Adela (not her real name) waited an hour and a half on a sofa along a hotel corridor while assistants of a foreign jewelry buyer went out to withdraw cash to purchase items from another seller who came before her.
"I was told to be patient since the seller brought a lot of antique jewelry and the people inside [the rented hotel function room] ran out of cash for the purchase of all his items," she said in Filipino.
Adela was an elderly woman who needed fast cash. Dressed in very simple clothes, she could have boarded a bus and nobody would have suspected that she carried a 3.5-carat loose diamond worth hundreds of thousands of pesos in her purse.
Waiting along with her was David (not his real name) who described the contents of his clutch bag as "conjugal jewelry" that he and his wife agreed to sell.
Adela and David were among those enticed by full-page newspaper ads that for the past several weeks appeared in the Inquirer, announcing "gold-buying" events that promised hefty returns for their antique jewelry, scrap gold like gold dental fillings and other unused, unwanted or "unfashionable" jewelry.
The organizers said people could also come in with their items for a free appraisal. This attracted the attention of a third customer, a rather impatient middle-aged woman who wanted to jump the line so her items could be examined.
Adela's turn took less than 10 minutes. She looked satisfied as she left the function room and mumbled her thanks to a young doorman dressed as a dandy who described himself as "a half-Filipino from Cebu."
David then entered, took a little more time and left with a look of relief and excitement on his face.
"Ayos (Done)," he told this reporter as he stepped out of the function room.
H&J Jewellers, the company behind the ads placed in the Inquirer, describes itself as "a leading UK jeweler" that returned to Manila "due to popular demand."