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Complete ripoff?
March 26, 2012 09:12PM
Hello all - I'm new, and I need help, please.

I have taken control of a family member's accounts, as she is no longer compos mentis.

Among her relatively recent purchases are some items that were purchased through a government auction. The auction used a firm, GLA (Gemological Laboratory of America) located in Los Angeles for appraisal.

The GLA appraisals estimate the value of her items at near $200,000, and a close look at her bank account reveals she paid about $1,000 for them.

Notably, she has two unbelievably (to me) large sapphires, each over 1,000 carats. I find it incredible that this person would have been savvy enough to make such a purchase, and I'd like a little assistance finding out how I should proceed.

A web search of GLA does not leave me with much confidence, so I thought I'd ask some of you veterans for direction.

Can someone give me some ideas? Thank you!
Re: Complete ripoff?
March 26, 2012 09:43PM
My first question would be, Who paid for the appraisal? Your family member, or the person who sold the stones to her?
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 12:15AM
Can you post a picture? Do you have the advertisement that said what was to be received? The ratio of value to price is a red flag if a genuine auction were involved as no businessman interested in gems would let such an opportunity pass. Note that Gemological Laboratory of America is not the same as Gemological Institute of America. The Better Business Bureau give Gemological Laboratory of America an "A" rating.

Best Wishes, Van King
Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 01:22AM
My father is a jeweler of 40 years and we've run into GLA gems a few times. In his experience, their appraisals tend to be wildly exaggerated and far from realistic. Recently, a faceted ruby came across his bench that the GLA had appraised at $20,000 and the person had also purchased it from a government auction. Despite its size (around 45 carats), it was heavily included and far from gem grade. It was re-appraised by my dad and another jeweler at about $750. The GLA is not the GIA.
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 01:38AM
Despite the many complaints concerning the Gemological Laboratory of America, for some unknown reason they have a reasonable rating.

Best Wishes, Van King
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 01:39AM

IMHO, you need a lawyer far more than you do a gems expert.

You say you look for advice as to how to proceed. What is it you need to proceed with? You have 'taken control'/ In what way? Power of Attorney - or 'helping out'?

How do you need to proceed? Liquidation of assets - or simple safe-keeping?

In the case of the latter there is not much for you to concern yourself with beyond insurance and a bank-box. In the case of the former, you would be well advised (given the purported importance of these stones) to arrange a viewing and discussion of them with either Sotheby's or Christie's. Branches in London, New York, Geneva, Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Good luck!
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 01:43AM
Be sure to inquire of the fees you may incur before you ask for any appraisal. High profile appraisers such as major auction houses may have fees exceeding the value of your stone.

Best Wishes, Van King
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 02:04AM
Expert representatives of either Sotheby's or Christie's will see you without charge. They (and other major auction houses) have a floor value below which that will not accept items for auction (into $*****). If they think your item is worth less, they will tell you so for no charge (and with a free cup of decent coffee sometimes thrown in to sweeten the pill). If they are happy to auction the item for you and you contract with them, they will advise you on an appropriate reserve. It they sell for you it will cost you the agreed percentage of the hammer price (they will also take a commission from the buyer), possibly plus incidental expenses and plus tax depending on where the sale is held.

'Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted'.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/27/2012 02:08AM by Owen Lewis (2).
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 07:27AM
Send us a picture and we can probably tell you if there is enough value in the stone? to be worth the trouble of bothering with them. Are these cabochons?, faceted stones or natural sapphire crystals? More than 1000 carats each? They must be pretty low grade stuff if she paid only $1000 at auction.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 06:48PM
Gem lab reports: For a good explanation of how worthless these can be, even from the most "reputable" labs, read the following editorial:

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/27/2012 06:54PM by Alfredo Petrov.
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 07:10PM
Sounds like this guy is writing something to promote his organization, the World Gem Society at the expense of other similar organizations. He implies that the members of his organization are more reliable and knowledgeable that those who are not members. I doubt that his members are given any kind of test to determine their knowledge level or degree of honesty. I wonder when if ever he or his organization have ever showed up in court to back up any claims.

His organization is made up of people and these people are subject to the same sorts of temptations and corruption as the people in any other organization and therefore not perfect and from time to time they will also stray from the sleight and narrow. Yes the GIA has problems. Every organization does, but I would tend to trust their reports more than those of most other labs.

But all this gem report business pales beside certain other reporting agencies blunders/corruption, like the recent credit rating agencies who were responsible for rating the reliability of various financial instruments bases on say home mortgages?

As with all things, buyer beware.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 07:43PM
Wow, thanks for the support!

First, Owen, legal remedies are not my interest, as this was my parent's purchase, and I think we've already spent more on attorneys fees and dementia care than whatever the value of these items could possibly be. Perhaps not financially, but certainly emotionally. These were things I found while moving her, and I know I have every right to deal with them as best I can.

Second, I've enclosed scans of the 3 certs that I have found. There may be and probably are others, I just haven't located them (the certs, not the gems). Would you like pictures of the gem, themselves?

Finally, I live in Vermont. Where do I take these? Or should I send them somewhere?

Thanks again, so, so much.

open | download - GLA 01.jpg (970.7 KB)
open | download - GLA 02.jpg (108.1 KB)
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 08:31PM
I don't think the pictures of stones in the certification will do us any good. We need to see some in focus, images of the stones taken on white paper in the sunlight. Though the certifications are interesting, we need to see the reality. You can start by taking them to a local jeweler and asking his opinion. It probably won't be too far off of what we will tell you here. Boy those certs even have it down to the last odd dollar amount. I wonder how they figure that? I wonder why they didn't even put in the cents like $106,907.73? Totally ridiculous!

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 08:46PM
Valuation is based on a $ per ct trade figure according to stones type and grading. Multiply up by the total weight measured to the nearest point (Ctw@2DP). Multiply by a numeric factor for size range of stone - and you get a calculated value including the small change.

Its a simple calculation and not a price tag winking smiley

$ per ct figure is a trade-wide figure fluctuating with market forces. So is the size multiplying factor. The skill is in grading the stone correctly.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/27/2012 08:53PM by Owen Lewis (2).
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 08:50PM
The "auction" site (they just call themselves a government auction, they really aren't one.) covers their behind with the following disclaimer. Their starting bids for items come in at about 1/100 of the "appraisal" value.

"Gemological Laboratory of America- "" Appraisals should be used for verification of gemstone and/or metal weight, size, and grade only, not actual value. Appraisal value should be considered for insurance purposes only, not actual value, as price varies greatly from retail locations thru out the world. Items should not be purchased with the expectation to resell for appraisal price, or for profit."
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 10:09PM
I won't post the GLA site link because it might increase their legitimacy, but their headquarters are in Beverly Hills, CA. This is a town not known for it's honesty. or accuracy.
Re: Complete ripoff?
March 27, 2012 10:15PM
There are only chain jewelers in my area (Kay's, Jared, etc), which do not give me a peace-of-mind kind of feeling when it comes to depth of knowledge.

Here are a couple of pix, but the light is running out on the day here.
I can take more tomorrow, if anyone thinks I should.

Thank you again. This is wonderful help!


ps - I ultimately want to get rid of these stones. I collect coins of the first five Caesars, and (obviously) know nothing about your fascinating realm.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/27/2012 10:21PM by JJ Bergstrom.
open | download - small1.jpg (191.3 KB)
open | download - small2.jpg (177.6 KB)
open | download - small3.jpg (164.4 KB)
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 28, 2012 01:15AM

No one can say off photos what the stones may be worth. Of the one in the pics, my personal reaction (over a beer and in a conversation of four eyes) is that I've seen a better looking green doorstop smiling smiley A thousand bucks is certainly waaayy more than I would offer for it from viewing the pics. If you trawl the net, you should find large rubies of similar appalling quality, gargantuan size and dreadful cut on offer by crooks of one type or another. Yours is the first green stone I have seen in this category but it looks as though it might have been cut in the same sweat shop.

By all means look up the address of your nearest rock & gem club and show it to them. The *stone* and not pics ! If they tell you anything different... well the next round of beers will be on me smiling smiley

Good luck!.
avatar Re: Complete ripoff?
March 28, 2012 06:05AM
Not meaning to be insulting, but to mean the stones appear to have been cut from low quality, massive, un-gemmy, translucent to opaque green beryl. So low quality I would hesitate to call it emerald. In my mind the stones have very little value, perhaps $100-$200 each.
Re: Complete ripoff?
March 28, 2012 07:20AM
I wonder who's interest's the GLA represent? Being a cynic I reckon its likely the insurance companies who must make huge premiums off people who have had valuations off the them, I'd be intrigued to know if anyone has ever claimed and been paid out based on a GLA valuation.

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