we received.

The seller readily offered a refund and apologized for any inconvenience, and we sent the earrings back right away. But a week after the package was sent, we didn't get a refund or hear from the seller - instead, we got a message from an eBay staff member saying that the listing was taken down. Still, the seller refunded the full purchase price, so the whole transaction cost us $26 (the price of sending the item back to the U.K.).

We weren't sure about the authenticity of the Burberry cashmere Novacheck scarf, which retails for $160 and we bought for $32, so we asked Michael Fink, the senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, to examine it. Fink noticed right away that the scarf didn't feel like the high-quality cashmere that is standard in Burberry scarves, and that the block-letter logo didn't match the real logo either. "The tag looks really bad - it doesn't have the finesse of the (real) logo lettering," he said. The seller promptly offered to refund the money and sent a check a few weeks after we returned the scarf.

The red Chloe Paddington bag looked the most authentic - when we first opened it, we couldn't find any flaws. When we took it to a Chloe boutique, the sales associates said they weren't permitted to authenticate bags, but let us compare our bag with the store's merchandise. The only difference we could find after close examination was the leather used to wrap the brass lock on the bag, which was noticeably thinner and smoother on ours than the rugged pebbled leather on the store's bag. Saks's Mr. Fink said he was impressed by the quality of both the bag and of the tags. "The leather seems fine, the tags look very official," he said. Though for the price, he said, it's unlikely to be authentic Chloe, he couldn't be sure.

Tiffany says it randomly purchased 186 Tiffany items through eBay in 2004 and found that only 5 percent of the items were genuine. That same year, the company sued eBay, claiming that the company was negligent about its anticounterfeit policies, and in some cases even promoted sellers of fake Tiffany products by advertising listings for unauthorized merchandise throughout its site and in Web advertisements on Yahoo and Google. "Tens of thousands of counterfeit Tiffany items are sold through the eBay Web site each year," the company claimed in its suit. The suit is awaiting a trial date in federal court for the Southern District of New York.

EBay's Mr. Donlay says the company was "quite disappointed that (Tiffany) felt they needed to file this suit. ... They can report items and have them taken down at any moment, and continue to do so" through eBay's Verified Rights Owner Program, or VeRO, through which brand owners can report fraudulent listings and have them pulled from the site.

According to its user agreements, eBay, which had 193 million registered users as of March, doesn't permit the listing of counterfeits and unauthorized replicas on its site. Violators of this rule are subject to punishments varying from listing cancellations to account suspension or seller-status demotion. In addition, the site has a rating system in which members can rate each other and leave negative feedback for bad sellers.

Last quarter, clothing and accessories accounted for about 8 percent of eBay's $12.5 billion gross merchandise volume, or the total value of all successfully closed items.

Resource: Wall Street Journal

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The History of Diamonds

The Greek word for unconquerable is "adamas" the root word for diamond. First discovered in India in the year 800 B.C., diamonds are found today in many parts of the world. The largest number of gem quality stones are produced in South Africa but diamonds are also found in Russia, Australia, South America and the United States. Much of the mining outside of South Africa produces industrial quality diamonds.

One of the first South African diamonds was discovered in 1866 by a young boy along the banks of the Val River. The diamond - the 21 carat Eureka - later became part of a gavel used by the premier of South Africa.

Soon after this amazing discovery, diamond diggers began finding other diamonds in the yellow earth along the Val and Orange Rivers. Below this yellow earth lay a far greater discovery, diamond-bearing layer of blue-grey rock called "blue ground" or "kimberlite." Kimberlite is located in circular "pipes" which are actually the mouths of extinct volcanoes several hundred feet deep. Variations in the structure and color of kimberlite account for the different grades and colors of diamonds.

This 60 mile coast of the Orange River, which divides South and South West Africa, is owned by Consolidated Mines of South West Africa, Ltd. (a part of DeBeers group). It has produced approximately 1 million carats of diamonds a year since 1956.

The largest diamond-bearing pipe in the United States is located in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. The largest diamond ever discovered in the US, the 40-carat "Uncle Sam" came from this pipe. Now a tourist attraction, the Murfreesboro Mine has yielded over 60,000 diamonds since it's discovery in 1906.

Kimberly Mine, which was closed in 1914, was the producer of 14,500,000 carats in diamonds.