inAugust 7, 2012 - 5:42am
The hand is quicker than the Georgian eye. Evidence of deliberate deception on online auction site.
Georgian era, miniature eye paintings set into brooches and rings are some of the most coveted items of sentimental antique jewelry. The clandestine identity of a lover was revealed only to the owner in these tiny depictions of devotion. Genuine Georgian lover's eyes are rare and demand high prices. Fakes are rampant. They get passed between unsuspecting collectors and dealers. The origin of the fakes remains as much of a mystery as the eye portraits themselves.
I came across what appeared to be a genuine example at a reasonable price online. The seller wrote an elaborate narrative of its provenance and described how she was present when her mother purchased it 40 years earlier. Alas, she cannot find the receipt. The seller later added that her cousin called and urged her to check for hair beneath the glass, behind the painting. The seller, with ease, popped it open without hesitation and added a photo revealing its contents. Voila! There is plaited hair, just a the cousin claimed.
Caveat emptor! This Georgian eye should raise a few eyebrows.
The compartments are difficult to open. Most dealers would not open the glass panel for fear that oils from the skin or any moisture could destroy the fragile artwork. It was alarming how easily the seller removed the contents. On closer examination, the painting (or print) does not fit properly within its frame and the image is oddly cropped.
While reading the seller's feedback, I noticed a brooch she purchased two weeks earlier. A Georgian veil brooch with hair, identical to the one she sold (minus the painting.) It had matching irregular shaped pearls, the same plaited hair and identical numbers scratched on the back. Coincidence? I wrote the UK seller who sold the veil brooch and she agreed the Georgian eye piece was indeed her veil pin but altered. She has allowed the use of her photos.
I contacted eBay and reported the counterfeit with the reference numbers. I spoke to two different departments and reported the fraudulent item in hopes that they would remove the listing and investigate. The auction ended with no bidders, was relisted and sold with a "buy it now."
No intervention from eBay. They seemed to have turned a "blind eye" to the deceit. The evidence was right there on eBay's own webpages and under the feedback of the dishonest seller. Ebay does not seem to actively police their site. They have claimed they are merely a meeting ground for buyers and sellers. Should the site be responsible for removing fraudulent items once they are reported and substantiated? It is one thing for someone to sell a fake unknowingly, another thing when it is intentional.
I felt compelled to inform the buyer. She was heartbroken that her newly acquired treasure was a fake and even more disappointed to discover such a manipulative seller. The buyer has allowed the item to be photographed in the hopes of educating others. When she confronted the seller with the information, it resulted in multiple emails from the seller desperately begging for the item back. The buyer is keeping the brooch to prevent it from being resold.
Should the online host, Ebay, be held accountable? Don’t count on it. Despite buyer protection policies, many buyers are victims of unscrupulous sellers. The fraudulent seller described here is “top rated with 100% feedback. The perfect cover to present fakes as genuine when unsuspecting buyers place trust in Ebay’s flawed rating system. Veteran dealers and novice collectors alike are cautioned to examine photos and descriptions closely. Sellers are not always accurate or even truthful.
As one of the Marx brothers said: "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes."
Written by K. Cassidy
Antique Jewelry Expo on Ruby Lane