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Thursday, July 29, 2010

ENAMELLED JEWELRY - WEARABLE WORKS OF ART!

Another one of my latest passions in jewelry is centered on enamel. This rather complicated art dates way back, before Art Nouveau, where it was very popular, even before Victorian times. In fact, it was used in ancient Greek and Roman times.

How is it done? Here's what a little online research yielded:

Special glass powders are melted then attached to metals, although different applications and repeated firings produce unique styles and designs.
The process of making enamel jewelry has been handed down through generations and jewelry designers of our present times are still hooked on doing them. The evolution of this intricate art of glass painting was evident through history and fashion changes and now made possible through the use of modern technologies. The three most popular enamel jewelry techniques are cloisonné, guilloché and plique-à-jour.


That last mentioned technique, plique-à-jour, was used extensively by Art Nouveau designers. It is a very delicate method in which the enamelling has no backing, only sides. The designer, Cellini, used this method and his pieces are today, highly collectible. The resulting effect is that of stained glass and truly lovely. 


My first contact with enamelled jewelry was cloisonne. I fell in love with it in my early 20's when cloisonne earrings were very much in vogue. I no longer have these pieces, but I still have a sweet cloisonne bangle I've yet to list in my shop at RUBY LANE.  But what I do have right now, are the  absolutely stunning pieces shown in this blog. 


The delightful 2" tall brooch shown at the top was made in France (stamped on back) from 14k gold. The beads are a combination of genuine jade and cultured pearls in superb condition. But the eye-catching part of the pin is that enamelled cameo of a young woman. You must slip over to our SHOP to see all the photos of this one. You can enlarge them there and study the glorious details of the artwork that has gone into this cameo: the red-orange scarf and her bright green dress are luminescent with carefully hand-painted enamelling. And look at the fantastic detail on her face! This is art that you don't hang on a wall: you wear it! It's magnificent! 


Now, check out this incredible ring! I have never seen anything like this one. Uttterly beautiful and utterly unique, this is artwork in a ring. Again, it's made from 14k gold and apart from the enamelling, it has rubies and sapphires to add even more value. But honestly, you've just got to go over to our SHOP to get a really good look at this one. When I look at it through a loop, the amount of work that has gone into painting on the tiny flowers and leaves is mind-blowing. And it's so beautifully done.  Red, green and deep blue enamel, finished to a high gloss sheen, and wow, another fantastic work of art that you wear. 


Enamelled jewelry may not be for everyone: it will appeal to those with eclectic tastes who look for something truly different, something worth collecting, something that is a conversation piece. This ring and brooch above are all of those. I think they're out of this world. What do you think?









Tuesday, April 13, 2010

HARD LESSON BUYING ONLINE: YOUR WORD AGAINST THEIRS!


What a headache! I found this wonderful 1940's bracelet by Cartier about a month back. After lots of dickering back and forth, the seller and I finally agreed on a price....expensive!! But given it's a signed and numbered piece from the 1940's, I felt it was well worth buying. The description said it was in top condition and the accompanying photos agreed.

I'd initially seen this bracelet when I was checking prices for Cartier jewelry on eBay. The seller didn't sell it at that time so it was no longer listed there. The only way to buy it was directly.  I had no real problem with that since the seller and his wife operate a real world antiques store in California and the bracelet was being offered for sale in their retail shop.Formal receipts would be issued etc.

But the seller didn't want to go through PayPal because of their fees. I offered to include those fees with my payment as that little inner voice was saying there's at least a recourse if something goes wrong if you use PayPal. Given the amount I was paying, I wish now I'd listened to that inner voice.

Now don't get me wrong: everything proceeded as it should: the seller shipped quickly, sent me scans of the receipts and did all that stuff right. I eagerly awaited the arrival of the bracelet. Well it came a week back. I opened the package with anticipation, removed the bracelet and rested it on my wrist. It was lovely ... hard to believe it was 70 years old. I was now the happy owner of an authentic signed and numbered vintage Cartier bracelet weighing over 46 grams of 18k gold. Wow!

I was just about to lock it on my wrist when I noticed that if I did so, there was no way to open it. To  my horror I realized the little 18k locking knob was missing. As you can see in the photo, at some point it had broken off. That didn't show in the photos I'd originally seen, nor was it mentioned in the description. The little gold ball that should have been there wasn't in the plastic baggie with the bracelet so it hadn't broken off in transit. Canada Customs hadn't opened the package when they hit me with duty, so they hadn't broken it. When had it snapped off?

Curbing my panic, we immediately contacted the seller and sent him that photo above. That's when the trouble started. He took 2 days to reply to my courteous email requesting a small refund to help cover the repair. When he replied, he intimated that I must have broken it as he'd sent it in perfect condition. How could that be?! He said they always take photos before shipping and the photos are dated. He said he'd wait for the film to be developed so he could see if it was missing when he shipped. 5 more days went by. No response from him despite more emails from me. Naturally by now I was getting antsy. I'd been in touch with Cartier Customer Service who told me it would probably cost me between $350 - $450 to have this repaired. OUCH!

I wrote again and waited. Surely, in the interest of good customer relations and service he'd be willing to help me out with the cost of the repair. After all, though he might think it, I certainly hadn't broken the ball off and wasn't trying to pull one over him. Why would I do that when repair will cost that much. I waited some more.

While waiting, I visited http://www.toolhaus.org  That's a very useful site if you're purchasing from eBay sellers. YOu can type in their eBay ID name and see all the negative and neutral feedback they've received for several years. That's when I saw what I didn't want to see: these sellers had a whackload of neggies and neutrals dating  back years, lots of mention of broken items, unco-operative sellers, poor communication etc etc. Oh stupid me for not checking that before buying. I'd placed too much faith in their current feedback percentage on eBay which looked very good.

Well I won't bore  you with more details, but bottom line is I really messed up on this one and learned some hard lessons on the way: they refuse to give me any kind of refund saying my claims have no merit. They say their photos are accurate. They haven't shared the photos they say they took before shipping ... wonder why? Want to bet they never  took any? And here I am with nowhere to turn. This wasn't an ebay sale. We didn't do it via PayPal. So I can't open any disputes and given his attitude, he'd just stick by his claim that it was perfect when he shipped. Oh yes, I've contacted my Credit Card company and could open a dispute through them. As long as I have an expert testify in print that the gold knob is missing (hello ... see photo?) and supply all the emails regarding this matter, I can open a dispute. But the seller says "All Sales Final". He won't take a return (I already offered to send it back at my expense). And even if Credit Card company says send it back with tracking etc., if he doesn't accept it, then what? My daughter's been dealing with another guy over just something like that for a week now. He won't accept the returned item because US customs has hit with duty (they shouldn't have) so he keeps rejecting the package!! It's now on its way back to us ...and we'll just not accept it here either. But hey, that's another story for another blog post.

Bottom line: when it's your word against theirs, there seems to be no such thing as "customer is always right". I'm just proud of the fact that we don't treat our customers that way. Even when they're wrong, it's their right to return the item if they're not happy ...even if they just don't like it! In my case, I love it but it's broken and I have to have it repaired at my cost now. Bah!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

SPRING IS IN THE AIR: TIME FOR COLORFUL COSTUME JEWELRY


Well I don't know what it's like, weather-wise, where you are but up here in Canada where we still sometimes get snow in April, Spring has surely arrived. We've been enjoying summertime temps going as high as 27 C ... record-breaking for our city at this time of year. The funniest part for me was returning from our trip to Venezuela for the last week of March: it  was hot and humid on Margarita Island and I was almost looking forward to returning to cooler temps. What a shock to come home to this! No complaints of course, but it was a reminder that when it comes to jewelry, it's time to start thinking Spring. And not only Spring: Mother's Day is just over a month away. So what will those shoppers who still have some money left after tax time be looking for now? 

One of my loveliest recent finds is the delightful pink glass bead necklace and earring set by DeMario shown above. No way could I pass this up. Everything about it, from its pretty color to its design suggests spring and flowers.  This is an 82 gram necklace; yet it doesn't feel or look heavy. It's satiny smooth on the skin and feels cool to the touch. 

For those not familiar with DeMario, he designed between 1946 and 1960. In both design, quality, construction and the use of beads and findings, he's comparable to Miriam Haskell. He later worked with Stanley Hagler, one of the most lauded vintage designers.  According to the book, COSTUME JEWELRY 101 by Julia Carroll,  DeMario's pieces, especially those in good condition are hard to come by, getting pricier all the time, and definitely worth collecting. So this lovely set above should be added to your wish list: it's in fantastic condition and the gorgeous pink color is always popular. You can see more photos and learn more about this DeMario set HERE

Speaking of Stanley Hagler, before I went away I began looking into that designer too. I'd seen his pieces in books on costume jewelry. They were always expensive and from what I was reading, highly collectible. Since starting that research, I've acquired several remarkable pieces signed Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. and will be featuring them in time as we get our photos done. But one that is available now is this incredible brooch shown below: 




Now let me tell you: no books nor photos ever prepared me for this one! For starters, it's "huge" at least by my standards.  It measures 4" X 2.5". But wow ... what an amazing example of the work of a master! The glorious intricate bead work that must have taken hours to complete is mind-boggling. And the lovely combination of colors! This brooch represents a butterfly in a garden, resting near a massive amethyst colored cabochon. You just have to go see this brooch in OUR SHOP AT RUBY LANE. Note its construction, condition and workmanship. Then realize that no photos, not even ours which are very good, shows you just how beautiful this is. Now wonder Stanley Hagler is revered amongst vintage costume jewelry designers. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

WHAT'S HAPPENED TO OUR LOVE OF GOLD JEWELRY? WHY HAS YOUR TREASURE BECOME TRASH?

I've decided to share with you one of my recent, almost unsettling experiences with gold jewelry. What I've copied and pasted below is from a blog post I wrote for RUBY LANE. If you don't follow that blog, you may never read this piece that I think is of interest to anyone thinking of attending those currently popular "gold parties" or who've recently discovered lots of gold jewelry sitting in their drawers that they're no longer wearing and are thinking "why not turn it into cash"? Well, why not indeed if you're no longer wearing it or in love with it. But is selling it off at gold parties or taking it to a refiner the way to get the most for your gold jewelry? Read on!

As a seller of fine jewelry on Ruby Lane, I'm rather appalled at how people are now flocking to those gold jewelry "parties" carrying their rings, bracelets, necklaces, even gorgeous 18k gold pieces left to them by a mother or grandma, only to sell them for well, peanut money. Whatever happened to the value, in our eyes, of precious metal jewelry? After all, gold, silver and platinum values have never been higher but it seems only stock investors appreciate that.
I recently acquired the magnificent 18k gold bracelet shown below:
This bracelet was passed on to the lady who sold it to me by her mother. Mom had received it from dad when they were on a trip to Spain over 50 years ago. The workmanship and beauty of this bracelet is second to none. My friend had originally asked to sell it on consignment in our shop. If I didn't want to try to sell it for her, she'd take it to a gold refiner as this just wasn't her kind of jewelry and she'd never wear it. She didn't really need the money but it was just sitting around in her drawer, as is the case, I guess with a lot of the ladies attending these parties.
Well, though it cost me a small fortune to take it off her hands, I couldn't stand the thought of her taking it to a refiner to just melt down. I purchased it outright from her and then decided to get it appraised, just for the heck of it. After all, it weighs nearly 87 grams of 18k gold ( a gold refiner's dream!) and its vintage design had to be worth something, didn't it? Well it was. To my delight, the bracelet was appraised over $9000. Whatever I decided to do with it in the future i.e. offer it in our shop or keep it in my safe, or pass it on to my children, this was a good investment ... at least in my humble opinion.
Then an ad in the paper this past weekend caught my eye: the jewelry refinery was coming to town and would be at the local Courtyard Marriott for a few hours on Sunday. "Bring in your unwanted gold and turn it into cash" shouted the ad. I got curious. These were the same people behind all the gold jewelry parties. What would they offer me for this heirloom bracelet with so much gold in it? I decided to find out. 
My husband and I were the only ones there by the time we arrived. No-one, including the buyer, was in the designated room. We were just about to leave when he dashed toward us blowing cigarette breath in our faces and asked what we had for him. I pulled out the bracelet. His face registered nothing in particular. He grabbed a magnet. Though I knew what he was doing, I played dumb and asked why he was touching the magnet to the bracelet in various spots. This was, of course, to test if there was other metal underneath, as would be the case in gold plate. The magnet didn't grab. He gave me the good news: it was indeed gold. Good. He then said he'd have to acid-test it to check the karat. "Would that damage it"? I asked. He said 'most likely". Well of course, I wasn't wanting that, not on a piece in nearly unused condition! So I asked him what karat he thought it was. He said, by color, it looked like 18k. Well I'll grant him that much: he knew enough about gold to gauge it simply by looking at it. He then weighed it and verified it was indeed 86 - 87 grams and said if it's 18k, it's worth a lot. I held my breath. How much? He told me he'd give me $1000 if it tested at 18k.
$1000!! Wow. If I didn't know better, I'd have been thrilled. But I also knew what I'd paid (a heck of a lot more) and what the spot price of gold was right that minute: 87 grams of 18k was worth $2118 CAD just as gold. He was offering me $1000 CAD to take it off my hands so he could sell it to a refiner to melt down.
He didn't have to ask whether I wanted him to proceed with the test. In fact, what he did next actually surprised us and turned this into a positive experience: he told us not to sell it to him! He confirmed what I'd felt all along: this was too beautiful and valuable an heirloom to condemn to the smelting pot. He suggested we put it back in the safe or at least find a private buyer who wanted it not just for its precious metal content but for its vintage and unique beauty. In effect, he confirmed that the lady who sold it to me did the smart thing: she'd found a buyer (me) who appreciated it and would pay what it was worth instead of selling it to a gold refiner.
He then pulled out several plastic baggies marked 10k, 14k, 18k and 22k. They were full of discarded gold chains, diamond and gemstone rings, some still with the stones in them. "This" he said "is the kind of thing we don't mind melting down". What about the diamonds and gemstones in them? What happens to those? Well they have folks they can sell those to as well he said.
We walked out of there with a good feeling, mixed with some bad. The good came from his being honest enough to tell us not to sell the bracelet to him for $1000. The bad was the fact that he'd offered us 50% of the spot value of 87 grams of gold! Furthermore, his offer was about 1/10 of the appraised value. How "unprecious" had precious metals become!
I wanted to share this experience with you in case you're considering attending one of those gold parties or looking for a refiner to unload that precious gold jewelry kicking around your drawer. Yes, it's appealing to get fast money, especially if you need it. But you might just consider selling it yourself or asking someone who sells on Ruby Lane, like us, or eBay or any of those other sites if they'd like to have a crack at selling it for you. Or maybe, as I did, they might even want to buy it from you. One thing is certain: they'll give you a better dollar than any jewelry refiner or gold party buyer will offer you because there are still some of us around who value jewelry made from gold.

Since this blog piece was published at Ruby Lane, I have indeed listed this lovely bracelet in our shop just in time for our MARCH MADNESS SALE.    I'm offering it, during this sale, at $600 below the original asking price, and at about 1/3 its appraised value, given that the appraisal and insured shipping by UPS is included. This is a wonderful chance to get a rare piece of valuable gold jewelry at an amazing price. You can never lose on this one, with gold going up steadily. What will it be worth in say, 10 years time? It could help finance your child's college education or buy you a cruise if you sell it then. Think about it. Gold has always been a good investment. But our sale ends March 15, 2010. You know what to do ...





Sunday, February 21, 2010

BANGLES: DIAMONDS, CARTIER, ART NOUVEAU, SILVER ...


I've been looking over the stock in our SHOP AT RUBY LANE and realized we're almost overstocked in bangles ... if such a thing is possible. What I've also noticed is the diversity of bangles available. It's quite amazing how many different styles, metals, stones etc differentiate one bangle from another. Personally, I'm a bangle and bracelet person, more so than rings and maybe that's why I keep buying them for our shop, thinking others like them as much as I do. Am I wrong?

Well let me tell you ... and maybe tempt you ... with some of the gorgeous bangles we are currently carrying. That one at the top of this post is, undeniably, the most valuable, if not the most beautiful of all those we have. We just had it appraised in February, and to our delight, it came in at over $10,000. WOW! It's 14k and has 2.85cts of top quality diamonds, ranging from VVS baguettes to Si1 round cuts with superb color in all. The overall weight of the bangle is 25grams, but let's face it: that's all the technical details: if the beauty of the design itself doesn't speak to you, nothing will. This is just an outstanding piece of vintage jewelry being offered to you at 1/3 its appraised value. CLICK HERE to see more photos and learn more about it.

Alternately, maybe your taste in bangles goes well back in time, way before the dating on the bangle above, like to the early 1900's? In that case, take a look at this utterly charming Art Nouveau 14k gold bangle adorned with genuine angel skin coral cameos:


How pretty and dainty is that! The bangle is 1/4" wide and the coral cameos of the ladies' faces are 1/2" high. What's truly remarkable about this bangle is its condition: it looks nearly new and yet it's 100 years old. That's another WOW! 
Learn more about this one and see more photos at THIS LINK. 

While we're looking at really old bangles, here's a real beauty from the Art Deco period that has recently been appraised at $2850 and which we're again offering for about 1/3 of its appraised value:




This fabulous old bangle adorned with cultured pearls, sapphires and rubies, all set in 15 grams of 14k yellow gold, is for a smaller wrist i.e. 6.5.  This one is a designer piece, stamped JGJLRY. See more pictures & learn more HERE.

And since we're talking designers, how about this, our latest acquistion and addition to OUR RUBY LANE SHOP. We're really pleased and excited to be able to offer our shoppers this authenticated CARTIER set of bangle and brooch:


When you look at a set like this, it's almost hard to believe it's vintage: the look is contemporary and timeless. You can wear a set like this to the office during the day and out for cocktails or on a date in the evening and it'll never look out of place. This Cartier set is stamped 18k 925 Cartier on both the pin and the bangle. The 18k yellow gold is in those stripes you see. And adorning both pieces is a brilliant purple, trillion-cut amethyst. This set comes with the original beige/grey felt pouch with its satin ribbon stamped "Cartier" and the original red Cartier box, as shown below: 




So if you're into designer signed jewelry, and have always longed for a Cartier, slip over to THIS LINK and learn more about this one. It's affordable Cartier!

There are several more bangles in OUR SHOP AT RUBY LANE, along with some lovely diamond and other bracelets. And we have more arriving all the time. So be sure to check our shop regularly! Here's looking at Bangles!



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

COLORED DIAMONDS ARE HOT BUT IRRADIATED OR ENHANCED ARE NOT!



Have you caught onto the latest craze in diamond rings ie. colored diamonds? While clear, beautiful diamonds will always be a girl's best friend, amongst those who can afford them e.g Hilary Clinton and Hollywood stars, colored diamonds are hot, hot, hot! Here's some interesting information on that from the NATURAL DIAMOND ASSOCIATION site:

"Former First Lady, Hillary Clinton, wore her 4.23 carat "Kahn Canary" flawless diamond to President Bill Clinton’s Inaugural Ball and other important events. The Academy Awards, where fashion can make or break the image of movie stars, actress Whoopi Goldberg wore a $5 million canary yellow diamond pendant that weighed 80 carats, and actress Julianne Moore wore a 7.52 carat fancy vivid yellow diamond. In the fashion industry, supermodel Christy Turlington set her cushion-shaped yellow diamond in a navel ring. Designer Donatella Versace has also been spotted showing off her yellow diamonds. In the hit series, "Sex and the City," the chic Samantha Jones character receives a yellow diamond stunner from her boyfriend, Richard, after his indiscretion."


Imagine being able to afford rocks that size, even in ordinary clear diamonds!


Yes, those in the money are sporting red, green, blue, yellow and brown diamonds but if you're just catching onto this current hunger for coloured diamonds, you might want to be wary as you shop around. You see, while coloured diamonds are hot, irradiated or enhanced diamonds are not as hot, though they can be just as beautiful and just as expensive. 


So what's wrong with diamonds that have been enhanced or irradiated? Well nothing really except they're just nowhere near as valuable as a natural, unenhanced, untreated diamond ... regardless of the color! According to Wikipedia:


"Diamonds which are chosen for treatment are usually those that would be otherwise difficult to sell as gem diamonds, where inclusions or fractures noticeably detract from the beauty of the diamond to even casual observers. In these cases, the loss in value due to treating the diamond is more than offset by the value added by the mitigating of obvious flaws."


You see, the bottom line is finding unflawed diamonds of superb clarity and colour is like looking for a needle in a haystack. They are RARE! Again, according to the NATURAL DIAMOND ASSOCIATION:


"Natural Color Diamonds are found in nature in every shade imaginable - each and every stone one of a kind. The physical conditions required to form these miracles of nature occur so rarely that only one diamond in 10,000 possesses this natural color."


That brings me to the gorgeous, natural canary diamond ring now available in OUR SHOP AT RUBY LANE and shown in the photos in this post. This is the kind of coloured diamond ring you should be looking for. Custom-made and set in platinum and 18k, this cushion-cut natural canary diamond is 1.02cts of VS1 clarity, with no hint of brown or champagne, or heaven forbid, that super yellow, almost bile-coloured shade that you find in treated diamonds. That superb diamond is flanked by .30 cts of natural clear diamonds also of VS2 clarity and H-I colour. Then running down the sides of the band are another 56 smaller diamonds, bringing the total carat weight of this magnificent ring to 1.67cts. You can read the full details in the appraisal posted on the site. Incidentally, the ring appraised over $15,000 in February 2010. 




At the price we're offering it for, little wonder that it was added to 10 wish lists within the first 24 hours of putting it up in our shop. Who will be the smart one to snap this beauty up at an incomparable price. Just search "canary diamond ring" in Google products in Shopping and see what you'll find: lots of yellow diamond rings at monster prices ... and very few of them that are natural, unenhanced diamonds. Most have been treated in some way i.e. irradiated to get rid of inclusions or enhanced to bring up a better colour in what was probably not the nicest diamond to start with. Remember "only one diamond in 10,000 possesses this natural color."


Before I wrap this up, to add some more weight to why treatment matters, here's something else I found in Wikipedia:


"Treated diamonds usually trade at a significant discount to untreated diamonds. This is due to several factors, including relative scarcity — a much larger number of stones can be treated to reach gem quality than are found naturally occurring in a gem quality state — and the potential impermanence of various treatments."


So if you find a yellow diamond ring elsewhere, ask the vendor if the stone is natural or has been treated in any way. If they don't know, beware. If the stone looks super yellow, it's most likely treated. If the price is low, suspect treatment, or even lab-created. If those things don't matter to you, then no problem. But if you want the real thing, buy a ring like ours from a reputable seller who can put facts and an appraisal behind the asking price. 


See this fabulous ring and learn more about it HERE.







Sunday, February 7, 2010

WAS THIS SELLER ON THE LEVEL? TAKING STEPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF WHEN SOMETHING SEEMS WRONG ...

Today I'm sharing with you a story about what happened to us late last year. It nearly cost us, well cost my daughter, a lot of money. But we want to share it with you here because something we did might just have made all the difference between being scammed and losing our money instead of keeping it. Here's what happened:


November 2009 was a bad month for my daughter. The month opened with her discovery that her debit account at her local bank had been compromised. No sooner was that sorted out, but she took a highly needed short vacation in Las Vegas only to have her Canadian passport stolen in a Casino. She almost wasn't allowed to board the plane home! While she was away, her PayPal account was accidentally frozen and she couldn't pay for online purchases. But the event that made all those seem minor was what we've come to call "The case of the Empty Box" 

It began about 2 weeks before she left for that Vegas holiday. She'd purchased a $1500 ring online and asked that it be sent Express as she was going away shortly. Alarm bells rang a little when she noticed the seller wouldn't take the recommended form of payment i.e. PayPal, but insisted she use a newer company. After checking into the company, she proceeded and paid.

14 days later, the ring still hadn't arrived despite her request it be sent Express (usually arrives in 3 days or less). She contacted the seller. The seller apologized saying she had been sick and sent her boyfriend to the PO with the package. The boyfriend, contrary to her instructions, had shipped the ring just regular USPS, with no insurance or tracking! (My daughter had paid $30 for Express shipping remember?). Panic set in but my daughter's flight was booked. We consoled her saying it'll probably arrive while she was gone and we'd let her know. Have a nice holiday and don't worry...

When she arrived home 2 weeks later, still no package. We assumed the worst. It had been lost or stolen. After all, it was marked with value of $1500 on outside and just sent surface mail. She contacted the seller who claimed to be as sick as she was over this. She hadn't yet been paid by the company so she would ask them that day to issue a refund. PHEW! At least she was honest ...

Then the strangest thing happened: the seller wrote again that same day saying that miraculously the package had shown up back at her place. HUH? Oh, not even quite that: the package had been returned to her neighbor who'd brought it over. WHAT? REALLY? How very odd. The seller asked my daughter what she'd like her to do now. Well my trusting daughter who never wants to think ill of anyone told her to send it on again, but this time make sure it went by Express Post and make sure the seller, not her boyfriend, take it to the Post Office.

Later that day, the seller sent a tracking number and said it was on the way just as promised. She even sent a photo of the outside of the box. We breathed a sigh of relief, pushing away the uneasy thoughts that kept jumping into our minds. Then the seller wrote again to tell us she'd even included a little gift of earrings that she had made to compensate for the problems. We relaxed a little more. We counted the days to the anticipated arrival of the $1500 diamond ring. Some inner voice was talking to my daughter and for a change, she was listening. She asked us to make sure when our postman arrived to have our camera ready while she opened the box with the postman there. It seemed a silly precaution but, well, just in case...

Well, the box arrived, on time. We all, postman too, stood by as my daughter opened the box and my husband took photos. Have you guessed? Yes, the box was empty except for some pink plastic wrap and a flimsy square box with no ring inside. No free gift either. The shock on all our faces was registered by the camera. The postman was floored. My daughter burst into tears. What were we to do now? The company to whom the money had been paid and held for the seller would release the funds when seller could show by tracking number that the item had been successfully delivered. All that had been delivered was an empty box!

My daughter's tears quickly turned to anger. She emailed the seller and contacted the company holding the money. The seller screamed innocence and disbelief. Someone must have opened the box and removed the contents! Really? Well we had photos of a fully sealed box that hadn't even been opened by Canada Customs! She demanded to see the photos taken with the Postman. What kind of story were we now telling her? We were lying! In the meantime, the company holding the money (MoneyBookers) asked to see the photos. We sent them. In less than 48 hours they wrote back and said "Sorry...but there's nothing more we can do. Contact your local police. The package was delivered. Funds will be released to the seller."

We couldn't believe this was happening. My daughter then contacted the site from which the ring was purchased and disclosed all the facts of the case to them. She offered to send the photos. They wrote back saying the seller had been in touch and wanted to see the pictures. My daughter took their advice but in the meantime contacted her credit card company as obviously now her payment to the seller was being processed. With Christmas around the corner, my anguished daughter tried to smile as she decorated the tree and tried to keep her mind off being $1500 poorer.

Is there a happy ending to "THE CASE OF THE EMPTY BOX". Well somewhere, someone was on our side. The seller, after getting the photos we were asked to show her, said we were obviously telling the truth about getting an empty box. She said she'd contact the company and ask that funds be returned to my daughter. She followed through and the funds were returned later that night. We found it odd that she'd come to see our side so quickly. Why? Was she perhaps now worried that with us reporting this to the Credit Card company etc., she just could get herself into hot water?

I guess we'll never know what really happened in this case. Incidentally, the seller did write one last time, moaning about the loss of her $1500 ring and telling us how nice a person she is and how she only wants peace on earth and all that stuff. We wanted to commiserate but somehow we couldn't. We wanted to believe she was being honest about it all but somehow we couldn't. Things just didn't add up:
1) Her "boyfriend" had sent a $1500 in an ordinary package marked $1500 for the cost of stamps when we'd paid for Express, insured mail
 2) The package didn't show up for weeks. After assuming loss and asking for a refund, suddenly the package showed up, back at the sender's home ... oh wait ... not even there! It showed up at a neighbour's on the very day we asked for a refund?
3) The package was sent again, properly this time, fully sealed and obviously never opened, not even by Canada customs ... and it arrived empty??!!
Maybe the seller was telling the truth all along but we have a hard time believing her. Would you?