Seized jewelry auctioned off at CCMV
By ELIZABETH CELMS
Mercer Island Reporter Contributor
January 5, 2010 · Updated 2:03 PM
Precious gems, rings, watches confiscated by IRS, police are sold here
The Mercer Room at the Community Center was filled with $2 million worth of diamond rings, ruby necklaces, antique pendants, Swiss-made gold watches and other bedazzling jewelry on Jan. 3. All of it was seized assets. All of it up for auction.
The special event was put on by Roberto Galleries, a Tacoma-based company that auctions off jewelry seized from police departments, the U.S. Treasury, Internal Revenue Service and narcotic dealers. All of the items are appraised and bought through auction by Roberto Galleries, which then re-auctions the jewelry to the public for a profit. The company is accredited with a Washington state auctioneer license.
Last Sunday, the treasure trove came to Mercer Island. It is the fourth time that Roberto Galleries has held an auction at the CCMV, and although the room — lined with glass cabinets full of gems — was by no means packed, there were several couples and various others ready to bid.
“This is our first time. Curiosity brought us,” said Joyce Vinson, who was visiting from Maple Valley with her husband, Earl. “There are a few things we like, but so far, we haven’t been too lucky. It seems like one person is buying a lot of pieces.”
Indeed, with diamond necklaces starting off at $25,000, it takes an individual with serious cash to settle a bid.
“Our jewelry starts at $1,000 and goes up to $100,000,” said company owner James Bond, who uses this name as a pseudonym “for security reasons.”
Bond’s name isn’t the only security measure that Roberto Galleries takes. The Reporter was not allowed to bring a camera into the auction room, and was escorted out when interviewing bidders.
According to Bond, who has been in the business for 18 years, the heightened security is to ensure customer protection.
“Because we’re selling high-end jewelry, it’s a very risky business. They don’t want names going out,” he said.
At the end of Sunday’s auction, Roberto Galleries auctioned off about 30 pieces jewelry. For “a small Island,” as Bond put it, “that’s pretty good.”
The company advertised the Jan. 3 event to Bellevue and Mercer Island residents.
“It was a pretty good turnout,” the auctioneer said.
According to Bond, the jewelry business does well when the rest of the economy flounders.
“Jewelry is hedged against inflation. With the bad economy, jewelry is an excellent way to go because it’s a tangible good,” he said. “Because of this recession, people are flocking to jewelry.”
Just one more characteristic that makes Bond’s industry unique.
For more information, call Bond at (206) 307-2647.