Collector Shelley Rubin Says She Was Duped Into Buying $18 Million Worth of Fake Jewels

The co-founder of the Rubin Museum of Art isn't happy with her purchases.

Shelley Rubin in 2012. Photo by Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Norman Mailer Center.

Prominent New York philanthropist and collector Shelley Rubin, who, with her husband Donald, is co-founder of the Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea, has filed suit against a couple who she says conned her into buying fake Indian jewelry.

The suit, which was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, claims that Nisha Sabharwal represented herself as coming from India’s upper class and that she had connections with members of the Indian social and political elite. Shelley Rubin says Sabharwal pushed her to assemble a “museum quality” collection of jewelry by concocting a story about how one of her friends from a historically prominent family in India needed to raise cash by selling some of her rare and precious jewels.

According to the Daily News, Rubin’s complaint alleges that Nisha and Mohit, “slowly weaved a web of deceit that included fantastic tales of a cash-strapped Indian princess and access to rare antiquities and baubles.” The couple initially befriended Shelley Rubin at an Asia Society event in 2009.

Rubin, who was reportedly “intrigued,” by the tale, proceeded to go on a five-year, $18-million spending spree. In all, she acquired “more than 80 bogus baubles,” says the Daily News.

The suit acknowledges that while Rubin is a savvy art collector—the Rubin Museum is known for its world-class collection of Himalayan and Southeast Asian art—she does not have expertise in jewelry.

This past June, after a Netherlands-based jewelry expert examined some of the pieces, Rubin was advised that they were modern works made to look older and that their value was “a mere fraction” of their purchase price. For instance, a necklace Rubin paid $230,000 for—supposedly made of rare diamonds and emeralds—was appraised at $5,750, the Daily News reports.

artnet News reached out to a spokesman for Rubin, but did not receive an immediate response. The Sabharwals could not be reached for comment.


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