How NOT to buy an engagement ring…

I thought I’d put this out there because lots of people get engaged and we wanted to share our experience with you.
There are ways to choose an engagement ring and ways not to.  I’m going to share our experience with you.  Grab a cuppa because this is going to be a long one.

One day last year, we were in Leura in the Blue Mountains and wandered into ‘Von Ander and Cook Fine Jewellery‘ in an arcade there in the village.

We had a look round and then bumped into a friend in the shop so we got chatting.  Shortly after that, Karl Cook (owner of the store) joined the conversation.  We mentioned we were getting married and he asked us if we’d chosen rings yet.  We said we hadn’t and he invited us to sit down and discuss a design process with him.
He drew up a ring on some paper and then we discussed price.  My partner gave him a sum for the ring, which he agreed he could do the work for.
A few days after this I was requested to come into the shop and ‘choose a diamond’.
Mr Cook had two diamonds which he told me where ‘pretty much the same’.  I picked one.
Mr Cook said that the ring would be ready three weeks after the deposit was paid, so that week, we both went in to sort the deposit.  I wanted to show my partner the diamond for the ring but Mr Cook  couldn’t locate it.  He’d lost it.
He assured us that it was somewhere in the shop and that he’d locate it later.
At the time we thought that was pretty odd, but my partner still paid a deposit for what we were told was for two rings… engagement and wedding….because Mr Cook said that he couldn’t start work without it.

He gave us a credit card receipt and my partner said ‘Is that it?’.
Mr Cook asked us if we wanted a detailed receipt and we said that we did.
He said he’d ‘sort it out later’.

A few days later Mr Cook told us that he’d found the diamond ‘in a safe place’…. phew!
Now, as far as we were concerned, we’d entered into a contract with Mr Cook.  (Do click on that and have a look at what a contract is under law.  Everyone should read it.)

Then we went away and waited…. and waited and we waited some more.

The ring, which we’d wanted for my birthday on Sept 28th, never turned up.  I approached Mr Cook by text and by his personal page on Facebook to ask whether the ring was going to be ready and was told that it was ‘nearly ready for fitting’ and that it was ‘coming’.
I told him that my partner was making very unhappy noises about it.  Mr Cook told me once again that it was coming.

My birthday came and went with no word from Von Ander and Cook, so we went into the shop on October 16 to find out what was happening.  Mr Cook pulled out a ‘master’ ring which I had to try on.   Bear in mind that we’d paid deposit on August 31.
According to the other jewellers I’ve approached, a master can take about a day to make.  This master seemed to have taken from August 31 through to somewhere around October 10 we estimated.

Mr Cook said he’d left ‘numerous messages’ on my phone but oddly, there was no record of them in my call list.  I asked him to show me on his call list, but he said his iPhone didn’t keep that information.  Even more to the point, he didn’t call my partner once who was the one who had ordered and paid for the ring in the first place.  There were no calls placed to our home telephone either or to my partner’s mobile.

I tried the master ring on but it wouldn’t even go past my knuckle.  At this point, Mr Cook said my fingers had swollen up a size and that he’d have to remeasure my finger.  He did this and he wrote the new size down.
We asked how much longer it would take to make our ring and were told another two and a half weeks!  So far, this whole process had taken much, much longer than the three weeks that Mr Cook promised us.   We paid deposit on 31 August and we were up to October 16 by now.  Another two and a half weeks on top of this meant more waiting.

Unhappily we left the shop to decide what to do.
On my return home, I went to my jewellery and tried on a ring that I’d had for 20 years to see if my fingers had swollen and they hadn’t.  The ring fitted perfectly.
After discussion, we decided to ask for our money back.  So the next morning off we went to the shop and tried to talk to Mr Cook about the situation.
We said that we were unhappy and Mr Cook repeated over and over in a loud voice ‘What do you want?  What do you want?

So we said ‘We’d like our money back please‘ to which he said that we couldn’t because he’d ‘spent it’ – presumably on materials.  He said that Fair Trading would back him up, that we had simply changed our minds and that he ‘didn’t do refunds‘.
We made the point that he’d promised three weeks and that the three weeks had come and gone and that our engagement had been delayed because of it.
He said that we were ‘having a go at him’, which of course we weren’t but when you want to get engaged, and someone says that you’ll have a ring in three weeks, you tend to believe them and it’s a bit annoying when they don’t deliver.

He told us we had ‘no choice‘ but to continue, so believing this we asked him to write out a ‘guarantee’ which he said would mean our ring was going to be ready in the time he specified – another two and a half weeks.
We left that Sunday afternoon for home.  In the morning, we rung Fair Trading, which it seems was a mistake.
If you go to Fair Trading, then you don’t actually have your case heard by a Magistrate.  The ‘Tribunal Member’ as they’re called are trained in the law but they’re not Magistrates.
Fair Trading told us that we should ask for the ring work to be stopped as it seemed clear that Mr Cook had breached the contract we had with him.  We agreed that yes, he had and this is what we did.

So the next day, Monday, we did this by email.  We were told that in no uncertain terms, it was too late and that the ring had been taken for casting that day.  (We later contacted the casting company through a contact and they told us the ring wasn’t in casting until the Tuesday, so the ring wasn’t in casting that Monday as we’d been told.  We have that email.)

Not only that, but we were told that they were going to go ahead with the ring to ‘recover their costs’.  There were actually no costs, we’d covered them all in the deposit.
In fact, all costs bar $3 were recovered, and Von Ander and Cook offered us that $3 in a refund!

So you’ll be thinking at this point, just as we were, that if we’d given them a couple of thousand dollars in deposit and they’d spent that deposit on materials and costs, then surely a $3 refund was a bit surreal given that we owned the materials.  This wasn’t a charitable donation to Von Ander and Cook, it was a deposit.

By now we were in full email contact with Von Ander and Cook’s office manager, Elizabeth Ewell Cook, Mr Cook’s wife.
She explained that delays were because they had been ill.  Well we’re not unreasonable people.  Had someone come to us at any point and said ‘We’re sorry we’re weeks late with your ring but we’ve both been in hospital’ then we’d have been quite understanding.  The fact was that no-one had come to us with that story and in fact, there was no communication at all from the jeweller to us about the delays in our ring.  There was just total silence.

Apparently during a business meeting I attended on Oct 1st on an entirely different matter, Mr Cook says he told me that he’d been ill, but actually, the conversation went like this:
‘Hi Karl.  How’s my ring going?’
‘Er, I haven’t actually started it yet.’
‘You’ve what?  You’re kidding!’ (horrified voice)

‘Yeah sorry, we’ve been a bit busy’.
Me – too shocked to even say anything.

Afterwards I discussed it with an associate and said that I was no longer confident about Mr Cook’s abilities and that I was not going to be involved in any further business meetings with him.  Mr Cook later bought my non-attendance at further meetings up as some sort of evidence that I was somehow a bit slack , when in reality, I just didn’t want to work with him on this other business matter.  This other business matter had nothing to do with our contract so there was little point in him mentioning it at tribunal.

So there were a few emails back and forth where we insisted we would like our money back, or obviously be given the materials so that we could take them to another jeweller to be worked.  They did belong to us after all.
But no.  There was no other offer of refund other than $3.
Another issue that came to light was that the price seemed to have risen for the ring by $900.  We asked how this could be so.   Mr Cook enlightened us by letting us know that we’d picked the ‘more expensive diamond’.  Really?  By $900?  I contacted the diamond supplier but out of client confidentiality they couldn’t tell me in truth how much the diamond had cost.  Doing the maths, Mr Cook’s ‘other diamond’ would have been around $540.  The diamond supplier did tell us that they didn’t sell diamonds for under $680.

Mr Cook also claimed that the price was clearly marked on the diamond package and that it was clear that I had picked the more expensive diamond, but after recovering a photograph that I’d taken on another camera of that packet, it appears there was no such price marked on the package.  

Eventually, we took the case to Fair Trading expecting a fair hearing.  During our hearing we made our points, the jeweller made theirs.