‘Today’ Show Takes Aim at Vacation-Area Jewelers

An April 2 Today investigation warned viewers that some jewelry sold to vacationers is overpriced and misleadingly labeled.

The Rossen Reports’ “Vacation Undercover” segment never identified the specific stores in question, possibly implicating all jewelers at vacation spots. Still, it uncovered much that was troubling: It claims one stone sold as a sapphire that was actually blue glass, while another diamond bore an undisclosed clarity enhancement. 

“So many of us go on vacation and see those jewelry-store workers who say, ‘Come in we have great deal for you,’ ” said reporter Jeff Rossen introducing the segment. “But are you really getting the sparkly deal they promised?”

The store that sold the “sapphire” was in Cozumel, Mexico. On-air experts Karen DeHaas of Tampa, Fla., and American Society of Appraisers international president Gary Smith both identified the stone, which sold for $350, as “blue glass.” 

“It’s garbage,” DeHaas said on air, estimating its worth at $25. “I wouldn’t put [the sapphire] in my fish tank.” 

Smith tells JCK that sapphire was the most shocking. 

“It was so blatant,” he says. “I could tell just by the color. There is nothing in nature with that kind of blue.” 

In Key West, Fla., the show’s producer bought a pair of diamond stud earrings for $3,200, which bore a $4,400 appraisal. But DeHaas told the show the color and clarity were overstated, and that the show overpaid by $800. 

DeHaas tells JCK that the more-than 1 ct. t.w. studs didn’t come with a lab report, just a handwritten appraisal, which graded them as H-I color, I1 clarity.

“Really, one was a fairly low J, the other was a K,” says Smith. “Both were I2 clarity. In one, the surface inclusion reached across the table. You didn’t even need a loupe to see it.”

A second store in Key West reportedly sold the show’s producer a pair of diamond studs for $1,900. DeHaas told the show the gems were worth about half of what was paid and were fracture-filled. Disclosure of that treatment is mandated by the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides

DeHaas says that while those stones didn’t come with a lab report, the store’s paperwork and salesman made no mention of the treatment. And while it wasn’t mentioned on-air, those gems were also over-graded and “terribly cut,” she adds. 

When confronted, the first two stores apologized and offered refunds, the show said. The third offered to send the diamonds for an independent appraisal and said it would refund the money if the value was less than what was paid. 

“[The stores] didn’t admit, ‘We ripped you off,’ ” Rossen said. “One of the stores called it a misunderstanding and said they have many satisfied customers.” 

On the air, Rossen offered a final warning to those who buy jewelry on vacation.

“You may still have to pay taxes on [any jewelry purchases],” he said. “When we landed back in the States, we had to pay $300 when we went through Customs.”



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JCK News Director

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