Do you also buy gems?

As ardent readers of this column know, life is not easy for gem traders.

Almost every day people phone us, asking whether we also buy gems.

In most cases they want to sell gems, which they bought on a holiday trip, hoping for easy money. Unfortunately in almost 100% of the cases we face the unpleasant task of telling them, that they could have bought for less at the local jeweller's, that they were talked into buying worthless junk or, in some cases, both.

Ocassionally people phone, who somehow got into contact with the gem business in some far away country, thinking this is the sole prerequisite for a career in the gem trade. Mostly these people are either emigrants, employees of global companies or they work for an NGO in places like Afghanistan.

Some time ago we were contacted by a man living in Brazil, offering to supply us with emeralds, top quality only, of course. He sent a photo of a pile of gems and wrote that he would come to visit us with the merchandise. To make the rather expensive trip to Europe worthwhile, he asked for names and adresses of jewellers and goldsmiths in Austria, where he could sell his emeralds.
We replied, that he could hardly expect us to help him sell directly to our customers on our home market. He expressed his understanding of our position and said that he would be happy to deal exclusively with us, provided we would guarantee to buy for a minimum of 2 million dollars on his first trip...

However, the biscuit was taken by a young man, who came to see us in our office, claiming he had fine gems from Brazil (again) to sell. No, he did not have the gems with him, as they were lying in a bank's vault in Lisbon, but he had some photos.
He opened his laptop and showed us the worst gem photos we had ever seen. We could (barely) identify some dark green and reddish-brown tourmalines, some pale aquamarines and a bag of garnet rough.

Unfortunately the young man neither knew the quantity available, nor the price asked, but he assured us that the transaction was legitimate and would be handled at the Portuguese bank in the presence of a lawyer. No, he did not know the actual owner, who preferred to remain incognito.

When we replied that we hardly ever buy gems from people we do not know and without knowing some minor details like quality, quantity or, for that matter, the price, he closed his laptop and left, saying in that case he would sell to a Dubai jeweller who was just now flying to Vienna to buy some diamonds from him...