For more than 15 years, Mary Ellen Frabizzio showed off her 4-carat pink sapphire ring, a glittering beauty with diamond baguettes and a gold mounting that her husband had presented to her for her birthday in 1999. "I went nuts," she tells the News Journal. "I was jumping up and down for joy. I never expected one that big." Now she says that joy, and that birthday memory, are ruined forever, because it turns out the ring is worth a whopping … $30. She and her husband, Sam, discovered the stone was a lab-grown synthetic stone when Sam sent it out to be appraised for insurance purposes in December. Now they're are suing Carl Doubet Jr. Jewelers, the store in Greenville, NC, where Sam bought the ring, for $40,000: $37,500 to replace the ring and $2,500 for insurance costs paid over the years.
The store's owners, Nola Doubet Hendry and Frank Hendry, contend it was the original appraiser's fault and have offered to replace the gem. In their response to the lawsuit, the Hendrys say the Frabizzio's statute of limitations has run out and that they never offered any warranty for the ring. A cousin of Nola Hendry who's also in the family's longtime gem business adds that it's "extremely difficult to tell the difference between a lab-grown and natural stone" and that the Frabizzios should accept the offer for a new stone. The Frabizzios' answer: Thanks, but no thanks, even though they had been Doubet customers since the '70s. "I was extremely proud of that ring," Mary Ellen laments. "I wore it a lot and got an awful lot of compliments. And all these years, I was wearing that fake. I feel like a fool." (Read more jewelry stories.)