Wednesday, 24 August 2011

department of metaphor - schrodinger's ruby

I feel sure I have done this before, but I can't find it, and you may remember the story anyway, but it is just too good for me not to make sure.

In 2009, a company called Wrekin Construction started to disintegrate. The only reason it was technically solvent was that it's balance sheet included The Star of Zanzibar, a ruby which had never been near Zanzibar and which it bought in 2007 for £11m from another company called Tamar, who were coincidentally shareholders in Wrekin.

When Wrekin went into receivership and 400 people lost their jobs, the asset needed selling. But no one could find it. And was it worth what Wrekin said? Wrekin said it was. They said, a note, that 'The fair value of the ruby gemstone was determined by a professional valuer at the Instituto Gemmologico Italiano, based in Valenza, Italy on 31 August 2007'.

On the other hand, Loridana Prosperi, one of the Istituto's gemmologists,* said, 'That is impossible because we were on holiday on Aug 31, 2007.' Also, incidentally, the most expensive ruby ever sold for £2.6m in 2006. Of course, this was a scam, and it was dreamed up by a guy called Michael Hart-Jones who has previously tried to sell bogus AIDS cures. It's probably worth £300,000. He says he bought the stone for $13,000, lent it to a friend who never gave it back, and a lot of other liar's hogwash.

Fun, in a gruesome sort of way, but the bit that I think is great is that until someone looked at the asset for six seconds, it shored up a clearly failing business. It could hardly be more symbolical of the financial crisis.

* Great name, great job.

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