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Lessons In Not Getting Screwed, or Learning Things the Hard Way, or How to Sell Gems and Jewels

I just got back from the Banff World Media Festival where I met some fantastic people and learned a whole bunch about the entertainment industry.  One common theme most everyone seemed to relate to me was, “Be careful, don’t get screwed.”

Taking what I know about science, the Earth, and history to television is new territory for me and the education I am receiving from this adventure has its own parallels to my entrance into the world of gold and precious gemstones.  In other words, there is always someone who is a terrible human being who is going to try and screw you over and ruin you in the process.  Despite this risk you cannot let the prospect of terrible experiences keep you from reaching your goal.  Yes, there are monsters out there, but you have to find a way to test the waters and see who your future friends are and who your future enemies are as well (and I don’t use the term “enemy” lightly).

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What I have found in the gem and gold market is that those who advertise the most (especially to older demographics like the front page of the newspaper or on FoxNews) are usually the worst and most evil; I am still waiting for one just of these companies to prove me wrong.  I used to, and still do at times, visit estate sales during the winters to find unique gems and jewelry to add to my mineral collection or to later sell for a profit.  Depending on the gem or jewel you will need to do the footwork and research to see who wants what you have.  Some jewelers will resell most everything, others want only world-class specimens, some only want specific styles and may say things like, “I only deal in Edwardian jewelry.”  Your job is to take note of this and then keep such information in mind for when you do find that beautiful Edwardian filigree ring.

As far as loose stones and jewelry go do not ever expect to be the one to receive full market value for what you have.  Yes, I know that engagement ring cost $5,000, but the most someone will ever give you for that ring is probably $2,000 (even then, that is not too likely).  This is just the way it is.  The only people who can sell jewelry for that much money are those who have beautiful storefronts with security systems, security guards, fancy glass cases, and women with huge boobs standing behind said cases.

The best deals for you will come from being patient and consigning your piece through a reputable, high-end jewelry broker or from a prestigious auction houses.  Even then, you can only expect at most 80% market price in then end as everyone gets a commission.  This usually only works with really rare, one-of-a-kind pieces though.  Don’t expect to take your JC Penny tennis bracelet to Christie’s, Sotheby’s, or Bonham’s auction houses.

Some Tricks:

If you want to sell a gem or piece of jewelry for as much as you can there are a couple things you can do and chief among these is getting the stone (or stones) certified by a major laboratory like the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), the AGL (American Gemological Laboratory), the EGL (European Gemological Laboratory), the IGI (International Gemological Institute), the IGL (International Gemological Laboratory), the GRS (GemResearch Swisslab), or the BGL (Burapha Gemological Laboratory) just to name a few.  All of these labs are very honest and reputable, but some may offer a more in depth analysis and fancier report on your gems than others.

My experience with the GRS and the GIA are first class.  That is probably why these are the two favorites of almost everyone in the industry.  Most labs are very good with colored stone certification but when it comes to diamonds it is my experience that the only lab buyers trust is the GIA.  This seems ridiculous to me as diamonds are so easy to identify in the first place, but if you want the greenbacks you have to do what it takes to present your wares in the way your buyer likes.

What does certification even mean?  Well, when you spend a bundle of money to send a stone to a lab for certification what you get back is a detailed lab report as to the official color, cut, clarity, size, and overall quality of the stone.  Essentially the lab is saying this stone is what it is and are certifying it as such and putting their reputation on the line at the same time.  Sometimes, as with the GIA, they will even laser engrave a microscopic serial number into the stone upon request so that it can be tracked as it ventures through the markets.

Once a stone is certified the value of that stone skyrockets, and it can give you a negotiating tool.  A certified stone has prestige and a stone that is its exact twin without certification will sell for only 10-30% the value of its certified counterpart.  Also, if you are buying a stone it is a good idea to put a legal condition on the sale. Agree that you will only buy said stone if it can first be certified as what the seller says it is by a reputable lab.  Don’t assume that since they have the fancy store with the security systems, glass cases, and hot babes, that they are not just selling you pretty pieces of cut up Heineken bottles.

The other thing you can do is be sneaky.  Go to a jeweler who also buys or consigns stones or jewelry from estates or individuals and ask them to appraise it for you for “insurance purposes”.  Once they determine the value of the stone come back later and offer to sell it back to them.  When they low ball you, present them with their own appraisal.  It’s kind of a dick move, but it can really protect you from charlatans.

We Buy Gold!

Anyone who offers to buy gold on TV or in the Newspaper are out to screw you.  If they don’t list a “spot price” for your gold give them the finger and walk out.  Spot price should be between 90-95% current trading market price.  There are lots of mining shops, gold mutual funds, and investment funds who will pay you top dollar for your gold.

It helps if you refine your own gold first.  Educating you how to refine your gold is a blog for another day, just know that it is easier to sell 24k 99.9% fine gold than it is to sell a 12k gold plated chain necklace.

The same goes for silver or platinum, or any other metal for that matter.

Porcello Jewelers:

Porcello is a jewelry store in downtown Bellevue, WA who advertises on the front page of the Seattle Times almost everyday of the week and often has full page adverts found inside as well.  They claim to offer top dollar for the purchase of estate jewelry.  Let me sum up Porcello for you:

Fuck Porcello Jewelers.  They owe me $100,000.

Here is my tale:

A few years ago (2011), I had about twenty fine gem rings I had purchased at various auctions and estate sales.  The market value for the entire collection was in the $60,000 range and I was only interested in getting wholesale at a fraction of that price (I was hoping for $20,000, but would have taken as low as $10,000 since I had paid probably $2,000 for then entire lot).  Included in the collection was a platinum 2ct blue diamond ring which was accented with over a carat of near flawless rubies and almost a carat of VVS G-color diamonds. This piece was worth about $25,000 alone.  The man at Porcello said the ring was garbage and he would only give me $900 tops, and that was doing me a favor.  I pointed out that he had a blue diamond solitaire from the exact same designer in the case behind me for $36,000.  He held his ground.  Okay, I won’t sell this ring today.

This ring Porcello tried to screw me over.
This ring Porcello tried to screw me over.

The blue diamond ring was nothing compared to what came next.  The dude then gestured to a ring in my collection and asked, “What’s that?”

“That is a quarter carat enhanced red diamond in platinum.  The diamond is natural but the color is from irradiation.”  I replied.  Irradiation is a common technique, the blue diamond above is a result of irradiation too.

“That’s not a diamond.  That’s a garnet!” He almost screamed at me.

“No, that is a diamond.”

“I know a garnet when I see one, and that is a garnet.  I bet you $100,000 cash that if I take out my tester it’s not a diamond.” He challenged.

“Shit, you’re on, buddy. I’ve my tester right here too.”  I shook his hand and we both tested the stone. *beeeeeeep* went the testers affirming my statement that the stone was in fact a diamond.  I put out my hand and said, “Thank you for the hundred grand, you’ve made my day!”

This $1,200 ring has resulted in a $100,000 grudge.
This $1,200 ring has resulted in a $100,000 grudge.

He had security drag me from the store and accused me of cheating.  I reported Porcello to the Better Business Bureau and to the Washington State Attorney General.  If this is how Porcello treats an expert in the field what are they doing to the man who just lost his job or to the widow whose home is in foreclosure?  In other words, fuck Procello Jewelers.

Along your journey of making deals you will come across disreputable sorts like Porcello, and you will also come across sweet, knowledgeable, kind, trustworthy jewelers like K. Allen Smith in Seattle.  Just like how I am learning to navigate the world of television trying to market “Get Your Rocks Off With Houston” I once had to do the same with the world of gems and jewelry.

Good luck on your journey, and swing on by Porcello if only to ask them for my $100,000.

Soon we will have millions of you captivated!

The Kickstarter was a resounding success!  We raised over $27,000 and are set to begin filming episode 1 of “Get Your Rocks Off With Houston” September 5th!

In celebration, I figured it was high-time to set up a fancy Facebook page for everyone to “like” and “follow” here: https://www.facebook.com/get.your.rocks.off.with.Houston

Starting the on the 5th (September 5th that is) the trip reports begin anew.  So, bring your eyeballs back to this here blog for all the latest and greatest from your lovable cast of party animals desanctifying nature at every turn.  There are big, big things on our horizon, and I am ready to shamelessly exploit every one of those things for personal profit and gratification.