Fernando Salazar needed to replace the wedding ring he lost so he could renew his vows.
He and his wife thought a romantic Caribbean cruise was their chance to get a bargain on jewelry at the ports of call.
“If you’re going to buy a diamond, buy it in the Caribbean, that’s what they say,” said Salazar.
Salazar says a shopping seminar on their ship pointed them to Diamonds International.
“You’re about to save, according to them, about 70 percent off American prices,” said Salazar. “I feel like they saw us as gullible.”
The couple picked out two rings and a bracelet at two different Diamonds International stores. Their jewelry purchase totaled more than $11,400.
“We were happy and it looked great,” said Salazar.
But they say their joy quickly turned into disappointment when the jewelry was delivered to the ship.
“The ring has a loose gemstone on the top,” said Salazar, who showed NBC6 Responds how his Tanzanite stone could be moved around by pushing it. He says the jewelry had other imperfections including areas that appeared yellow on his wife’s white gold ring.
Salazar says they tried to get the problem fixed without success.
“We want our money back because we tried twice to get the problem solved while we were in the ship,” said Salazar.
When they returned home, they say their frustration grew when they got the results of an appraisal on the jewelry in Miami. A local jeweler valued the pieces at half of what they paid.
“It’s really worth a fraction of what they’re telling you it’s worth. It kind of hurts to tell you the truth,” said Salazar.
Broward College Geologist Valerio Bartolucci says while Diamonds International’s appraisal might seem high to Salazar, technically it’s not incorrect.
“It depends on the location where you are, the country, the value at that moment in that place,” says Bartolucci, “The market makes the value.”
In a statement, Diamonds International said they stand behind their product and that appraisals, “…should only be conducted by a certified, independent gemologist who has been trained to appraise the specific type of stone in question.” The statement reads that they “…offer so many unique, even branded or patented, items that consumers, and even some gemologists, may not fully understand.”
Salazar, meanwhile, met up with NBC6 Responds at Carroll’s Jeweler’s in Ft. Lauderdale to have owner Bob Moorman look at the jewelry and appraisals.
Moorman is also a member of the Gemological Institute of America.
While Moorman agrees appraisals from outside the country can come back with very different values compared to the United States, he questions a document Salazar says he received with his initial purchase. That document says the retail value of the bracelet is 11-thousand dollars.
“No one has ever paid $11,000 for a sterling silver tanzanite bracelet. It just wouldn’t happen,” said Moorman.
Moorman told Salazar he would have paid thousands of dollars less if he had made the purchases in South Florida – something Salazar says he didn’t want to hear.
“My heart was broken I guess you could say,” said Salazar.
Salazar had initially contested the charges with his credit card company.
After NBC6 Responds contacted them, Diamonds International offered him a full refund if he agreed to drop that dispute, which he did.
Salazar says he’s thankful for the help.
Experts recommend avoiding impulse buys, before making a big jewelry purchase.
Take the time to do your research not only on the jeweler but also on what you’re buying–before you hand over any cash.