Ruby, don’t leave your stones in town
Tuesday, January 9th, 2007
on behalf of Alistir Wood Tait Antique and Fine Jewellery
A JEWELLER has tracked down a ruby for a customer – almost 20 years after she left it in his shop.
Renowned gemmologist Alistir Tait was asked to assess the ruby and consider it for mounting on a ring.
However, after leaving it with him in 1988 the owner, Ena Cochran, 57, forgot about the small stone until this year.
Her memory was jogged when she entered a “identify the gemstone” competition run by Alistir at a local fundraising event.
She contacted his shop, Alistir Wood Tait Antique and Fine Jewellery, in Rose Street, Edinburgh, with the details and Alistir and his staff carried out the detective work to track down the ruby.
Now the mother-of-three says she is delighted that she will be reunited with gemstone, even though it has only a modest value.
She added: “I was extremely pleased when Alistir told me he still had it after all this time and of course very surprised as well. He obviously has a very efficient filing system.
“It doesn’t matter that the stone isn’t worth a great deal, it has sentimental value and a pleasant surprise like this just adds to that.”
Mrs Cochran, of Dunfermline, Fife, bought the stone during a family holiday to Thailand in 1979. The 1.3 carat stone boasts a deep, rich red colour and she hoped to have it flanked on a ring by two matching diamonds for one of her daughters.
When she left it with Alistir in 1988 his shop was in Bruntsfield. He examined the stone and discovered it was a “doublet” – a small coarse, quality ruby, attached to a bigger, manmade stone.
The synthetic ruby gives it the intense colour, but means the stone is only worth around £50. Mrs Cochran still planned to have a ring custom-made, but had been ill with a severe bout of septicaemia which left her with prolonged health issues.
Later she was distracted by various house moves, an unresolved acrimonious divorce and the rigors of bringing up her three daughters, who were aged nine, 12 and 21 at the time.
However, her mother is a long-standing member of the Scottish Mineralogy and Lapidary Club in Edinburgh which holds a two-day open day every year. Jeweller Alistir is also a keen member and earlier this year organised a fund-raising event where visitors paid £1 to match 12 gemstones to a list of gem names.
Mrs Cochran added: “I saw Alistir’s name and it clicked into place. I thought it was worth contacting him about the ruby, so I phoned the shop and explained the situation.
“He asked me to put as many details as I could in writing and send it to him. Even though I didn’t have a receipt I had actually filed away a compliment slip from the time, so I sent a photocopy of that too.
“To be honest, I wasn’t holding out much hope, because I couldn’t even be sure what year I’d left the ruby with Alistir and it was so long ago he is not even in the same shop.”
However Alistir was able to track down the paperwork, and from there he found the stone in his safe and wrote to Mrs Cochran: “Since 1988 the stone has been filed away pending your return to the shop. It has been kept safe under lock and key and insured as with all jewellery items which may be of value or are precious to their owners.”
Alistir admitted it is not uncommon for his customers to leave valuables with him for months and even years, but added: “I can’t think of another case where something has been left this long.
“When you are dealing with customer’s valuables you are not just talking financial value – jewellery invariably has a very strong sentimental value as well.
“This shows just how important it is to make sure everything is handled and filed properly. I’m really delighted we were able to find this stone for this woman.
“I hope she does decide to go ahead and have it mounted on a ring. It would be the perfect way to round off this story.”