Sunday, April 1, 2007

Enhancing the Stone

Jerusalem merchants don't lack for chutzpah.

A bald seller of beaded jewelry complimented me on my necklace, and when I told him I made it he asked where the beads were from.

"The Czech Republic," I said. He nodded in appreciation.

"Come here, I'll show you some beads I have for sale," he invited.

I'm a bit beaded out and didn't come here with the goal of buying even more, but I figured I'd take a look. Maybe I'd see something new?

"What are these?" I asked, pointing to strand of thick rectangular beads, my favorite shape, grayish green in color.

"That's Eilat stone," he explained.

"How much for the strand?" I asked.

"400 Shekels", he said, looking me straight in the eye. I stared back.

"Really," I exhaled, aware that at the price he quoted (about $100), his chutzpah certainly overfloweth, much like a toilet might. I figured I might as well have some fun with this guy. I picked up the strand and began to inspect it. The stones were badly drilled (the holes were not centered) making them unfit for use. Some beads were chipped, revealing a white interior, a sure sign that they were some poor quartz or granite enhanced with dye, paint or a coating to look like something more exotic and expensive. For kicks, I pointed out the poor drilling.

"I'll give you other beads to replace those," he offered.

"Why is the inside white?" I persisted.

"Well, some are dyed, and that's the color of the inside of the stone," he said, without a trace of shame. "How many you want? I give you good price."

I told him I'd come back another time.

"But I give you best price now, before Shabbat."

I wished him a Shabbat Shalom and walked on.

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