It is very fashionable to travel to Antwerp to buy an engagement ring as it is perceived as being “a lot cheaper” than buying in Ireland. As a jewellery valuer I do not believe it is “a lot cheaper”. If one adds up all the cost involved and then what happens when it all goes wrong?. Over the last eight years I have valued a lot of rings from Antwerp but from one shop in particular which I have been told numerous times is a very reputable shop. For legal reasons I can’t name and shame this shop and I have not personally purchased anything from them however, it is quite shocking the number of rings that they have sold to Irish couples with forged laser inscriptions and certificates that do not match diamonds. They supply clarity enhanced diamonds as “real natural diamonds” and rings that are about to fall apart and they continue to trade. It seems to me that they do not cheat on every couple but they choose the couples very carefully usually very quiet, young, innocent and naive types. Most couples that I have to break the news to explaining that their laboratory certificate is forged etc are very upset and wish to know how they can manage to obtain the real certificate and diamond without any problems. Instead of demanding their money back and reporting this shop to the Belgium police they are happy to return to Belgium and listen to the same stupid excuses from these jewellers and receive another ring and so it continues – the cheating that is. Last month I had three cases from this shop and three couples are preparing to make their way back to Antwerp because “they got the certificates mixed up!”. If this happened in Ireland you can be sure it would be reported on the Joe Duffy show and these fraudsters would be closed down but not so in Antwerp.
Many couples come in to have their ring valued and tell me how nice they were and the service was brilliant and of course they say they received a laboratory certificate and it was laser inscribed but, all that means nothing if one was ripped off and made a fool of and your hard earned money was taken. Certificates and laser inscriptions are forged all over the world but, from my thirty five years experience Antwerp leads the way for this. It is not enough to have a certificate and an inscription they must be authentic. Not wanting to scare everyone going abroad to buy but I had a lady in a few weeks ago to have her ring revalued for her insurance company. She last had it valued by a Dublin city centre jewellers who value while you wait. They are not trained gemmologists or trained valuers. It was valued at eight thousand Euro and the lady had paid five thousand Euro for it. She had purchased it from this shop in Antwerp. As usual the laboratory certificate was a duplicate and the laser inscription did not match and to make matters worse the diamond was heavily clarity enhanced. I did not know how to begin to tell her. I may have valued the ring for five hundred Euro maximum and that would be a generous amount. The lady was rightly upset but more annoyed with the Irish jeweller who had valued it the first time and never knew/noticed all the problems with the ring or certificate. I would say there are lots of cases like this and couples are unaware of all the problems as they do not have their ring valued by a qualified gemmologist. An unqualified jeweller would miss all of these factors. One has to be very sharp and on the ball all the time while checking or valuing anything from Antwerp. The forgeries are getting better by the day and now with the amount of synthetic diamonds on the market the problem will escalate.
A few Irish people did write negative reviews about this shop but they were taken down I wonder why?. However most couples seem happy to return to Antwerp and accept all the rubbish they are told about certificates getting mixed up and just end up taking another ring. I had one case where they gave the couple another forged laser inscribed diamond and they had to return a third time. I would not say that every shop in Antwerp is like this shop but, as it is very popular one could end up going there without knowing. Another interesting fact is that most of the couples pay with cash and some do not receive a receipt as a result it make it very difficult to prove the ring was purchased in the shop. Always request a receipt for your own protection.
Last week I had a couple in who purchased their ring from this same shop which thankfully was fine however, they told me there was a French couple in the shop who was demanding a refund as there was an issue with the diamond. So, it seems this shop cheats on other nationalities too so you have been warned.