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Real Deal

The Case of the Inept Inspection — We Want Your Thoughts




Here’s what readers are saying so far.

In our latest Real Deal scenario, Maxwell & Company Fine Jewelers in the Caribbean makes a big sale only to have the buyer, Robert Levine, return the emerald necklace, convinced the gemstone was synthetic. 

The customer had gone home to Texas and had the item appraised at Emerson’s jewelry store, whose owner, Michael Emerson, apparently lacked the knowledge and experience to accurately assess such a large emerald.

Now Jim Selden, a salesman at Maxwell & Company Fine Jewelers, faces several pressing questions: 

  • Should Jim make an attempt to salvage the sale? How should he deal with the customer?
  • What (if any) action should the owners of Maxwell & Company take regarding the jeweler in Texas?
  • What is professional protocol with regard to dealing with other stores’ merchandise?

We’d love to hear what you think. Check out the full scenario and send us your own response here.

Below is a recap of responses we’ve received so far.

Laura S.
indianapolis, IN 

Maxwell’s carries many diamonds with GIA lab paperwork but no mention of lab paperwork is made in regards to their “world-class” colored gemstones. After the fiasco of the Fred Ward emerald case decision in 1997 I would think Maxwell’s would (or should) have GIA (or another high profile lab) paperwork for the gemstones also…especially a 4.50ct. “magnificent” emerald. In the “sue happy” world of today, this is possibly a seller’s only protection. 

So, having said this, Maxwell’s could leave well enough alone and chalk-up this return to a learning opportunity & provide proper lab paperwork for their gemstones in the future. Or…

Maxwell’s could sue Michael Emerson for the lost sale & damages. Now this could be a learning opportunity for Michael Emerson as well. An unqualified appraiser should be accountable for their opinions, especially their “incorrect” opinions. I see Levine as a lost cause either way. Unfortunate!

Bruce A.
sherwood park, alberta

Jim should only respond with this letter:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Levine,

As a long time sales associate of Maxwell & Company Fine Jewelers, I wanted to provide you with a follow up concerning the magnificent necklace that you purchased from us on your last visit to our island. We pride ourselves on the high quality of all our merchandise and through the years our “No Questions Asked” guarantee has served to reinforce that desire to visitors and discriminating international buyers such as you and your wife.


This beautiful item is nestled back into its special place in our showcase as it remains a particularly fine example of natural beryl (emerald).

We had GIA certify its origin and that certificate will accompany the neck piece should a future buyer also fall in love with this exquisite emerald necklace.

I can only hope you will consider visiting us again should you find yourself on a future island adventure leading to our door.

Thank you for your trust in Maxwell & Company,

Jim Selden

Ira K.
tallahassee, fl

Too bad Jim didn’t record his conversation with Mike at Emersons. That would have opened up Mr. Levine’s eyes as to what really happened.


Moving forward, Jim should send the Emerald to GIA for verification and send a copy of it, along with an apology as to what happened to Mr. Levine, expressing in the  letter that he is not trying to salvage the sale but his store’s reputation.

Glyn J.
victoria, tx

The “Appraiser” should make an statement in writing, not only to the client but also to Maxwell’s, stating he was in error when he made the appraisal on a stone that large. Sometimes having to eat a slice of “Humble Pie” will not only make you feel better but show your future clients that you are not above making mistakes and you are only human.

Gordon L.
santa fe, Nm

We would never sell a big gemstone, especially an emerald, without a certificate of some repute. Get one ASAP and send it to the customer with a note that he was missing a really good deal.

Also tell the customer that he was taking the Texas jeweler to court for defamation. Do so and claim punitive damages as well as the lost profit. Faced with the lawsuit and the genuine certificate, the Texas jeweler will almost certainly apologize fulsomely and, if the sale is not reinstated, pay the island jeweler for the loss of sale.

The New Yorker will also not be able to impune the island jeweler’s credibility.

Jim S.
Kauai, Hi

A.) A report from a proper gem lab.
B.) A carefully crafted letter to Mr. Levine apologizing for his troubles, with a copy of the lab report (no attempt to salvage the sale).
C.) Another letter to the “appraiser” who harmed him. I’d want to sue for damages but probably would not.

Daniel H.
tecumseh, mo

I would use the “carrot and the stick” approach with Emerson’s. I’d call Mike and tell him that he made a mistake on his appraisal (he actually made a mistake even taking in the appraisal he was not qualified to do) and that I could easily prove that in court with expert testimony. I would ask Mike to please call Mr. Levine and explain honestly that he “got in over his head” on the appraisal. He should then follow that up in writing with a letter to Mr. Levine, with a CC to my store, explaining that he had misidentified and grossly undervalued the piece.

If Mike didn’t agree to this arrangement, I’d make it clear that he’d face legal action. In this case, Emerson’s would be liable for the lost sale revenue, legal fees, punitive damages, as well as bad publicity. But, of course, there would be no need to take the hard way out of the problem when it could be resolved quietly and inexpensively.

James D.
kingston, nh

Since Maxwell’s already offers a GIA certificate for each diamond they sell, why not offer the same for important colored stones? Doing this would reassure clients that they are getting what they pay for. Alas, I can understand Emerson’s bias as I have seen too many pieces from “the islands” that were not fully as represented as far as quality, genuineness or value. If a piece came in and I could not certify that a stone was genuine I would return the piece and tell the client it was outside my area of expertise. The biggest problem is when the piece appraises well below the price paid.

Susan S.
bell gardens, ca

I think if I were Jim, I would send the piece to GIA and get an apprasial from them. I would get in touch with Mr. and Mrs. Levine by letter and explain the situation to them about the local Jeweler and of course include a copy of the apprasial. I would also send the same to the local jeweler, to show the man how errant he was.

Not being educated enough to comment on the stone, the gentleman should not have given his apprasial of the necklace, nor should he ever give an apprasial on a colored precious stone. Colored stones are tough to really tell sometimes. Personally if I have a large stone, I’m going to take it to an expert; even our gemologist on staff agrees with that. It is one thing to know diamonds and gold; that is a whole world away from colored precious stones.

Your reputation is all you have in the jewelry trade, and that is what needs to be protected.


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