Many of you reading this have either bought or received an engagement ring.

Or you have bought jewelry as gifts for special people. Or you have inherited family heirlooms.

If you have bought jewelry, undoubtedly you have saved receipts that most likely have included the estimated value of the object. This is for all of you, like me, who are amateurs at this game. We know what looks pretty and we know our budgets.

My father took me to buy an engagement ring for Susan, who would be my fiancée and eventually my wife. I have a friend who calls adventures like this “nervous making.” And it was. We went to the jewelers’ building in our city to buy the ring wholesale, not retail. “Do you know what business Tiffany's is in?” my dad asked me.

“Sure,” I said, “they're in the jewelry business.”

“No, they're not,” he said. “They're in the Blue Box business.”

People have been brainwashed by the brilliant branding of Tiffany's. You do overpay for jewelry. But it comes in that Blue Box that we have come to believe represents the pinnacle of quality. But more. It says, if you buy there, then you are special, and so is the person you give the gift to. Packaging and branding is the name of this game; the markups are huge, sometimes in the hundreds of percentages.

Most of the real lessons in life we learn from the mistakes we make, the tough stuff, not the triumphs. A friend of mine, my will and estate lawyer, is quite a good writer. He has compiled a ...

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