Overvalued ring highlights 24 carat tourist trap

IT was the eternity ring Marion O’Sullivan had always dreamed of. Five sparkling diamonds set in a gold band, which shone all the brighter in the Lanzarote sunshine. The ideal 16th wedding anniversary and 40th birthday present rolled into one.

Despite some concerns about what kind of guarantee she would have about the quality of the ring, she and her husband Joe bought it for €2,350 on the last day of their holiday - down from an initial price of €2,678.

First thing on the following Monday morning, in the cold, harsh light of an Irish day, a jeweller told her the one-carat diamond ring was worth €1,500, €850 less than she had paid.

“I was mad as hell when I found out,” the Swords woman said. “I phoned the shop immediately. This guy was the official agent for Gucci, Omega, you name it, and I felt he was using their names to steal from people. I told him I would contact all of the brand names and tell them exactly what he had done. I am actually very happy with the ring. I like it, but I only want to pay what it is worth. All I wanted him to do was refund me the €850 on my Visa card,” she said.

The shop owner told her if she sent him an official valuation he would refund her the difference. That was in July, and Ms O’Sullivan is still waiting for her refund. Budget Travel, as a result of hearing of the story on the Gerry Ryan radio show yesterday, will fly her to Lanzarote next Thursday and one of its representatives on the island will accompany her to the shop.

“He (had) never bought me an eternity ring. That’s what made this ring so special. Now all I want is to get my money back for what I overpaid,” she said.

Unfortunately, Ms O’Sullivan’s case is not unique, according to jewellers and the European Consumers’ Centre in Dublin, which has received four calls this year from consumers who have bought jewellery abroad that has either been completely fake or significantly less valuable than they thought.

“The complaints centre around jewellery such as diamond rings and watches,” an ECC spokesperson said. “One caller purchased a ring in Turkey for the equivalent of €800 but found out it was only glass when she got it valued in Ireland for insurance purposes. Another lady from the south of Ireland got engaged in Spain and believed her ring to cost €2,000, but in fact it turned out to be valued at less than half of this.

Greg Desmond of Desmond Jewellers and goldsmiths in Bandon, Co Cork, said at least one person comes into his shop every week during summer with items they have purchased abroad. Most turn out to be fakes or less valuable than they were told.

“Last week, three people came in. One was genuine, but two were fakes, one to the value of €900. One woman came in with what she thought was a five-stone diamond ring with a gold band. The stones were paste, or cut glass, glued onto a gold-plated copper band. She had paid €750. It was probably worth no more than €40.”

lContact European Consumers’ Centre at 01 8090600 or www.eccdublin.ie

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