Hardly rough, but a diamond?
March 13, 2011 10:01 PM   Subscribe

My husband found what appears to be a diamond, fallen out of a jewelry setting, in our box at the opera. If no one claims it, what to do?

The putative diamond is square cut, about 5mm on a side. Dinnertable level materials testing has demonstrated that the gem can cut glass and is shiny. It has a layer of goldish paint on the off-face side.
Questions as follows:
•Is this possibly a real diamond?
Assuming it is, I have called the Lyric's lost and found line to report it found. Left my name and number. I would think that if it's real then someone will be turning heaven and earth over to find it. We'll see.
• Is there anything else I should be doing to return the thing to its rightful owner? I'm kind of wary of just sending it back to the opera house. Should I just get over that and mail it to them?
He found it at intermission, and I'd forgotten about it by the time we left. Thus we didn't just leave it at the lost and found.
• What to do if, after 30 days or whatever, nothing has happened? Should we get it appraised and sell it? Can you sell diamonds that essentially fell off a truck? Do you need papers or certificates?
Any advice about the above questions, or shrieks of "that's cubic zirconium you ignoramus!" are most welcome. But please be gentle, I know basically zilch about diamonds, except that I know that I find them vaguely distasteful. So my jeweled ethicists, what do you think?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Take it to a gemologist. If it IS a real diamond...there's a good chance it has a unique number made by laser. Yeah, you CANNOT see it with your eyes.

5mm is a pretty big ass diamond...so I'm not sure if that really is a diamond. It might be a lab diamond (manmade). Either way, take it to a gemologist, he can find out where that serial number came from.

And the gemologist should be EGL or GIA certified. Make sure you look for that.

Any costs you incur will happen IF the diamond is real. And if it is real, the owner will have NO problem rewarding you.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:09 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

You need to contact the opera house and talk to the general manager. Explain the situation and hand it over to him/her. Let them deal with it. If the rightful owner does not come for it, it should be up to the manager to decide what to do with it.
posted by TheBones at 10:09 PM on March 13, 2011 [6 favorites]

I think you are doing the honest thing by keeping it, and calling the theater and telling them you found it. I would not just bring it back there, because any number of less-than-honest people might have access to it. I think only after 90 days, or more, would I sell it. What if that person didn't realize a stone was missing and only wears that piece every once in a while? What would you want another person to do if you lost a very sentimental and valuable item? Do that.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:11 PM on March 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yeah... without a pic I can't be sure, but I'm pretty sure the paint means it is a rhinestone.

The fact that it fell out sorta confirms this for me. Cheap rhinestone jewelry does that.
posted by jbenben at 10:12 PM on March 13, 2011 [16 favorites]

I would be inclined to hand it over to the police, but I don't know if the police in your neck of the woods do lost and found.
posted by rodgerd at 10:17 PM on March 13, 2011

I don't really know much about diamonds, but I have extensive rhinestone experience--and they're pretty much all painted with something shiny on the bottom, to make up for the fact that they don't have a diamond's refractive index. That is, the property that makes diamonds look sparklier than glass when they're cut into shapes which exploit it.
posted by pullayup at 10:18 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

The paint definitely points to not-diamond to me. I can't imagine anyone putting paint on any real gemstone. Paint is generally put on cheaper stones to make them more shiny.
posted by that girl at 10:27 PM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

You should make a report and turn it over to the police. Notify the opera house manager that the police have the gem. Depending on the jurisdiction, if no one claims in within a set amount of time, you get it back.

But don't get your hopes up. As others have pointed out, the painted back is a kind of a give away of a non-diamond.
posted by Marky at 10:42 PM on March 13, 2011

Breathe on it. If the fog disappears instantly, diamond. If the fog lingers, not a diamond. Extremely high thermal conductivity is a diagnostic feature that distinguishes diamonds from similar-looking stones.

The paint is fishy for a real diamond, though.
posted by janell at 10:50 PM on March 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Since there sounds like their is paint on the back you probably can't do the dot test to tell.

We did this once for a huge "diamond" we found on the street, turned out to be c.z.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:35 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yep, rhinestone. Any time you find paint on a gem, fake. Although, I've seen a lot more vintage jewelry with that particular feature than I have new, so you could have found something with a bit of age to it, at least.

Here's a picture where you can see some vintage rhinestone "diamonds" and their backs. Here's another.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 12:27 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, home testing made me pretty excited about a channel-set gold tennis bracelet I found on a sidewalk once. Black light, fogging up, text readability, scratching, the whole bit.

My jeweler's electronic diamond tester brought me back down to earth pretty fast.
posted by jgirl at 4:39 AM on March 14, 2011

I have no idea whether what you found is real or not (although I share the skepticism of the other posters here), but, as for selling a diamond, even though this article is 29 years old, I think it's probably still relevant.
posted by Dr. Eigenvariable at 5:17 AM on March 14, 2011

Nthing that diamonds do not get painted on the back. That would make them duller instead of more brilliant and sparkly. The one exception might be an old diamond (like c. 1900 old) of low quality--and in that case the bulk of the value of that type of jewelry lies in its setting or other materials surrounding the stone. But diamonds that old and of low enough quality to need dressing up are not at all likely to be 5mm on a side.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 5:25 AM on March 14, 2011

Just for the record, just because it may not be a valuable diamond doesn't mean its owner doesn't want it back. Costume and paste jewelry can be worth a nice stack of change, and some manufacturers worked in off-standard sizes on purpose to prevent copying.

I understand your nervousness about turning it over to the opera lost and found, but it's certainly a preferable option to selling it. Making a police report and getting a receipt from whomever you turn it in to may give you some peace of mind, there.

You also might ask the Lyric about calling other people who they know have used that box over the past several performances. There can't be that many, and most of them probably used a traceable form of payment.

Good luck! This sounds like a pain in the neck, but if I'd lost that stone out of my jewelry I'd really appreciate the steps you've already taken, and the further steps you're contemplating to help it get back to me.
posted by endless_forms at 6:54 AM on March 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would actually call up your local city 311 (city information) to see if they can tell you how local laws apply to this (is it like finding a bag of money?). I would not call the opera house until then so that you know your rights, and obligations, are in this situation.

That is not to say that you should not try to find the owner by calling the opera house, but you want to be sure that you're not in the wrong if you do sell it after 90 days and then the owner comes a knockin'.
posted by zombieApoc at 7:13 AM on March 14, 2011

Make a police report. I found a ring last year and the police took a report, then dispatched someone to my home. The cop was from some dedicated team and took more details, photos and then took away the ring in a special safe. I got a confirmation code. They said that I would have first right of refusal if no one claimed it within a certain timeframe, or else it would go up for auction.

I did get grilled quite a bit about why I'd taken the ring from the washroom where I found it. I noted that I had reported it to the management and left all my details, along with a note that I was turning it in to police - and that I'd posted it all over Craigslist and so on. Apparently, the police were suspicious that I'd taken it with the aim of keeping it and then felt guilty. I told them that, if I was the kind of person who took things, I imagined that a guilty conscious would lead me to find other ways to get rid of it.
posted by acoutu at 9:00 AM on March 14, 2011

IANYJ - but as a former jeweller, I'll remind everyone that the Moh's Scale of Mineral Hardness means that glass will scratch glass. Items of the same hardness will scratch each other, and also items with lesser hardnesses. It's never an accurate test, because diamonds, while hard, have cleavage planes and you can chip the stone by doing this. Other clear white stones will also scratch glass.

The paint, as others have pointed out, is also a good clue that it's not a diamond. The breath test isn't a bad thing to try, but make sure the stone is clean so you don't get a false result.

You can also try placing it over a black line. A diamond's refractive index means it will not work like a magnifying glass and you would see no lines, circles, or letters through it. Other clear stones like glass or crystal will reveal the print clearly - though this isn't always 100% accurate if you have certain old cuts of diamonds. If you have a loupe or a magnifier, it will help to look at any inclusions. Diamonds will often have inclusions that look like feathers, crystals, wee specks and the like. Diamonds will have open inclusions that look rough inside. Chips are also rough. If it's glass, the fractures will be conchoidal. And bubbles inside the stone would be a pretty clear sign it's not a diamond.

Lastly, a diamond (or other natural stone) is going to be minutely colder and noticeably heavier than a glass stone. It's subtle, it takes experience, but it's not hard to compare once you know.

Just take it to a jeweller and they'll hit it with the electronic tester. It shouldn't cost anything. Don't bother the police until you know for sure, and don't worry about anything more until you do.
posted by peagood at 9:40 AM on March 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

As a general rule, you should always report found property of any kind of value to the police.

Specifics vary from place to place, but there are laws like "theft of mislaid property" that make it illegal to keep something without making a good faith effort to return it; that usually means turning it in for a period of time to the police and placing local ads or posters around town. If it isn't claimed after X amount of time, you can then claim it.

This is, again, general advice, and specific law does vary from place to place, but I would always contact the police and ask what to do just to CYA (Cover Your Ass).
posted by Menthol at 5:00 PM on March 14, 2011

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