#18 - These People Had Rocks In Their Head

Posted on Thursday, July 19th, 2018 at 7:52 pm by LaLonde

As a gemologist, I have been hired for all types of reasons. Some of the reasons: valuing items seized by US Customs, helping attorneys to value and separate jewelry for divorce cases, valuing items for trust companies, matching items to lists to make sure all items are accounted for, insurance appraisals, fair market values for IRS concerns, and valuing items for trade.

This is what I’m going to focus on today: valuing items for trade.

Occasionally, someone would call me (usually an attorney) and need my expertise in valuing items for trade. One particular case was some doctors in San Diego wanting to trade an expensive piece of property for some large rocks. The rocks were bowling ball sized corundum and weighed as much as bowling balls.


“A Bowling Ball Sized Granular Corundum Crystal, Primarily Sliced To Make Ash Trays”

I flew from Honolulu to San Diego, got picked up in a limo, driven to a bank, and waited for the “mother lode” of rocks to show up.
Soon, an older gentleman arrived. Frail and shuffling, he was surrounded by 4 big Samoan men, each carrying 3 bowling bags with a rock in each. It was a real show.

In talking with the doctor I was riding with, he told me that he wanted to trade a 3-million dollar piece of property for the rocks. Well, the rocks had some appraisals done by a book-writin’, multi-degreed, so-called-“expert” for upwards of 50-million dollars. However, I had done my homework and knew that the rocks were not worth much.

As a matter of fact, these were the type of rocks that are polished with a slight bowl shape and a couple of grooves on the side and made into ash trays. But, since they were putting on a show, I decided to do the same.


“A Gem Quality Corundum Crystal Worth Approximately $40,000 / carat Finished Cut”

I got my tape measure out and my calipers and measured them every which way. Held them up to the light, photographed them from every possible angle. Then, I packed up my equipment and got back in the limo for the ride back to the airport. In the limo, the doctor asked what I thought. I said, “well, they sure are big.”

“Doc, when I go to a doctor, they always say we have to run this test and that test and analyze the results and we will let you know soon. So, that is what I have to do. But don’t worry Doc, I’ll let you know if you are gonna die.”

Last thing I said before I walked into the airport was “Doc, do you smoke?” He replied, “No, why?”.
“Just wondering”, I replied.

Well, my report was sent to him and it stated that the rocks were next to worthless. And the fact that they were used primarily as ornamental pieces, such as ashtrays. I found out later that the deal went down anyway. The old man got the property and was able to use it and profit greatly from it. The doctors took the rocks and said to the old man “if these rocks are worth so much, we will give them back to you and you can loan us 6-million dollars at low interest. Everyone made out over worthless rocks.

But what happened next shook me a little. The phone rang one day. “Mr. LaLonde, are you the one who appraised the rocks? Whatever you know about them, do not talk about it to anyone”. Then the line went dead.

It’s been 25 years now, and I’m sure all the characters are gone. I hope they don’t read my articles!

Written by Daniel J. LaLonde

© LaLonde Jewelers 2018