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Impressive Impostors : Customers Sneaking Up on Fake Jewelry

When a woman wears jewelry by Brian Reichenberg, she usually doesn’t bandy his name about.

“She might tell a couple of friends, but that’s about it,” boasts the former gem salesman, who specializes in fake diamonds, sapphires, rubies and emeralds.

People who want copies of real baubles (their own or someone else’s) have been known to arrive at Reichenberg’s Beverly Boulevard shop disguised in large hats, sunglasses and using pseudonyms, he says.

Other clients summon him on the q.t. to their homes or their bank vaults.

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His specialty, aside from the discretion that led him to call his operation Our Secret, is large diamond look-alikes made of Russian cubic zirconia (CZ). They’re frequently used to take on trips, or for occasions when buying insurance to take the real thing out of the vault doesn’t seem worth it.

Reichenberg was making cubic zirconia jewelry for department stores when the property people at Lorimar studios discovered him several years ago. They were searching for an “important piece” for Miss Ellie to wear on “Dallas,” and he obliged with a 20-carat engagement ring.

Since then, there have been Reichenberg “diamonds” in the movies (“Rocky IV” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” for example) and throughout the soaps, flashing on the hands of Joan Collins, Linda Evans, Victoria Principal and Linda Gray.

Set in platinum, silver or 14-karat gold, his imitations have also been pitted against the experts.

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On a “PM Magazine” segment last year, two prominent Beverly Hills jewelers were shown two rings--one a diamond, one a Reichenberg cubic. The first jeweler said both were real--before he took a closer look with a loop. The second jeweler used a diamond detector to spot the fake.

A team of 30--including stonecutters, goldsmiths and Reichenberg’s wife, who heads the design team--turn out the impostors. Ready-made cubic zirconias are priced from $42 for a pair of drop earrings to $20,000 for an elaborate necklace, bracelet and earrings set. In between are the engagement rings.

“Couples today want something interesting, but they don’t want something that will put them in debt from Day 1,” Reichenberg says. Rather than “borrowing $10,000 from the folks,” they drop into Our Secret, pay anywhere from $600 to $800 for a CZ “and have a knockout ring.”

Normal delivery time for a custom-made piece is 10 days, but something like a copy of a $13-million ruby-and-diamond necklace will take longer. It took, in fact, several months, cost the actress who ordered it $49,000 and was duplicated from a photograph of the original, kindly supplied by her European jeweler.

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One of Reichenberg’s male customers smuggled a photograph out of Cartier in New York to have the ring he wanted copied. Other clients have come in with requests for jewels added to faucets, to belt buckles, to hip flasks.

Even more unusual is the jeweled collar with one matching earring for a pampered poodle--and the prank devised by four crafty friends.

Tired of a fifth friend flaunting the eight-carat, pear-shape diamond her husband had given her, each purchased a CZ from Reichenberg.

“They bought 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-carat rings--all in different shapes--and released them over a three-week period. It was beautifully done. One woman had her over for a visit and said something like, ‘Oh, look what my husband bought me.’ Another woman took her out to brunch.”

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The price for their scheme was $800 to $1,200. Not at all high, calculates Reichenberg, considering “a good cubic will last several thousand years.”


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