Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Knives For The Columbians

My husband Bob wrote this on his knife forum.  It's such a tale, that I thought I'd share it with others.
So here is a story from my Guatemala days, when I first started making knives as a serious venture.

I was the general manager of a Jade jewelry shop in Antigua Guatemala in the early 80's. I set up the shop and taught the people there how to work Jade: carving, polishing, etc.
I started making knives as a hobby since much of the machinery for working Jade was similar to knife making tools. Naturally, some of the knives would have Jade handles since I was surrounded with the stuff in great quantities and a good variety of colors.
Somehow, an electrical contractor in Miami, "John", saw my work, liked it and would order knives, with Jade handles, from time to time.
One day in early 1982, "John" called from Miami and said that a friend of his from Colombia had seen the knives I had made and wanted me to make him a set of three knives, large, medium and small, all with black Jade handles and sterling silver pins, in a fitted case. I said I would do them and quoted a price which I thought was exhorbitant at the time, $3500, (1982 dollars). He agreed and I started on the project
A week later, "John" called back and said, "make two sets, identical".
I worked on those knives for about two months. The Black Jade I had cut from one single stone was the hardest of all the Jade varieties, a type known as Chloromelanite Jadeite. The Maya had prized this material for its toughness and used it to make "celts", an archeological term referring to hatchet shaped tools used for carving limestone on their temples and monuments. A Black Jade, Maya celt can sell today for upwards of $5000.
But I digress.
I called "John" when they were finished and asked if I should ship them to him in Miami as I had done before.
He said no, the Colombians wanted to meet me in person and were sending me a plane ticket so I could hand carry them and join them in Miami when they made their next visit from Bogota, which they apparently did about once a month.
Sooo, on the appointed day, I packed my bags and the two sets of knives and off I went to Miami, where I made quite a splash with the customs agents who all wanted to see the knives and called their buddies over for a looksee. No problem they told me, they just wanted to admire the work. Apparently, one of them recognized my name and hoped I would have some goodies to check out.
I arrived at the motel they had set up for the meet, without incident.
It was a small, very "Miami" motel. Clean, painted pink with fake flamingos on the neat, trimmed lawn. A well dressed gentleman showed me to my little cabin right off the road, asked me to wait there, (in Spanish) and left, leaving the door open.
I got some clean towels, set them on a sideboard and laid the two cases of knives out as a presentation.
After about 15 minutes, a long Limo pulled up to the cabin and out stepped two of the most well dressed, handsome men I had ever seen. Tanned, coiffed, manicured with Armani suits, polished Italian shoes and silk ties, one pink, the other purple. They wore several gold rings, gold cufflinks and I noticed that each had identical Rolex "President" watches: solid gold and ringed with diamonds. They were obviously brothers, possibly twins.
They greeted me warmly, told me how much they admired my work and we spent a few minutes chatting about this and that, all in Spanish, which they said I spoke very well. Their Spanish was very Colombian: clear, unhurried, educated and melodious. It is an old world custom to greet, chitchat and exchange pleasantries before proceeding with business.
At last, they turned to the knives on the sideboard and became almost giddy with joy. They loved the knives, fondled the Jade tenderly and were embarrassingly effusive with their compliments.
After about ten minutes of this, they packed up the knives, thanked me again for my work, hugged me warmly, and left.
Just like that without ever mentioning payment !
By now, I had guessed who I was dealing with and held my peace as they glided into the Limo. After all, a trusted customer had vouched for them.
As they got in the car, the driver stepped out and walked into the room offering me a crumpled, brown paper bag. He said that they were very pleased and that my work had made them happy. He doffed his cap to me, got back in the Limo and off they went.
Inside the bag were rolls of used, $100 bills. $7000 in total, just as agreed.
You could almost smell the Cocaine on those bills, or maybe I imagined it, who knows?
I never saw the Colombians again, nor the knives until one set surfaced in the hands of a dealer/collector/ entrepreneur I had known for years.
I think both sets are in the U.S. now but I am not sure. I believe they were acquired through a Customs/DEA auction but I am not sure of that either.
The one set that I know of is now in the possession of Larry Brahms who was kind enough to send me the attached photos . Maybe, if you ask him nicely, He will show them at the Gathering, coming up.
Hope you enjoyed this little bit of history.
 "Knives for the Columbians" 


Thanks for reading.
Every Day Is A Gift!



  1. I do love stories like this..and can see why it inspired a Treasury!

  2. What an amazing story!! Thanx for sharing...