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Ultimate True Tales

Jewelers share their best stories, from art deco to the F word.

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THE RETAIL JEWELRY business sure does have its share of unusual requests, brazen customers and stomach-churning encounters.

INSTORE has a tradition of collecting and sharing the funny and far-fetched experiences our readers have always been generous enough to share with us. They offer an insiders’ look at your most entertaining or most aggravating days in the business.

Collectively known as “True Tales,” they frequently have appeared in our July issue.

Despite the retail sector having faced unprecedented obstacles in the first half of 2020, or perhaps because of that, we decided it’s time for a laugh or an eye roll and solicited anonymous stories from our Brain Squad and other sources.

But, let’s kick off this compilation of truly weird tales with two funny stories (prize winners from the Jewelers Helping Jewelers Facebook group), retold here with permission. Says storyteller Frank Cafaro, “I have always said truth is stranger and funnier than fiction.”

 

FUNNY STORIES
FROM
FRANK CAFARO

NOT SHORT FOR ARTHUR. I had a customer tell me to be careful while sizing her ring, because her mother had it designed by Art Deco. I said, “Art Deco himself?” The woman said, yes! I just said OK.

I KNOW MY STONES. A customer came in the shop and needed a stone for her ring. Told me a Parrotatit. I said “Oh, a peridot.” She said, “No, an amethyst; my parrot picked it out of my ring and ate it so I can’t find it.”

 

 

WEIRD
CUSTOM
JOBS

TIL DEATH DO US PART. We made a customer’s “death ring” that she planned to take to her grave because “no one else deserves it but me.” It was a 1-carat heart-shaped diamond with a penguin hugging each side of the heart.

GAZE INTO THESE EYES. A London blue topaz and diamond pendant for a cat. I had to match the topaz to the color of the cat’s eyes.

LET’S JUST MATCH THE FORK, SHALL WE? We created a piece to hold some ashes from a young couple that were murdered on Christmas Eve. The mother brought in sterling flatwear that were theirs. We made the piece with a design like what was on the flatwear. The challenge was getting the ashes in the piece. I got them in and my jeweler was to solder the opening. He could not get it entirely closed and a tiny bit of ashes would spill out! He finally came down from the shop and declared this is creeping me out! The hole was tiny so we epoxied it!

A CANINE’S CANINE. Casting a dog’s tooth for a necklace, but I bet a lot of people have done that one.

A NUTTY LOCKET. Most unique of 2019 was a custom 18K gold “life-sized” peanut; think Planters logo, locket that holds two family photos on one side, and nearly 100 pavé diamonds on the other side with a magnetic closure. Gift from husband to wife whom he always called his “peanut.”

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STAFF SAYS IT’S ONE OF A KIND. I had a woman come in the store with her boyfriend. She showed me a pendant she wanted that had a couple engaging in sex. She wanted me to make it and said that it had to be moveable with a small lever. I made it and still have the mold. My staff won’t let me make it again. The guy came back and bought an engagement ring as long as the diamond was 0.69 carats. After that purchase, I never saw them again.

AND THE PRIZE GOES TO THE MONKEY SKULL. I have done so many weird pieces, it’s hard to say which is weirdest. I have set human teeth (for two different customers), puppy teeth (three different customers, same dog), Tyrannosaurus Rex teeth, pieces of the Berlin Wall (with a barbed wire motif), 10 pieces of rock from the top of Mt. Everest, made a necklace out of pieces of metal removed from a customer after they saved her leg, and appraised a damaged ceremonial monkey skull. Is that enough? I could probably come up with more.

A TROPHY. The granny that killed an alligator, who wanted an alligator tooth necklace.

TATTOO YOU. We were commissioned to make an engagement ring for which we engraved the sides with an intricate design showing a seedling and vines. It turned out to be a replica of the bride-to-be’s tattoo!

LIFE-SIZE REPLICA. Years ago we made a life-sized replica of a guy’s manhood. Cast it in sterling silver. He furnished the wax model. We weren’t interested in making the mold for him.

BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. A possum hat pin with ruby eyes.

LOFTY GOALS. A 3-D penis with wings


 

WEIRD
ENCOUNTER

ORANGE IS THE NEW ORANGE. A woman wearing a bright orange shirt and bright orange nail polish told me she hated the color orange and bought a pair of orange carnelian earrings.

 

RETURN
HORROR
STORIES

A NOT-SO-VEILED THREAT. I had a lady who came in looking to return a pair of earrings; alas, they didn’t come from my shop. She got very upset but eventually left. Half an hour later, her husband came in to try again. I explained that they didn’t come from my shop. He suggested I “check my fire insurance”; it turned out he had been in jail for arson.

THE UNCERTAIN PROPOSAL. Made up a beautiful engagement ring for $15,000, paid in full, only to get it back two weeks later because she said no.

BUT DID SHE WATER IT? After a year, a customer wanted to return her half-carat diamond because it had not grown.

THE HAMMER FIX. Made a ring as requested. Customer did not like it. Made it again. Same result. Made it a third time. Same. So I took a hammer and an anvil to the counter, smashed the ring, took the diamonds and put them in a parcel, handed them to the customer and said, “Have a nice life, but never come back.”

COMIC RELIEF. When a new piece of jewelry leaves my store, I check it over and make sure it looks great. I had a lady bring in a ring that she “had never worn.” The bottom of the shank looked like a tank rode over it and two diamonds were missing. I just laughed at her.

MOOD SWINGS. We had a customer buy herself a very nice $12,000 ring. I’m pretty sure she had a drinking problem and she was naturally an angry person, so you can image she was hard on this ring. After about two weeks, she came back in with it completely mangled and some diamonds were knocked out. She claims she had no idea how it happened and it must have been defective. You could clearly see that she had manhandled this thing. I’m almost convinced she ran over it with her car. Anyway, we sent it back to Spain, and the designer was kind enough to repair it for her for no charge. But she agreed to this option only after about an hour of us explaining why we wouldn’t give her money back. She was rude and insulting the whole time, but when the ring came back and we handed it over for no charge, she was suddenly pleasant. Maybe she was sober that day. We haven’t seen her since, and I don’t care.

THE UNDECIDED FIANCE. Guy buys a 2.15-carat F/VS1 princess solitaire. Three days later, a woman comes in asking to sell it. She has the GIA report, the ring, our box, our appraisal. He told us she was a size 5 and this woman has a size 9 finger. I asked where she got the ring. She says, “From a friend”. I take it to inspect it, go in the back and tell an employee to call the customer. She describes the person. He says, “That’s her sister. I’m coming right now and calling the police. Please stall her.” We stall her with “getting paperwork ready to buy it”. Turns out the potential fiancée said, “No, but let me hold on to the ring and think about it.” HE LET HER!! Then she sent her sister to us to sell it back! The police intervene, and he gets the ring back. The police and the woman leave. He stays to talk to us. His phone rings. It is the potential fiancée screaming at him that it was HER RING, then she calms down and says, “But babe, I love you so much.” He starts crying. They get off the phone and he asks, “Should I give her another chance? I really love her.” We tell him, “Are you kidding? NO!” We insist that WE hold the ring and if he KNOWS he wants to do this again, we will give it back. We held it for about six weeks. He came in to say she is with another guy … old and rich. We felt so sorry for this guy who was completely broken. We gave him a full refund.

THE BAD LUCK RING. Custom engagement ring. She loves it, perfect fit when she gets it. Two weeks later, it’s too small. We think it fits great. She says she feels “restricted.” We explain fluctuation in finger size. She insists we size it up. We size up a half size. Few weeks later … “It spins and it bothers me.” After a lot of back and forth, she wants small cleats. Two weeks later: “Take them out. They bother me.” We remove them. Two weeks later, the ring is defective: “It is stretching because it is huge on me.” We explain it is her finger fluctuation. She asks about our return policy. She says she will talk with her fiancé. We do not hear from her for about a month. Then comes this call: “I was in a car accident. It is because of the ring. It was twisted and I looked down to fix it and hit the car in front of me. I want to return the ring because it does not fit right and you aren’t willing to help me.” We go over everything we have done. She says, “Well, this ring is obviously bad luck and defective.” She comes in with her mom. After a lot of discussion, her mom says, “Well, it wasn’t the right ring in the first place.” To keep this from being longer than it is, the REAL problem was that her cousin got engaged a week after her and the cousin’s diamond is bigger. She didn’t know how to tell her fiancé, so she kept making excuses expecting him to say, ‘‘Just go get what you want.” How did it end? She was crazy, we refunded his money minus a small fee and told him how the conversation went with her and her mom. We told him the truth of the issue. He calls us two months later to say, “Thank you for your help and honesty. I am done with her, but I’ll be back if I am ever crazy enough to do this again.”

(NOT) A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY. The children and husband designed a custom ring for the mother, but the mother wanted to return it because she didn’t like it and said she would never wear it.

THE CURSE. We have a ring in the store that has been purchased and returned three times. THREE. It has to be cursed.

IT’S PERFECT. PERFECTLY UGLY! Just recently, I was asked to custom make a band to match an engagement ring. The customer had several elements she wanted in the band. It was garish and I told her I was concerned. To be sure, I had her sign off on every step of the design process. When she got the ring, she said it was perfect. It was ugly, and all of the staff said the customer said it was perfect, but felt she did not like it. The next day, she called and said, “It is exactly what I wanted but I don’t like it and want a full refund.” Then came out the veiled threats with social media before I had a chance to respond. I just bit the bullet and gave her a full refund.

THE WEBS THEY WEAVE. I had a customer when I first opened and money was really tight bring me an ad with a beautiful woman wearing a spider-web necklace. He contracted me to make one for his wife in 18K gold with rubies and diamonds for Christmas because ruby is her birthstone. He gave it to her and she hated it. He wanted me to take it back. I did, because I was new and didn’t want to lose a customer. My thought was I didn’t have anything that I actually made in my case to show customers, so it would be OK. Later that year, he bought a 3-carat diamond solitaire for his anniversary, and a year later, a customer loved the spider-web necklace and put it in layaway. My lesson there was never lose your compassion for the customer.

THE AMNESIAC. A woman comes in to return a 7 year-old diamond engagement ring. I explain that she can’t return a purchase that old, but that she can trade it toward a more expensive diamond. She does that and puts the extra on her credit card. Three weeks later, she comes in to return the larger ring. I tell her it’s no problem, take her credit card and pull her trade-in out of the vault. When she sees the original ring, she turns red and demands to know what the hell I am doing. I looked her in the eye and calmly told her she paid for the new one by using the old one as part of the payment and using her credit card for the balance, so I am reversing that sale exactly as it was made. Boy, did she throw a major temper tantrum.

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UNUSUAL
ENGRAVING
REQUESTS

INVALUABLE ATTRACTION. Had a $79 ring brought in today to be engraved, “You’re worth it.”

IT CAME WITH INSTRUCTIONS. I wouldn’t say it was weird, but it was certainly hilarious. We engraved on the inside of gents wedding band, “Put this back on,” per his fiancée’s request.

AH, ROMANCE! The couple getting married met in the washroom of a department store, so they wanted the logo of the store in their wedding band to remind them of their “encounter.”

OCCUPIED. Engraving on the urn for a human, and they were still in it. We had to remove the contents, as the engraving machine has an arm to fit inside the cylinder.

THE F WORD(S). A number of years ago, we had an order for a set of two sterling silver dog tags. Our customer wanted one word engraved quite large on each tag, in an ornate script font. The first word was F*CK and the other was FOREVER. I figured hey, no biggie, I’d rather make those for you than have you purchase them elsewhere.

THE F WORD PART 2. We did “I F***ING LOVE YOU!” on the inside of a bracelet.

BIKER CHIC. Engraved “Ride me now” in a Harley Davidson Zippo lighter.

JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED. Vintage stainless steel bedpan engraved for a doctor’s retirement party.

VEGETABLE OR MINERAL? Inside a wedding band: “Always Turnip.”

 

OFFBEAT
REPAIRS

A BARELY THERE REPAIR. We repaired an exotic dancer’s “outfit.”

ABRACADABRA. Repaired a magic cane just in time for a magic show at a club that night.

 

 

GROSS-OUT
TALES

A TRIPLE ICK RATING. I once had a local and longstanding customer (another small business owner in our area) come in for a repair. He’s a commanding man of about 60, at the time. When I approached him, he told me that he needed our help soldering something that had broken, and then proceeded to pull his retainer right out of his mouth and put it into my hand! Ick. Ick. Ick.

YOU HAVE TO DRAW THE LINE SOMEWHERE. A very nice young woman asked me if I would build her a necklace with her unusual item. I intimated that I would be glad to make her happy. When she produced a dried, shriveled umbilical cord from her son’s birth the previous year, she said it would make the most beautiful necklace. We declined, as we draw the line at human flesh. Subsequently, the counters were cleaned to surgical standards.

ENOUGH SAID. I wish I could tell you about us gold plating a raccoon bone for a customer that was a veterinarian. This is a part of its anatomy that is his private parts. Cannot go there.

DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE? Once a long, long time ago, a lady brought in a little jar of freeze-dried Walleye eyes. (For those not in Minnesota, the Walleye is our state fish and good eating!) Yes, eyes! She wanted two matched pairs made into earrings. So we picked out the “best ones” and put them in six-prong pearl type crown ear posts with epoxy. Customer is always right! But I have often wondered what would happen to those earrings if someone forgot to take them off in a nice hot shower!

DECISIONS, DECISIONS. Asked by phone if we did custom bear claw pendants. We said certainly. Were completely grossed out when the customer arrived with an entire leg of a black bear, stating, “I didn’t know which bear claw to choose.”

IT’S TIME TO COWBOY UP. A lady came in with her young son. The kid was dressed in a cowboy outfit. During the presentation of the jewelry, the kid looks down and spits on the carpet — you know, like a real cowboy. The saleswoman is rather shocked. The mother sees the spitting, looks back at the saleswoman and says, “Isn’t that cute?”

MEMO GOODS. One of our sales associates was showing a 3/4-carat diamond to a client in locking tweezers. She had put a bit too much pressure on the stone. As she was holding it up, the stone popped out of the tweezers and flew into the air. She was talking at the time and the diamond went right into her mouth and down her throat. She swallowed it. It took two days for her to “retrieve” it, but she did. No one wanted to touch the stone after that. Thankfully, the stone was on memorandum. We sent it back without telling anyone the story … was that wrong??

WARNING: THIS ONE IS REALLY BAD. The first time I witnessed the guys cut someone’s rings off was horrifying. I was called to the back as very much a greenhorn. They were gonna cut off a customer’s ring and wanted me to watch; I had told them I wanted to see all aspects of what they do. That being said, there I was at the counter making polite conversation with a lady in her mid 50s while the guys grabbed the tool off the rack. She told us that she was quite embarrassed and probably should have come in sooner, but she didn’t want “the damn hospital to ruin her rings.” That was apparently her next stop. She said she had managed to catch her hand in the door and it had swollen up. Now the part she didn’t mention until she pulled her arm up to expose the rings was that it had happened a week prior. Her hand was definitely swollen, but her fingers were black and the smell was so bad that I vomited in the trash can. The guys clipped the rings, cringing and somehow smiling the whole time. The customer said it felt better, even though I suspect she couldn’t feel anything at that point, and the swelling was not going down, neither was the color changing. I really hope she still has those fingers …

FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. One time we helped a customer who wanted to restore her deceased daughter’s ring. She handed the ring to me and explained that she had had her daughter exhumed and the ring needed to be cleaned. So yes, the ring had been on her deceased daughter’s finger buried in the ground, and she now has handed it to me, discolored and filled with some substance? We cleaned it and handed it back and she put it back on her finger. I was in shock and grossed out for the rest of the day.

WHAT KIND OF STONE DID YOU SAY THIS IS? I once had a client hand me a stone and ask if I could drill a hole in it and attach a bail or jump ring for her chain. The stone drilled easily and was soft. I remember as it was being drilled it had a terrible strange smell. After it was completed, my client came to pick it up. She was very happy. I asked where she found the stone. She told me it was a kidney stone she had removed. I can handle gross stuff, but this was a first for me.

DO YOU THINK SHE’LL SAY YES? Drunk person came in and stood at the engagement ring case and urinated in his pants while he continued to ask to look at rings.

WHERE’S THE TOE SIZER? Throwing their leg up on the counter to ask if we had toe rings.

WHAT’S A LITTLE BLOOD AMONG FRIENDS? One of my very best Southern Belle customers came in and pulled off her 2-carat diamond earrings. One of my sales associates held her hand out as she asked, “Oh, what’s the brown stuff on the back of your earrings?” and then in her slightly inebriated state, the customer replies, “Oh, I think that’s blood.” Upon those words, my associate completely whipped her hand up in the air, and as the giant diamond rocks go clattering across my showcase onto the floor, my customer raises her eyebrows and smirks, “Scared of a little dried blood are you darling?”

BEYOND REPAIR. My dad once opened up a watch back and it had a bunch of very small “things” moving around in it. He promptly closed it up, handed back to the customer with “nothing we can do for it,” and walked away to wash his hands.

LET ME OUT! Our jeweler found a live bug living underneath a ring inside a bezel setting.

HOT MESS. My wife took in a watch for cleaning the band. She inquired how it got all sticky. The gentleman farmer said he was in the process of inseminating his cows, lost it inside and had to go back in for it.

I’M SCREAMING INSIDE. It involved a client dropping a really nasty looking watch in my hand and then proceeding to tell me they had exhumed her mother to further examine her remains. Five months had gone by. If I recall correctly, it was some life insurance issue. Apparently digging up mom to justify a life insurance payout was an appropriate thing. In the meantime, I’m cupping this base-metal entry-level timepiece in my hand while totally deadpanning my internal but deafening screams.

 

SOCIAL
MEDIA
RELATED
SNAFUS

IT’S JUST A PHOTO. We once ran a social media contest and used a beautiful piece of jewelry as the attention grabber. Not everyone read the post, and they thought they would win a $5,000 ring!

WHAT GOES AROUND. Another jewelry store bombarded our Google site with negative reviews and frequently made comments on her social media about us and our store. This went on for years, to the extent of police reports being filed. Needless to say, she has since gone out of business and into another field (God help them).

RETURN TO SENDER. Last fall, we started looking at working with a new company on redoing our website. One of the companies we spoke to was a referral from our point-of-sale company. The person was super-aggressive about having us move over to them before the holidays. Obviously, he’s never worked in retail over Christmas, and several times a week, he’d call or email wanting to talk about the redesign, even AFTER I told him I wasn’t making a decision before the New Year, and that I would call HIM. In January, he starts up again, calling several times a day and emailing. I was so mad that he wouldn’t listen that I just stopped replying. Last week, on our Facebook page, there is a message from him — but it’s clearly not for me, it’s for the person who referred us. He went on and on about how unprofessional we were and we obviously wouldn’t be in business for long (we’re going on year 12). Then, realizing where he sent the message, with an elaborate apology, he told me he would await our reply. I wrote back that we hoped he would respectfully understand that we would NEVER be contacting him. It was a great reminder that a) we might not always be the right fit for people and that’s okay, and b) that we all get frustrated with clients, but if you’re going to complain about something/someone, you better make damn sure where and how you are complaining.

 

 

EMPLOYEE
TALE

LACKING POTENTIAL. How about a new employee that on their second and last day told me, “I really don’t like jewelry”?

 

 

10 TIMES WHEN THE CUSTOMER DEFINITELY WASN’T RIGHT

THE EVE OF DISASTER. A customer came in on Christmas Eve around 3 p.m. and presented a complicated custom design. We quoted the price, then he said, “I can pick this up tomorrow, right?” I thought I did pretty well in keeping my composure when I explained that no, the soonest we could be done was New Year’s. He wailed, “But this is all she wants for Christmas! She gave me the drawing in October!”

WHAT ELSE YOU GOT? We had a wealthy woman and her companion come in to get appraisals on many complicated pieces of jewelry. I spent over 30 minutes going over what I felt she needed to have done, and then she said, “Well, thank you, but that’s just too expensive. But I want to give you something for your trouble.” She opened her purse and pulled out a small package of Kleenex decorated with pineapples. It had a sale sticker on it for $1.29!

A TRUCK-SIZED LIE. A customer came in and was upset, saying that we had just sized her ring two weeks before and something had happened to it while on her finger. We took a look at it and it was all bent up, diamonds missing, looked like a truck had run over it. “Guarantee that ring was not on her finger when that happened.” So, we are so nice! We fixed it. The husband came in to pick up the ring. He stated that he was so glad we could fix it because he had run over it in the driveway with his TRUCK.

VALUE IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. An elderly lady called to make an appointment, and then later that day, came in to appraise a “family heirloom estate ring.” She indicated that she did not want to sell it and was only interested in determining its value. I proceeded to clean the tarnish off the ring and then X-rayed it. It was made up of lead, nickel, copper and zinc, with a little silver (plating). The gigantic green emerald-cut stone was glass (full of tiny bubbles under the loupe). I agreed with her, after listening to her story of how it had been in the family for decades, that it was indeed “rare” and that I thought it was a handsome piece of her family’s history. She never asked me about its makeup or monetary value, to my relief. I refused the $20 that she tried to place in my hand and told her to enjoy the beautiful ring. The next day, she came by with her daughter. Apparently, the family knew all about the ring and its value. It seemed that “Grandpa” had given it to her in 1948, and the elderly woman cherished it for years after he was killed in the Korean War. She had asked her driver to bring her to my shop the previous day to, once again, determine its value. The family so appreciated the manner in which I handled the “situation” that they became very good clients of mine over the last quarter century. In fact, recently, I duplicated the now-deceased lady’s heirloom in white gold and tsavorite for the late woman’s granddaughter.

THE CUSTOMER WHO MAKES HOUSE CALLS. One time, a customer showed up at my front door on Sunday morning saying we had switched their diamond for a better one because they couldn’t see the inclusion anymore. And what were we going to do about it, as they were on the way to the police and media … right now! I hadn’t even finished my morning coffee …

A SYNTHETIC STORY. Resetting her large synthetic moissanite center princess cut and she had no idea it was not a genuine diamond. Difficult discovery for us. That was a surprise for her (second marriage for her), while all the other stones in the halo were diamonds. She abruptly said, “Well, I am canceling my breast implants then.” She commenced to spend $5,000 on a new setting. I reset her moissanite and she’s happy with her new mounting. I said, “It makes you look perky.” I don’t want to be a fly on the wall when this “discussion” begins at her home.

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A RACE TO THE ALTAR. Customer was furious because our radio ad played while he and his girlfriend were driving to a wedding and she started yelling at him because she was supposed to get engaged first!

TANTRUM GOES ONLINE. The guy comes in three days before Christmas for a ring guard for a HUGE men’s signet ring. We were his fifth store. We told him we didn’t have one and it was unlikely any other stores in the city would. He had a little tantrum, said it was f-ing “BS” and stormed out. Then he left a one-star review titled “Horrible customer service!!!” “Very rude and degrading toward me as I had a question regarding repair work on my jewelry. Told me no one in the city could help me, and offered no suggestions on how to fix my jewelry. Maybe the owner/manager needs to take a class on customer service!”

WITH WHOM AM I SPEAKING? The funniest one was when they called and asked us for our phone number!

ROLLING IN DOUGH. We cleaned a pair of extremely filthy diamond earrings. They were caked with makeup and who knows what. Looked like they were rolled in dough. When I handed them back, the woman insisted they were not her earrings and that I changed them. After she calmed down, she said, “Well these are really pretty, but mine never looked like this.” She did finally come around, but I could tell she was still hesitant if they were really hers.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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