You know the rule; ‘you break it, you buy it’. But what happens when you break something worth over £30,000? Read on to find out.
The late evening breeze kept the humidity a notch above oppressive in Ruili city which is located in the Chinese Yunnan Province on the Myanmar border.
A slim, middle-aged woman with neck length hair, a blue short-sleeved blouse patterned with light flowers and dark blue trousers was arrested in her tracks as she ambled past a row of vendors, shops and stalls.
The wide-eyed tourist hailed from far away and like any visitor sought out the city’s sights, scenes and wares on offer. This hapless lady was about to pull off the worst ‘you broke it you buy it’ gaffe in living memory.
She peered into a shop and its owner bowed his head and smiled pleasantly in greeting. The vibrant colours of gems, precious stones and metals almost made her eyes pop out of her head in delight. The shop owner’s smile remained fixed as he looked on.
She admired the stock and asked questions here and there. Perhaps because they were closest to hand her gaze settled on the collection of bracelets under the counter.
She asked to take a closer look at one and marvelled at it, a green, glassy, opaque and rounded thing of beauty. ‘It’s one of my prized items, I only wish I could give it to my wife as a gift!’ declared the man on the other side of the counter proudly.
She slipped it onto her wrist, enjoying the cool, glass-like feel of it against her skin. ‘So how much is it?’ The owner took a short breath before he answered.
The bracelet was in fact one made of Jade, a generic term for two different gemstones, nephrite and jadeite. Known to humans for 7000 years, to the Chinese Jade symbolises good health and long life and can be worth more than solid gold.
‘For you madam, the price is 300,000 yen’ (£35,000 in 2020)
She stared back in stunned silence before wrenching the priceless article off.
In her haste to remove it, however, the smooth gemstone slipped from her fumbling fingers. Then, almost in slow motion it seemed, hit the floor and snapped in half.
She gasped, clutching her face and barely registered the jabbering between the shop staff in her disbelief. The shop owner was dismayed. ‘You must pay!’.
The shop staff clamoured around her and picked up the broken jade piece. The poor woman began to tremble, turned a sickly pale, then fainted, overcome by what she had got herself into.
A crowd gathered around the commotion, as crowds tend to do, and one person tried to revive her with a pinch to the upper lip whilst another supported her sagging body. She was taken to hospital to recover.
It was a financial disaster. After she came around, The shop owner offered a reduced price of 180,000 yen to settle the breakage but all she could afford was 10,000 yen — not even close to an acceptable offer for the store owner.
Eventually an agreement was made; independent valuers weighed in and valued the broken bracelet at 190,000 yen which the woman’s family agreed to pay.
That is one wonderful family; one can only assume that come the Chinese New Year family get together the woman was on washing up duty.