What Not To Do in Sri Lanka

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People who know me well joke that I am a shopping warrior. I can shop all day everyday. And I really don’t know why I don’t get tired while shopping. And if I do feel down and depressed, retail therapy always comforts me. I absolutely LOVE to shop.

I was in Sri Lanka last month to chaperone Macie to her ITF (International Tennis Federation) Tournament, and sadly, on our second day there, the dreadful bombings happened. ISIS bombed 3 churches and 3 high end hotels killing over 300 people and injuring 500 more. This put Colombo on a complete lock down. Stores, restaurants and most commercial establishments closed and people feared for their safety. Tourists were advised to avoid all public crowded places, like malls, tourist spots, hotels and churches.

Given this situation, I stubbornly didn’t contain my urge to shop, and decided to pop in the jewellery store named Gem Bureau near the tennis court Macie was competing at. Name alone sounds so official no? FYI, Sri Lanka is known for their ceylon blue sapphires and pigeon blood rubies. In fact Kate Middleton’s engagement ring, which actually belonged to Princess Diana previously, had an enormous royal blue ceylon sapphire.

I thought I hit the jackpot. I love playing designer, (just like in our current collab with Joyeria! Shameless plug, sorry!) and got swayed by all the extreme hard sell tactics of the jewellery store staff and purchased sapphires. I also designed and instructed them on how to set the stones in various pieces of jewellery. They also assured me that I will get government issued Gem Corporation and GIS certificated for each stone. I was on such a high because I was actually shopping even though I wasn’t allowed to step foot in a mall!

 

To make the long story short, I got duped. I chose really beautiful quality royal blue and white sapphires, designed earrings, necklace and a ring for the sapphires. They told me I can pick up my jewellery the next day. Which I did. And I noticed that the stones didn’t look as brilliant the day before. I asked them about it, and they said they lose their brilliance after setting. Stupid me, I believed them. They also only issued me their store’s certificates which looked pretty dubious. That was another red flag I ignored. Walked out of their store, blissfully ignorant and happy. Ugh.

The nice white sapphire I chose (left) beside my diamond stud earring.

The next day, I told my tuktuk driver (he drove for us everyday to and from the tennis courts) that I wanted to check another jewellery store, just to see other designs. And he took me to another one. As soon as I walked in the new store, I had a different experience altogether. First, the staff didn’t resort to pushy hard sell tactics. And secondly, they saw my new sapphire jewellery, they asked me about it. I said I purchased it from the store near the tennis court. They asked for a closer look which I willingly obliged. OMG. This is when the horror started. I realised that I was scammed. I paid for high quality sapphires which were eventually switched with low quality ones.

The white sapphire they gave me (left) beside my diamond stud earring.

They asked me if I checked Trip Advisors to read the reviews about the other store. I said no. They said they know that there are lots of negative reviews from people they have scammed. Stupid, stupid me for not checking Trip Advisor! I mean, I am a review checker type of girl! I even have a Top Reviewer ranking on Trip Advisors! How can I NOT check TA?!

Luckily the staff of the second store took pity and told me what to do. They said that I should go to the first store, return the jewellery and demand for a refund. If they don’t agree, go to the tourist police. This I did. I asked for a refund. They didn’t want to give it because of so many reasons. They said they gave me genuine sapphires, but because of my budget, they couldn’t give me the best color, etc. WTF.

The next day, I decided to go to the tourist police. At first, they didn’t want to help me and said I should go to the Gem Corporation instead, a government body that tests and certifies gems bought in Sri Lanka. This disappointed me tremendously. Because I just wanted to return the jewellery and get a refund.

I sat in the corner of the police station planning my next move, when in walks Chief Inspector Prabath Kumara Vidanagama, the head of the Sri Lanka Tourist Police himself. He took notice of me and asked what was my concern. I immediately introduced myself and told him my story. He heard me out and immediately said he will help me get my money back.

He called the Gem Bureau, the first jewellery store, and summoned the man who switched those low quality sapphires. Chief Vidanagama said the police have received a number of complaints already about this group and Gem Bureau jewellery store is already in hot water.

Two hours later, after much delaying tactics, I got my money returned to me. I was so relieved and immensely grateful to Chief Vidanagama, my hero.

My hero, Chief Inspector Probate Kumara Vidanagama

Please learn from my mistakes. Lessons learned:

  1. When shopping for gems, it is best to visit several stores, before spending all your hard earned cash in one store.
  2. Check reviews on Trip Advisors. Sure, some reviews may be fake. But if there is an overwhelming number of bad reviews about a store, they are probably cheats.
  3. Always demand for a Gem Corporation or GIA (Gemological Institure of America) certificate.

    Sample folder of an official Gem Corporation certificate

  4. Sri Lanka values their tourists and will do everything they can to ensure their tourists’ safety. They received my complaint and implemented strong and swift action in resolving my problem.

Sri Lankans are incredibly nice and hospitable people. Aside from those guys over at Gem Bureau, everyone I encountered during our 2 weeks there were warm, friendly and eager to learn about me and where I came from. In addition, they were genuinely concerned about our safety and even apologized that we visited during such terrible times. I pray that the Sri Lankans rebuild and rekindle their tourism industry soon. They are really such lovely people and the whole world can benefit from their rich culture and heritage.

In case you need assistance, here is the link to the Sri Lanka Tourist Police.

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Joyerìa x The Inspiration Seekers

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Joyerìa x The Inspiration Seekers

In honor of Mother’s Day, we’d like to shine the spotlight on the women who inspired this collection-– our mothers. It all started with these incredible women. Our love and appreciation for wonderful well made jewelry came from watching our moms create beautiful pieces, invest in the best quality they could afford, and cherish the pieces that they own.

Ria (second generation jewelry designer and owner of Joyeria Jewellery)

It started with my mom. As a child, I spent my summer vacations tagging along with my mom to the factory. And while other children may have despised the idea of being at “work”, I absolutely loved it. A typical day was just as fascinating as the loose stones that required mama’s attention and imagination. She began each design process by plotting a mock up of the carefully selected gems on blue wax and sketched patterns for the setting. And while each collection was inspired by different elements, they all carried her signature style which was whimsical, romantic and magical. Looking at how I design now, its undeniable that I inherited her aesthetic. But her impact on how I work goes beyond that. As I watched her intently, I witnessed first hand so many unspoken lessons on business, life and building sincere relationships. When I create something bespoke for a client, or deal with foreign gem couriers that also used to supply for her, I often wonder what it would be like if she were still around. I let that thought guide me every single day  to ensure that each Joyeria piece brings JOY to its recipient and honor my mama’s legacy as well.

Char is wearing the Within An Ear Shot Earring set with jacket and the Trifecta Stacking Ring Set.

Charlene

It started with my mom. When I was young, I noticed that my mom veered away from trendy accessories. Instead, she invested in quality pieces with clean styles and beautiful stones. She marked every important (and not so important) occasion in my life with a piece of jewelry. A pair of diamond solitaire earrings and matching pendant when I graduated high school (which I wear everyday to this day), a pair of emerald cut diamond earrings and pendant for when I graduated college, and pieces she personally curated for my birthdays and Christmases.

Thanks to my mom’s foresight, something which she in turn, learned from my grandmother, my mom has accumulated a beautiful and personal collection which she plans to pass unto her children and grandchildren.

On a recent trip to Sri Lanka, the country famous for their sapphires, rubies and other gorgeous gems, several jewelry store staff commented on my diamond solitaire earrings and said, diamonds with this kind of quality and carat are hard to come by nowadays. Whenever I hear this, I always breathe a silent prayer of gratitude that mom invested in exceptional jewelry decades ago. Classics that never go out of style.

Nowadays, I try to pass on the tradition of gifting my daughters with jewelry on special occasions. A gold scapular necklace for their baptism, a gold miraculous medal first holy communion and a pair of diamond earrings for special special milestones. I hope that years from now they look at the pieces fondly and remember the love, care and joy that each piece brings.

Leona is wearing the Trifecta Stacking Ring Set.

Leona

It started with my mom. As a little girl, I loved watching her get ready. She  would begin with a carefully chosen outfit followed by shoes and finally accessories—that was always my favorite part. She would open this tiny cabinet in her closet, bring out her jewelry and select which pieces would best complete her ensemble. Should she go for the gold hoops, or maybe pearls? Should she add a bracelet or a ring perhaps? The many different possible combinations always fascinated me and I would often go through her jewelry box, run my fingers through her collection and just admire them. Now my mom did not have much, but whatever she did own, she loved and wore as much as possible. 30 years later, I find myself repeating history by reaching out for the pieces that mean the most to me. A small collection of jewelry worn daily that have either been given to me by very special people in my life or I have given to myself. I believe that jewelry is an extremely personal thing. While others may own identical pieces, no one will ever wear them quite the same way. Every stack, combination or pairing will be different, and the memories behind them, unique to you.

As friends, fans and customers of Joyeria, we thought it was only fitting to collaborate with Ria on a collection that was inspired by the philosophies passed down to us by our mothers: beauty, timelessness and love. We created pieces that toe the line between modern and classic, heirloom and everyday. We hope you love the collection as much as we do and we hope you enjoy mixing and matching them with your own pieces for a look that’s personal, chic and completely you.

Within An Earshot Earring and Jacket Set
Earring stud 0.06 carats natural brilliant cut diamonds set in 14k yellow gold. Php 14,500.
Earring jacket 0.06 carats natural brilliant cut diamonds set in 14k yellow gold. Php 14,500.
It Takes Two to Tango Pendat set.

0.14 carats brilliant diamond pendant with 40 cm chain set in 14k yellow gold. Php 18,000.


Lucky Number Seven Bracelet.

0.35 carats rose cut diamond 17 cm bracelet set in 14k yellow gold. Php 20,000.
The Trifecta Stacking Ring Set


(top) 0.04 carats brilliant diamond open band ring set in 14k yellow gold Php 15,000.
(middle) 0.06 carats brilliant diamond ring set in 14k yellow gold Php 15,000.
(bottom) 0.05 carats brilliant diamond band set in 14k yellow gold Php 15,000.



Photographed by: Sheila Catilo of The Catilos

Each piece is made to order. For inquiries send us an email at shoptheinspirationseekers@gmail.com.

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My Home Improvement Wish List for 2019 -L

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How is it February already? I swear it was January 5 minutes ago. Gah! The year is going by pretty fast and I have a whole list of home improvement wishes/goals that I’d like to tackle. I figured that if I posted it online, I’d be pressured to move my butt and actually get some of them done. Haha! I mean, all that late night Pinterest sessions need to account for something right?

My absolute favorite place in the world is our home and I am grateful everyday for my happy place and the people living in it. Having said that, my husband and I think that there are still several areas in our house that we need to improve upon. We’ve lived here for 10 years and we’re still not done (Is anyone ever really “done”?). Without further ado (universe! are you listening?! Let’s do this!), and in no particular order, here is my wishlist for 2019:

  1. Update the Dining Room.

Ok, let’s talk dining chairs. We’ve had these 8 chairs for 10 years. They were suppose to be temporary until we found the perfect ones, guess what they’re still here! Haha! This just might be the right time to invest in our forever chairs. We’ve waited long enough and I’ve seen a ton of amazing options out there from awesome local companies!

Another thing I’d like to update is our light fixture. I think we need something slimmer, lighter and more modern.

(more…)

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