Jewellers' Network

The art of the con

by Craig Thomas (FGA)(GD)(AJP) Head of Laboratory A.G.L.


There are many different techniques used by con-artists. These are the three approaches most often employed in our industry.

Quartz that has been ‘quench crackled’ and dyed to resemble emerald.

The Imposter

In this technique the focus is all on the gem product so the most effort and skill goes into producing a fake gem that closely resembles a valuable natural gemstone. There are too many to name them all but here are some examples.

Topaz, CZ and Moissanite are often shaped into an octahedron and sometimes even trigons are carved into them to better imitate diamond rough. Flux grown crystals of emerald, ruby and sapphire are quite natural looking and sometimes matrix material is glued to them for a convincing replica of a natural stone. Quartz that has been heated and dropped in cold dye (crackle dyed) can be made to look like a convincing natural gem.

Image 1 & 2: These schlenters are glass with a tar like substance that is meant to resemble a matrix. These are not convincing to anybody in the know, so they are usually brought in by someone who is not in the trade and accompanied by a long and involved story. Image 3: This is a piece of glass that has been shaped to resemble a rough diamond octahedron. Image 4: Green bottle glass with what is meant to resemble a natural shist matrix glued on.

The Spice

This is when a parcel of poor quality, but obviously natural stone is peppered with a fake or two to make the parcel look as though it is worth buying. In this scenario the con-artist shifts some attention away from the fake stones by adding natural low grade stones, hoping that one assumes the entire parcel is natural. If the parcel is rough then the fake stone is usually made to look water-worn to hide the absence of natural facets and prevent seeing into the stone. I have even seen a synthetic, craftily glued to a piece of natural. If the parcel is faceted some attempt to induce fractures may have been made to make the stones look included so that they blend in with the natural stones.     

Image 1: Two colours of molten glass fused together and meant to resemble watermelon tourmaline. Image 2: Chatam synthetic emerald crystal that has a ‘Matrix’ glued to it to produce a very realistic looking schlenter. Image 3: Glass with a foil in it, made to imitate natural opal. Image 4: Quartz and quartzite that has been dyed or coated to resemble emerald rough.

The Scam

In this scenario the con artist shifts the entire focus away from the gems themselves and places it on the investment opportunity. The mark is not someone in the trade and therefore the gems do not need to be very convincing. The art to this con is creating a story and playing with the emotions. The aim of the con-artist is to approach the mark in a way that is indirect but that holds the marks attention for long enough for him to weave an enticing web of lies. There are countless different stories and strategies but here is one example..

The con-artist spots a mark at the petrol station, he approaches with a story about a broken down car and an urgent meeting that he needs to get to. He offers to pay the mark for driving him to the meeting. The mark agrees and the con-artist pays him for his petrol and his time. Once in the car the con-artist receives a call, where the mark can’t help over hearing him discussing what sounds like a very lucrative business deal. The aim here is to create a feeling of jealousy. After the meeting the con artist comes out very upset, he tells the mark how he has been working on this deal for weeks and now there is a problem with some of the funding. He was going to make a ‘killing’ and it was a ‘done deal’. The mark’s curiosity gets the better of him so he asks “how much funding do you need?” and “what are the returns?” The con-artist happily tells him about the huge profit margin, when he  appears to have an idea, “you wouldn’t be interested in this opportunity, would you?” Here the con-artist uses the promise of riches to evoke feelings of joy and plays on ones greed. At any point where the mark is second guessing, A call will come in and the original funding is back on the table. This is where the con-artist creates a feeling of great loss and time that has always been a factor with some looming deadline, is almost up. The mark needs to decide if he is in or not!

In this type of con the gems are never the focus until the money has been paid and the mark is left holding the “extremely Valuable bag of gems” as surety.

In the jewellery industry we have to keep our wits about us, always remain sceptical and question peoples motivations. Anyone who has been in the trade for a while, will probably have many stories of their own, so this is more of a cautionary tale for those who
have not.