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Appraisers warn of jewelry purchases on cruises

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Local jewelry appraisers say they’re seeing an increase in those who are purchasing jewelry after attending seminars on cruise ships during their trips, and that it’s causing many in West Michigan to lose thousands of dollars due to what they say is misleading advertising.

Trent Almassian, gemologist and President of Almassian Jewelers says as spring break and vacation time nears for many in West Michigan, some will go on cruise lines that have partnerships with diamond companies who will push their product during the cruise.

“Basically they’re overpaying for a piece of jewelry that was most likely misrepresented,” Almassian said, describing his experience in appraising jewelry purchased on cruises.

“There are now cutters who are adding facets to diamonds, they add a lot more weight to the top,” he added, saying the process hinders the brilliance of the diamonds, and therefore the value.

Almassian said some of his customers will come to him with invoices of $55,000, only to find the jewelry is actually worth less than $20,000.

“There’s very little recourse,” Almassian said, pointing out the fine print on the deals often prevents customers from getting refund once they return from their cruises.

Shelly, a recent West Michigan cruise-goer spoke to the Newschannel 3 I-Team about her experience buying jewelry while on a Norwegian Cruise Line to the Cayman Islands.

“They pitch it as duty-free, tax-free and therefore reasonably priced,” said Shelly, who says both she and her husband attended a shopping seminar while on the cruise.

She says the company, Diamonds International was promoted on the cruise during the seminar, and once the ship docked, she decided to stop in and look around.

“We bought earrings, a ring, a necklace and bracelet,” she said. “Then they got out the glasses of champagne and they promised us how wonderful everything was.”

Shelly says when she returned to West Michigan to get the jewelry appraised, she realized the jewelry was actually worth less than half of her purchase price.

“They took advantage of us and a lot of other people,” she continued, saying that others on the cruise bought jewelry as well.

“These people are away and they’re happy and emotional and they want to buy something from the trip,” Almassian said. “I tell my clients before they go away, they should realize that whatever they buy on that vacation is a souvenir, and you’re going to pay souvenir prices for it.”

Tom Tanner, Vice President of Marketing for Diamonds International, pushed back against accusations of misleading customers.

“We have a patented diamond with 90 facets,” said Tanner, talking about the product he believes to be at the center of the accusations.

When asked about the appraisals and customer complaints, Tanner said it’s very possible the diamond[s] had not been appraised correctly.

“You’ll get mixed results if the jeweler doesn’t know how to appraise it,” Tanner added. “We want our customers to be 100 percent satisfied.”

Almassian, however, noted that he is a certified appraiser and gemologist. He maintains many diamond and jewelry companies and cruises have partnerships, and warned it’s something for all cruise passengers to be aware of.

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