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How The World Wags

It's a guilt thing
By Dave Kiffer


October 23, 2004

Ketchikan, Alaska - Like many other locals I have been somewhat amused (and a whole lot aghast) at the proliferation of jewelry stores in Ketchikan's Combat Shopping Zone over the last few years. We've always had a few local jewelry stores meeting the needs of locals and visitors but is there any logical explanation for 43 purveyors of fine gem stones to be located in downtown Ketchikan each summer?
jpg Dave Kiffer Ketchikan, Alaska

You hear of a lot of odd explanations such as:

"People buy jewelry on vacation."

Funny, I haven't seen Zsa Zsa Gabor or Liz Taylor getting off the boats lately. Most of the people I see wandering around the streets carrying their "shopping" maps don't seem all that well off (which explains why they are drawn like moths to "70 percent off," "going out of business" and "your lucky cabin number" sales). Maybe that's why "loose" diamonds are so popular - most of the shoppers can't afford the settings as well.

"If you see lots of stores, you realize this is the place to buy jewelry."

I guess that might make sense if you were predisposed to buy jewelry anyway. Hard to imagine anyone saying "Honey, let's take a cruise to Alaska so we can buy some Caribbean Black Coral Jewelry!" and "Wow, look at all these stores in Ketchikan, they must have the cheapest possible prices!" But then I have a hard time thinking outside the (jewelry) box.

"It's a guilt thing."

Now, here is on answer I can at least understand. Guilt is a natural state for all husbands. We have the trinity of guilt. We are guilty for what we have done, what we haven't done and (always looking ahead) what we will and won't do in the future. We are completely and solely responsible for whatever has gone or will go wrong. It just makes things easier that way.

I have heard that many husbands on these cruises find themselves irresistibly drawn toward Close Encounters of the Salmon Kind and are faced with angry spouses that they had promised "quality" time on the cruise. "Quality" time then becomes an suggestion that a short visit to the jeweler to "buy yourself something nice" is in order.

Even guiltier are the captains of industry who may have more than one first "mate" to look after. They sure wouldn't want to take home something as "cheap" as a T-shirt for the "executive secretary" back home.

So when people find themselves in any of the above categories, how do they differentiate from the profusion of gem stones in order to make an informed choice? Sure, you can decide if you want a diamond or a pearl or a garnet or something that sounds familiar. What do you do when you've never even heard of some of these types of "lovely sparklies" before?

Well, you do your research.

Tanzanite - Most folks things it is named thus because it is mined in Tanzania. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is actually a mineralized by-product of distilled tansy ragwort.

Ammolite - You might assume - in this modern low-carb world - that even high powered ammunition has reduced calories. In reality, ammolite is made of out the fossilized bits and pieces of your credit rating after you go jewelry hunting with a semi-automatic credit card.

Tourmaline - Obviously, the perfect combination of gemstone and shore excursion. Visitors no longer have to choose between the two during their short time ashore.

Aquamarine - Okay, it is an established color (so says Crayola) but doesn't the name seem vaguely redundant (water water). In other words, you're paying twice as much for half as much. And who the heck would pay that much for mineralized water? Evian?

The next two have a similar genesis, television.

Korite - Although it sounds similar to cordite, this is not an explosive mineral. It was actually first developed on the old Carol Burnett Show, when producers were forced to come up with an incredibly strong element for a facial mask to keep Harvey Korman from breaking into laughter at compatriot Tim Conway's antics. The Korite mask only occasionally worked. The bits and pieces of Korite the gemstone are the remains of when it didn't.

Alexandrite - I was sure this had something to with Alexander the Great, but I was wrong. This recently discovered mineral is created from heavy force fracturing glass desk tops in Hollywood offices when the ratings come in for Jason Alexander's inevitable sitcom bombs (gee, maybe there was a reason his one "hit" show was called "Seinfeld" and not "Costanza").

The profusion of colored diamonds is also a real puzzlement. In the old days most "colored" diamonds were not as well thought of, but now you have just diamonds that a just about every color under the sun and few that have no match in the natural world.

Canary diamonds - I'll hit the easy pitch. You'd have to be bird-brained to fall for this.

Cocoa diamonds - Slightly brownish after being dropped in the morning java. Much like regular coffee, expect to pay a significantly higher price if the dealer deems them to Mocha or Cappucino Diamonds.

Blue diamonds - Yes, that is your crestfallen face in the mirror when the bill arrives.


Dave Kiffer ©2004


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