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So, after 27 years of marriage, Scott and I finally left our store, Scott’s Custom Jewelers, and went away, for a whole week (!) by ourselves. We’ve left on quick getaways for custom jewelry shows, but this was a big trip. Our 50th birthday gift to ourselves. And it was awesome!

This greeted us when we arrived.

When our customers go on an exotic vacation, we always tell them to buy that jewelry souvenir, but don’t spend a lot of money on it. Just in case…

Well, we need to start following our own advise!

While walking the streets of playa del Carmen, trying NOT to get assaulted by the street vendors, we wandered into a cute little jewelry store. It was filled with leather wallets, “handcrafted” pottery (stamped Made in China!), and, of course, lots of jewelry.

Leather beer bottle holders – funny how the Mexican word for beer sounds like our last name:)

We decided that we wanted to get matching sterling silver bracelets to remember our trip. (I know, kind of hokey, but there was a lot of tequila flowing that week!)

Right off the bat, we told the store owner that we too, were jewelers. And that we ONLY wanted to see jewelry stamped 925 (which means pure sterling silver in the international world, not plated, costume pieces). We were so smug.

So Mr. Mexican Jewelry Store Owner started pulling out “the good stuff” from under the counter. We sorted through a ton of bracelets until we found a pair that looked unisex. The geometric, linked style also reminded us of Mexico and the Aztec influence. We loved them.

Our unisex matching silver bracelets.

The bracelets were clearly stamped to be sterling silver – we even used a jeweler’s loupe to examine them. They also felt heavy like sterling silver should be for bracelets of that size. And, they weren’t magnetic – a SURE sign that they could be costume jewelry. We were not only smug, but smart!

The only trouble was that Scott’s bracelet was a tad to small. But, Mr. Mexican Jewelry Store Owner had a fabulous solution: he could cut off a link from a third bracelet and, since we were jewelers, we could attach it ourselves when we returned to the States. Awesome idea.

So we started negotiating. We weighed the bracelets, and, knowing the price per gram of sterling silver, made an offer which we felt was fair, but also a great deal for us.

Mr. Mexican Jewelry Store Owner and Scott went back and forth, until they finally settled on $300 AND a glass tequila bottle and matching shot glass set thrown in for free. Cash.

Note to self: never pay cash out of the country.

We were thrilled. We spent the rest of our trip relaxing, laughing and playing in the beautiful sunshine.

Obligatory beach/foot shot

And when we went home (to 2′ of new snow), we excitedly told our staff about our great deal on matching bracelets. Jon, our talented bench jeweler, said he could put Scott’s bracelet back together right then.

All that had to be done was to solder (that’s using a torch to join 2 pieces of metal together) the new link onto the bracelet. Except, when he heated the piece up, ALL OF THE SILVER COATING MELTED OFF!

Notice the copper color of the extra pin? That’s not sterling silver!


It was fake. A good fake, but completely and professionally counterfeit. The sterling silver bracelet was actually a copper bracelet heavily plated with silver – worth $10 tops. It was made especially to fool tourists into thinking it was sterling silver and worth a bigger price tag. We were duped.

And since we paid cash, there was no recourse from the credit card company. We couldn’t even file a claim against the store.

We were initially very upset, then embarrassed. I’m sure Mr. Mexican Jewelry Store Owner was laughing all the way to the bank about the “jewelry store owners who were fooled by his cheap jewelry.” It stung.

So, what are we going to do? Well, since we’re custom jewelers – we’re going to recreate the bracelets with our CAD technology out of real sterling silver! And, we’re going to go back to Mexico and … lay in the sun! Life’s too short to hold a grudge!