What is one moment in your life you thought could only happen in a movie?

Mudassir Ali
Feb 25, 2020 01:40 PM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 25, 2020 01:40 PM

This is a long (and seriously crazy) story, but I’ll shorten it.

Almost a year ago, a local jeweler “lost” my engagement ring, and instead of just paying me, he tried to trick me and give me a ring worth 1/6 as much.

The stone in my ring was a family heirloom on my fiancé’s side. I later found out it was a stone one could no longer buy; it was irreplaceable.

(That was my ring. It was a Brazilian Aquamarine. My fiance’s father had acquired it from a mine in São Paulo in the 1960’s. He had it cut, polished, and fashioned it into a pendant for my fiance’s mother. She then gave it to my fiancé to make into an engagement ring.)

Something that is really important to note about this story is that it was an aquamarine. They are not like diamonds; their value is based on size, color, and where they are from. Most of them are barely blue, almost white. Mine was so blue, it looked like a sapphire. The darker, the more rare… plus, some of the world’s best aquas come from Brazil.

(Shade of almost all aquamarines.)

My fiancé took the stone and created the ring above by purchasing a mount. After this jewelery store (different jeweler) studied the aqua, they said it was, “one of the most exquisite aquamarines he had ever seen.”

I was speechless when I saw it. It was, and still is, the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen. We were so poor, yet this was the ring that was going to symbolize the commitment the man I loved wanted to make. I loved it so much. It was the most precious thing I owned.

I wore it on my finger only three days when my fiancé told me we were going to take it to a local jeweler to have the stone polished and appraised. It had a small scratch, and since it had not been appraised since 1980, he wanted to know its value today.

One month later…

The ring still wasn’t done, even though they said it wouldn’t take long. I went in once a week to check, and the employees would act “weird”. Each time, they told me, “It still isn’t ready.”

I just figured they were embarrassed it wasn’t ready.

Finally, the owner called my fiancé and told him the stone was “lost”, but he assured he would make it better.

We met with the owner and, very apathetically, he apologized. He avoided all my questions, and couldn’t give me a straight answer as to how or when he lost my stone. Then he hands me a stone and says, “This should make up for it.”

This stone was nothing like my lost stone. I had a bad feeling, and told him this wasn’t acceptable.

He became angry. He told me that was the best he could do, and it was exactly like my lost stone.

We left. I wouldn’t accept the stone. I was shocked. Something wasn’t right. His tone and body language were threatening. He talked down to me like I was stupid, and tried to force me to accept the new stone. He refused to claim it on his business insurance.

I hired a lawyer, and spent the next month researching everything I could about aquamarines and jewelry in general. I had a suspicion my “little stone” was worth quite a bit.

I contacted a man named Cos Altobelli. In the jewelry world, this man was a celebrity. He appraised gems for museums, did specials with Dateline and Diane Sawyer on how jewelers “scam” customers. He also did special cases where he appraised lost or stolen jewelry from pictures for court cases.

He contacted me back. With the region, color, and clarity of the stone above, he informed me my ring was worth 4–5 times what it was in the 80’s. The mine it was from was long gone.

Finding another stone like this would be “like finding a needle in a haystack – you’ll never see one like it again.”

I sent the appraisal to the jeweler along with a letter from my lawyer. The jeweler laughed and refused to pay that amount. He said the stone in my above pictures was “fake”, and was a different stone than the one he lost (even though these pictures were time-stamped by my iPhone before we took in my ring).

I was furious. I had waited 6 MONTHS for him to make this right.

I decided to stop keeping this a secret. I made a Facebook post detailing everything that happened. My fiancé and I had kept quiet about what happened to give the jeweler time to make it right, because we didn’t want to ruin his business.

In less than 24 hours, my post was shared about 1000 times with hundreds of comments. People all over the country were sharing my post. His business ratings went from five stars to one overnight. People were furious. I received dozens of messages from locals claiming the exact same thing had happened to them at this same business over the last 30 years. Five of these individuals agreed to testify if I went to court.

I won’t lie, I never thought that would happen. I thought maybe a few of my friends would read it and decide not to shop there… and that would be it. I didn’t think it would attract so much attention.

As you can imagine, the jeweler freaked out. He started threatening me and my fiancé and told me to delete the post IMMEDIATELY, or he’d sue for slander. I left it up. Everything I posted was true.

My post was being shared every minute. He told me if I deleted my Facebook post, he’d pay me the money. I told him I would agree, as long as he also paid my lawyer fees ($3,000 I had to pay just to write negotiations, all of which he ignored). He agreed, and the post was deleted.

I truly believe this business owner received karma. I knew I could have sued him for thousands, but I just wanted to move on with my life. He delayed my wedding by a year, ruined a romantic period in my and my fiancé’s relationship, and caused me many nights of tears over those 6 months. However, it was still just an object. I still had the man I loved.

So many people tell me there is NO WAY he lost it; especially after all the people who came forward. Honestly, I don’t know. And, sadly, I will never know.


Edit: I’m receiving many angry messages and comments. Many people are very upset I chose not to sue. There are many details I left out of this story to avoid making it too long.


A local florist who saw my post offered me free flowers for my wedding.
A local photographer was so upset by what happened, she did my engagement photos for free and is doing my wedding photos for free.

(This is my favorite one.)

A different local jeweler hosted an event in my name and 20% of all the proceeds of this would go toward me buying a new ring. However, since I received payment for the stone’s value, I felt I had more than enough money to replace it. I told this jewelry store to donate the proceeds to a local couple who could not afford a ring.
The CEO of Jensen Jewelers (the store my fiancé bought the mount from) saw my Facebook post. Since the mount was now worthless, they let me exchange it for a new one and wedding band I got to design myself. This was at no cost.

(Here is the final computer images before they created my ring. They created it from a drawing I sent.)

My friend (who is a jeweler) sourced a purple Montana sapphire for my new engagement ring. Since I purchased this sapphire from him, he also gave me a vintage aquamarine ring that originated from a shop in 1950’s London. This aqua is gorgeous. It is not my engagement ring, but a ring to just cherish and wear.

(The new stone I chose for my engagement ring.)

(The vintage 1950’s aquamarine.)

I promise, I was more than repaid. Everyone came together and turned an awful event into something amazing. I really saw the kindness in so many people. This turned out better than I could have ever imagined (given the circumstances).

This is why I chose this event to answer this question. I was not exaggerating when I said this story is crazy.

Mudassir Ali
- Feb 25, 2020 01:40 PM

told him when we married that there were no strings attached and that he owed me nothing. We lived in different cities; we barely had to see each other apart from legal proceedings pertaining to his residency status. However, things got complicated one day when my husband decided to kiss me. A romance developed. It was a bumpy ride, since we were very different people. At one point, when we had been married for a year and dating for a few months, I broke up with him.

During that period of being married but single – this was 1996 or 1997 – I took a vacation. When my return flight landed at the airport, I caught the airport shuttle home. The driver had a delightful Russian accent, so I struck up a conversation with him. He told me a bit about his past, which was as colorful as it was alarming. I may have batted my eyes a teensy bit. He asked me out. I explained my odd marital situation, but he shrugged, unfazed. We made a date.

At the restaurant a few evenings later, Isaac filled me in on his biography. He was one of the most remarkable characters I’ve ever met. Raised in an orphanage in Siberia, he had entered KGB service upon reaching adulthood. He had gone through KGB school, learning knife-throwing and formal dancing as well as more down-to-earth skills. He had spent some time guarding a Siberian gulag (“The prisoners, they run away because they need the sex. We catch them in the town. Always with woman.”). He had been trained to speak an Afghan language and been sent to fight during the Soviet-Afghan war. (“We bribed the different tribes to betray each other. Very easy. They turn on each other for money.”). He knew what had become of the Afghan leader after the Soviet invasion (“Back to Moscow, of course, for torture.”). He had also worked with the IRA for a while.

“Why would the USSR support the IRA?” I asked, baffled by this twist.

“They make trouble for Britain. Britain was enemy of Soviet Union.” He shrugged, as if this were all obvious. “We make trouble for enemy, this is good for us.”

He had then been taught Arabic and sent to make more trouble, this time in the Middle East. This led to his explanation of how he came to America: When Iraq invaded Kuwait circa 1990 and America jumped into the first Gulf War, he had been in the region doing the bidding of Mother Russia. He was still there the following summer when the KGB director launched an ill-fated attempt to overthrow Gorbachev. With heads rolling in the wake of the failed putsch, Isaac decided the collapsing USSR was no place for a KGB man. He stopped blowing up oil refineries and defected to an American military unit, where he either bribed or blackmailed his way to a new life in America.

I listened to these tales, each more fantastical than the one before. I truly could not figure out if I were being played. It was all so far outside my experience. Did people like this really exist outside the movies?

But, you know, he was pretty convincing. For one thing, he told these crazy stories in a deadpan, world-weary voice, not like he was trying to impress. He also looked the part. Not dashing like James Bond, but the opposite: He had a weathered, slightly flabby face that made him appear older than his years. His hands were rough and massive. He really did look like a man who’d been raised on the wind-scoured tundra, had spent his youth chasing gulag prisoners into hookers’ bedrooms, had hunkered down in Hazara huts, and had inhaled the smoke from a hundred burning oil wells in the desert. All while guzzling vodka, I suspected. He was flushed, and had the look of a drinker.

Our odd romance didn’t get too far, because within a couple weeks I was back together with the man I was married to. I hesitated over whether I should tell my husband about Isaac. I was afraid he would be pretty upset – he was that kind of guy – and he would be particularly furious about the man being Russian. My husband hated Russians. The war in Chechnya was news at that time, and my husband – being a Muslim from the Middle East – would watch the updates on the bombing of Grozny and gnash his teeth while muttering in Arabic things that probably weren’t very nice. (He was especially delighted a couple years later when a Russian sub, the Kursk, sank with all hands lost. “That’s God punishing those people,” he snarled.)

But for whatever reason, I decided to come clean and admit I had been seeing someone during our separation. “He’s just a guy I met. He’s Russian, but he said he speaks Arabic, too.” For some reason, I thought Isaac’s purported command of Arabic might make his Russianness more forgivable.

My husband was not terribly pleased.

A few weeks later we were at the airport together. I forget what we were doing there – something to do with a rental car. And so, tra la la, the two of us boarded the airport shuttle.

It wasn’t until we stepped aboard that I realized who our driver was. Of all the shuttles, of all the shuttle drivers, on all the shifts, we had to walk onto his.

It was after sunset, and I tried to turn my face away in hopes of going unrecognized in the dimness. But it was too late – Isaac knew me and greeted me by name. My husband looked to me, awaiting an introduction. He was frowning. I understood he was put off by my being on a first-name basis with a man he didn’t know. Meanwhile, I was just hoping to escape this bizarre situation unscathed.

“This is your husband,” Isaac remarked. And he put out his rough, tundra-blasted, knife-throwing, Muslim-killing hand. My husband shook it. I could read his thoughts: Whoever this man is, however he knows my wife, at least Angeli told him she’s married. He and I took our seats behind Isaac. I almost relaxed – I was going to get out of this without a scene.

And that’s when Isaac, putting the limo in gear, addressed my husband. He spoke in a quiet, but distinctly unfriendly tone.

In Arabic.

Arabic, but with a heavy Russian accent.

And my husband went very, very still.

And all I kept thinking was that, for a person living a fairly prosaic existence in central Ohio, it was really against all odds that I should end up like this: trapped in a shuttle with two foreign lovers looking daggers at each other – one a Russian polyglot with KGB stories, and the other an enraged Arab that I was both dating and fraudulently married to.

I couldn’t tell what movie that moment belonged to – a surrealist nightmare, or a dashing tale of international intrigue, or a bloody story of love and jealousy. I was mostly just hoping it wouldn’t end in murder.

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