We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Whether you’re a member of the D.C.  Council or one of Ward 8’s ANC Commissioners, you have rendered an opinion about the conduct of Councilmember Marion S. Barry, as laid out in the Bennett Report.

Yet one constituency has yet to speak out on the politician’s ethics: Jewelry merchants.

Their voice must be heard in this matter, given the centrality of their wares to the latest Barry flare-up. As City Desk outlined, Barry had given his former girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt gifts—clothes, yes, sundry items, yes. And jewelry!

“Gifts,” in this context, is a kind construction. What the councilmember  actually did was secure $15,000 in contract work for her. Then, after purchasing the items, he made her repay him out of the contract funds. Was this a kickback? Barry claimed to Bennett investigators that those gifts were really just, um, loans.

Kickbacks, loans, repayments, repossessions, whatever—-the gallant men of the jewelry industry are saying that it all runs counter to their core values. “I just think the whole thing is fishy,” says Jonathan Mervis, the digital strategist for Mervis Diamond Importers. “I hate to be quick to judgment, but I don’t think there’s real commitment there.”

Local jewelers say Barry violated all kinds of relationship ethics.  They’ve never heard of anyone giving jewelry, and then claiming it as a loan.

David Boone, vice president of Boone & Sons, explains that when jewelry is exchanged it’s supposed to be a deep, maybe even relationship-saving, moment. “It makes the guy feel good and hopefully the gal feels good or guy-guy or gal-gal whatever the case is. I always tell people, if you take guilt out of the equation, there’s going to be a lot of jewelers out of business. Guilt has something to do with it, but love has more to do with it.”

Boone says that hypothetically Barry’s jewelry-as-loan is a really bad boyfriend move. “That’s a message that you shouldn’t be together,” he says. It’s so bad, he’s not quite buying it.

The loan? Well, Boone says: “That doesn’t make sense.”

Says Mervis: “You’d have to ask why. Why did he not say this from the outset? He has to have a reason. Maybe he lost his job. Maybe there’s a reason why his portfolio went to nothing and he can’t afford it. This girl shouldn’t be quick to jump to conclusions. But she should certainly start asking some questions.”

“It defies the meaning of gift,” Mervis adds. “If you give a gift and you later ask for money then you never gave a gift.”

*file photo by Darrow Montgomery.