Big Lessons From the Lil Baby Watch Debacle

WatchesSep 21, 2021

Big Lessons From the Lil Baby Watch Debacle

Gabriel Jacobs of Rafaello & Co. shares what he took away from a high-profile mistake.

Rafaello & Co. is known for selling diamond-heavy jewelry and flashy watches to celebrities. But one recent sale of a luxury watch that turned out to be a fake has damaged the jeweler's reputation. (Image courtesy of Rafaello & Co.’s Facebook page)
New York—If you can think of a rap or hip-hop star, it’s likely they’ve worn jewelry from Rafaello & Co.

From Jay-Z and Rick Ross to DJ Khaled and Swizz Beatz, the New York-based company, located in the heart of the Diamond District, is a jeweler to the stars.

However, the company garnered some negative headlines recently when one of its celebrity clientele, Atlanta-based rapper Lil Baby, took to Instagram to call the company out for selling him a fake Patek Philippe watch for $400,000.

After Lil Baby (given name Dominique Armani Jones) shared his new purchase on Instagram, an eagle-eyed watch connoisseur noticed some inconsistencies with the timepiece, posting a side-by-side comparison to show the rapper what a genuine Patek Philippe 40th Anniversary Nautilus should look like.

The watch turned out to indeed be a fake, which led to a public apology from Rafaello and a full refund from the jeweler.

On Monday, National Jeweler spoke to Gabriel Jacobs, the owner of Rafaello & Co, to learn more about what happened.

The fallout from the sale was any jeweler’s worst nightmare, as direct messages poured in on Instagram accusing the company of being a fraud and selling fakes.

Jacobs said he does the processing of watches and jewelry, meaning he inspects them for authenticity himself.

After the sale, he also showed the watch to a few other dealers in the Diamond District and it turned out to be a very good fake, escaping the notice of those with lifetimes of experience. 

“The movement was good,” said Jacobs, while noting that certain pieces were off upon closer inspection.

He takes full responsibility for the mistake and said he intends to have a stricter screening process in place going forward.

“I should’ve had a watch expert on site to do these things,” Jacobs said.

He advised other jewelers selling secondhand goods do the same. They should consult experts to be absolutely sure of a piece’s authenticity so they can avoid the situation he finds himself in now.

The cost to his business’ reputation has been considerable and he said he would’ve never knowingly sold a counterfeit watch.

Lil Baby was a newer customer, said Jacobs, first stopping by in November 2019 to buy a Rolex.

The relationship between the two was off to a strong start, as seen in the above Instagram post from November 2019.

Jacobs loaned the rapper $3 million in jewels for the recent Met Gala, he said, including chains, a cross, a pinky ring, and a bracelet.

The watch in question was purchased via trade-ins, including jewelry and two watches from another jeweler.

The rapper was refunded in full for the fake Patek and was gifted rings valued at $50,000 to $55,000 that were being designed for him already as a token of the jeweler’s apology.

The jeweler posted a public apology on Instagram, but then took it down after friends advised Jacobs, to avoid going back and forth with the rapper, who made comments indicating he was still upset about the incident, publicly.

“He’s a good kid and he has a good head on his shoulders,” said Jacobs of the 26-year-old musician. 

“I want him to accept my apology,” he said, adding that he did his best to do right by his customer once the mistake was realized.

 Related stories will be right here … 
Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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