Professional Jeweler Archive: One Jeweler's True Stories

December 2004

Adventures in Professionalism


One Jeweler's True Stories

Sometimes it takes detective work to be a great jeweler


About 10 years ago a wealthy elderly client came into the store holding two large, round stones that looked like geodes. She had bought them from a street peddler in Australia for $25 each and said several jewelers had told her they were worthless.

I took one look and – realizing you can’t judge a book by its cover, especially in terms of gemstones – told her I would be happy to send them to my stone cutter and see what he said. He broke them open and found one was worthless, but the other contained over $25,000 worth of fine-quality opals! I asked him to cut as many free-form pieces as he could. My client then commissioned me to design five pieces of jewelry, one for each of her daughters, with the opals that came back.

She became a lifelong customer until she died several years later. I will always remember this story because it affirmed my policy that guessing is not acceptable in my store for anyone – including me.

Even with all my gemological and appraisal experience and training, there continue to be challenges that stump me – especially with all the new synthetics and treatments on the market today. Giving advice is a serious responsibility, and when I’m not absolutely sure, I know I have to check it out with an expert.

Finding Time

Another time a customer came in with a Cartier gold watch she had found while on vacation in California. It was a woman’s watch with a specially made band and an engraving on the back of the case saying “Love, David.” The customer had left the watch with a Cartier dealer for three months, but the dealer did nothing. I knew immediately the watch meant something very special to someone, so I challenged myself to find the owner.

My first move was to call Cartier with the serial number. I was told such information is confidential. I then wrote a serious letter to the president of Cartier asking for his help. He called me but was suspicious until I finally said it is our responsibility as retailers of emotional pieces to take the time and effort involved in finding the rightful owner when a lost treasure comes our way.
After researching it, Cartier found the watch belonged to a very valued Cartier customer from La Jolla, CA. I received a large bouquet of roses from her telling me how much that watch meant to her because it was a birthday gift long ago from her now-deceased husband. Being a man of impeccable taste, he had the watchband specially made at Cartier, and it was a one-of-a-kind gift. She had been shopping the day the watch dropped off her wrist and had been devastated to lose it.

The woman was elderly and being alone without her husband made her days somewhat somber. But she told me how this treasure made her so happy and how thankful she was that the finder was honest enough to turn it in and that we made the effort to find her and return the beloved watch.

By Susan Eisen

Susan Eisen owns Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches in El Paso, TX. She opened the business on her own in 1980 and now has two locations offering designer and contemporary jewelry. She has credentials from the major appraisal organizations and is a graduate gemologist of the Gemological Institute of America.

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications