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Knock It Off!

Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set

Previously in THIS POST HERE entitled Achieving a Perfect Grade where I reviewed the Perfect Grade Necklace Set featuring a sterling silver replica of Squall Leonhart’s Griever necklace and a scaled down replica of his Revolver gunblade on a keychain, I mentioned that I used to work with fine and bridge jewelry.

So… yeah.

Once upon a time, I used to work with fine and bridge jewelry (including fine watches) where I was constantly exposed to high end sterling silver and other jewelry crafted from fine metals along with fine watches. In addition to selling jewelry I also inadvertently became something of a jewelry appraiser and jewelry consultant as customers would frequently bring in their (older) jewelry with questions on authenticity and repairability.

In the industry – just like in the collectibles field – there are guidelines to follow when determining a piece of jewelry’s authenticity and quality and after all those years… I think I can say that I know a thing or three about both authenticity and quality.

With that said…

I’m going to just be straight up about it.

It REALLY pisses me off to see all those knockoffs of the official Griever necklace replica passing off as the ‘official’ real deal.

Why?

Because fans are regularly getting jipped out of their money for knockoffs that they believe are the genuine article because the sellers are selling them and marketing them as the real thing.

Even worse, the knockoffs aren’t even good quality, but… do the fans know?

For a lot of them, NO. In fact, a lot of them – many of whom I have encountered in the past – have no clue that they not only own a knockoff but a low-quality knockoff to boot…

Which brings me to this next bit:

Here’s a quick down and dirty rundown on how to identify a knockoff:

  • IF THE METAL IS STERLING SILVER it will be heavier than all other conventional knockoff materials and will bear the mandatory .925 stamp somewhere that indicates its status as genuine sterling silver
  • THE CHAIN IS CHEAP in looks and feel and isn’t smooth, highly polished, heavy, and thick
  • THE PENDANT LOOP FOR THE CHAIN to hook on looks like an upside down U
  • THE STAMP ON THE BACK SIDE, if it has one, IS MISSING PARTS of the official inscription (most notably, the © SQUARE engraving)
  • THE PRICE IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE because the original non-sterling version was definitely worth more than $25.00 and the genuine sterling silver is worth WAY more than $25.00.
  • IT IS A RE-RELEASE because Square only ever released that particular version in a single run and that’s IT.

If you ever wondered at the quality difference between a knockoff of the Griever pendant and the real thing, I would have to say that you have NO frickin’ IDEA just what a HUGE difference there is.

Even in comparison to the sterling silver knockoff (YES, it most certainly IS a knockoff as it does not have the official stamp on the back like mine does and Square stopped manufacturing that particular official replica ages ago) being sold at myimportstore.org which advertises it as:

Final Fantasy Sterling Silver Jewelry, FF8 Squall’s Necklace (Pure Silver), Final Fantasy 8 Jewelry: A limited edition of Final Fantasy 8 Squall’s Griever Necklace (925 Silver)

This is a specially custom made Final Fantasy 8 Squall’s Griever Necklace, made from genuine pure silver (pendant).

The chain is approximately 25″ long, and is made from stainless steel.

This item is extremely rare and built to last, and it’s a great collector’s item.

It is also ideal who people who are sensitive to other metals.

the real article – the genuine thing, the Real McCoy, whatever you want to call it – EASILY outclasses it.

How?

Continue reading

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Achieving a Perfect Grade

Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set

So after reviewing my two most recent fan-related acquisitions to which I lost my wallet to, I found myself a bit nostalgic for my gaming past. Since my last two reviews involved the Final Fantasy franchise (FFVII to be exact), I figured it would suit to reminisce a bit on another Final Fantasy-themed item I lost my wallet to several several years ago.

Shortly after Final Fantasy VIII for the PlayStation and PC was released in the States, Square aka Squaresoft (as the company was known at the time) released a limited run of jewelry pieces that were replicas of the various pieces of jewelry that the characters wore in the game.

Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set

In particular:

For the character Squall Leonhart, there was a full-sized replica of his Griever necklace. Along with it was a miniaturized replica of Revolver – his gunblade – on a keychain.

For the character Rinoa Heartilly, there was a full-sized replica of the silver Griever ring that Squall had given to her in the game strung on a silver ball chain.

Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set

During the limited time run of these jewelry pieces, there was also a limited edition run of 10,000 pieces of what is called the “Perfect Grade Necklace Set” that bundled up a .925 sterling silver Griever necklace along with the Revolver keychain and two trading cards all packaged together in a black jewelry display box.

As I had enjoyed the game immensely (it was my second ‘real’ exposure to Final Fantasy – second after FFVII), I made the decision to splurge on the Perfect Grade boxed set when I saw them first appearing on eBay. Being that I was (and still am) something of a fiend when it came to heavy, high quality sterling silver jewelry back in the day, it was a no-brainer for me to choose the sterling silver version over the non-sterling version.

I shopped around a bit and after I made my decision on which seller to buy from, I approached them and asked if they would consider putting up a Buy It Now auction for the price that their last Perfect Grade set had sold for. After some emailing, the seller decided to let me directly purchase the set from his website and within two days, I had the (very heavy!) boxed set in my hands.

Of course, I opened the box and… well, how about I let you see for yourself?

Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set Squall Leonhart - Sterling Silver Perfect Grade Necklace Set

Fast forward ten years and I still have to marvel at the craftsmanship and quality of everything – especially the Griever replica.

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PRODUCT – 5+/5
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With a handsomely detailed sterling silver scaled-to-size pendant buffed to a super shine and super smooth finish paired with a super heavy and super thick matching chain, the Griever replica is more than on par with other fine sterling jewelry in terms of both aesthetics and quality.

The same intricacy and attention to detail is reproduced in the Revolver replica, though at this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise given the exactness of the Griever replica.

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PACKAGING: 4.5/5
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Lastly, the box itself is a great finishing touch as it serves as both a protective storage case and a protective display case for the necklace and keychain set (plus two official trading cards). With its velvety black inner jewelry card and satin-y white lid/door liners, the box’s quality and aesthetics is on par with the jewelry boxes that expensive fine jewelry gets packaged in.

The only thing that I don’t like about the box is its locking mechanism as it uses a snap-button to hold the two ‘doors’ closed. Perhaps a more solid locking mechanism could have been implemented as the snap-button implementation eventually broke on me. Considering how it has all the amenities and qualities of a classy jewelry box, why not use the snap-hinge mechanism that most jewelry boxes use?

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OVERALL – 5/5
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All in all, the Perfect Grade Necklace Set featuring an official sterling silver replica of Squall Leonhart’s Griever necklace and a mini replica of the Revolver gunblade was more than well worth the money I spent in terms of quality and value and the overall quality and craftsmanship has held extremely well over the last ten years.

Snap-button issue aside, the only noticeable change in quality has been with some of the coloration of the Revolver replica which, quite frankly, I expected owing to its metal composition. The Griever pendant on the other hand has stood up to ten years of wear and I haven’t had to do anything to it besides give it a nice polish with a silver polishing cloth to keep it looking like new. The only thing that has changed is that the thick O ring connecting the pendant to the chain has discolored a bit over the years, but that was/is to be expected owing to the metals used.

As an aside:

It might seem that I am making an excuse for the discoloration, but in fact, my statement has truth to it which professional jewelers and other metalworkers will attest to.

The fact of the matter is, as the pendant and chain are exceptionally heavy, the ring connecting the two MUST be strong enough to withstand the gravitational pull of both the pendant and the chain.

Sterling silver can NOT be used in such a case as sterling silver is considered to be a fairly a malleable metal even in its solid form and when used as an O ring or any other connector ring, will not be able to withstand a certain threshold of pressure without either stretching or breaking.

As its threshold is less than that of other more durable but perhaps less valuable metals, O rings and connector rings made of other metals are often used in conjunction with sterling silver pieces.

A different metal being used for the O ring, therefore, is not surprising to me and is even expected and so the resulting discoloration is also expected.

Considering I used to sell fine and bridge (sterling silver and simpler gold pieces, for those of you who have never heard the term) jewelry back in the day, I think I can say in good faith that I have a solid eye for these sorts of things – that I am able to say with confidence that I know quality and craftsmanship in jewelry when I see it…

Which brings me to my next post HERE entitled Knock It Off!

Over and out,
Aith

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Scents of Final Fantasy VII – in Pictures

I actually ended up taking a lot more product pictures of the Sephiroth and Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette sets and since I’m feeling indulgent tonight, I thought that I might share the rest of the pictures.

Without further ado… the Scents of Final Fantasy VIIin Pictures:

Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud

Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud

Scents of Final Fantasy VII - featuring Sephiroth and Cloud

Hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them!

Over and out,
Aith

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Scent of Cloud Strife – in Review

In a previous post, I mentioned that I lost my wallet to a collector’s item called Sephiroth Eau de Toilette – an Eau de Toilette perfume scent themed after Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII.

Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette

Well, after considering how much I enjoyed the product (you can catch the full review HERE), I ended up losing my wallet to the complementary Cloud Strife version appropriately labeled as Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette.

Given the history between Sephiroth and Cloud, it didn’t seem quite right to have Sephiroth’s version of the scent and not Cloud’s. Furthermore, given how pleased I was with the Sephiroth-themed scent, I didn’t suppose that the Cloud Strife-themed scent would disappoint… and lucky me, it didn’t!

However, my final vote for product preference is still cast for the Sephiroth-themed scent and here’s the review that tells why.

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Packaging – 4.5/5
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OUTSIDE:

Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette

Like the Sephiroth Eau de Toilette, the Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette came packaged in a black box made of very stiff cardboard and embossed on the full-sized lid simply in silver lettering: Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette, and embossed in smaller lettering: e50mL 1.7FL.OZ.

Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette

Unlike the Sephiroth version, however, there is no protective plastic slipcover to hold/bind around the entire package. Instead, in place of the slipcover is a ring of stiff black cardboard that functions to hold the box together.

Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette

Finally, the UPC sticker/label that was stuck to the plastic slipcover on the Sephiroth version is stuck directly on the box itself on the back side. Owing to the crispness of the sticker and the exactness of placement on the box, I am quite certain that this is a manufacturing result and not the result of someone tampering with the product.

Overall, the packaging – like the Sephiroth version – is sturdy, simple, elegant, and tastefully labeled. As a collector, I really appreciated having the UPC label stuck to the slipcover so having the UPC stuck straight on the back of the box is a minor disappointment. That aside, the outside packaging quality is excellent and on par with the Sephiroth Eau de Toilette.

If I had never encountered the Sephiroth Eau de Toilette, I might not feel so picky about the missing plastic slipcover and the issue with the UPC label, but since I already have the Sephiroth version to compare against, I feel compelled to give the rating a little nick. If you’re wondering where the 4.5 came from, this is why.

INSIDE:

Alike the Sephiroth Eau de Toilette, opening the box and looking into the full-sized (meaning, the lid extends to the bottom of the box and not just partway) box lid shows a thick memory-like foam padding.

Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette

Inside the actual box, the bottle of Eau de Toilette is nestled in a very snug and secure compartment made of the same thick black foam, but in layers to ensure adequate padding on all sides.

Overall, the inner packaging is not only tastefully done, but also gives me a peace of mind in knowing that if I keep the bottle in storage that I will not need to worry about possible breakage.

The thick foam padding is as sumptuous as it is practical and like the outer packaging, it speaks volumes. Not only is this product a collectible, but it is something to be cared for and has been given its own ‘amenities’.

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PRODUCT – 4.5/5
==========

BOTTLE:

Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette

As expected, the bottle makes an elegant statement with its rectangular length of thick clear glass and silver embossed lettering that matches the lettering style found on the black box.

In addition to the labeling that is duplicated on the black box – the Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette message – the bottle is also embossed on the front with part of a silver cloudy wolf design and the whole effect is completed with a miniature cloudy wolf dangle charm that comes wrapped in tissue paper to prevent scratches.

Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette

Overall, the bottle is nothing particularly fancy but it matches the theme set by its packaging. It is tastefully elegant and packs a visual punch whether displayed on its own or displayed in its box.

As a bonus, it looks awesome paired with the Sephiroth Eau de Toilette as one is clear and the other is black and both keep the same general bottle shape and are embossed with silver. Definitely complementary.

SCENT:

After my positive experience with the Sephiroth-themed scent, I was a lot more willing to give the Cloud Strife-themed scent a try.

I had been previously worried about the flowery second layer overpowering the first and final layers in the Sephiroth version and then later realized that I had no need to be concerned. With the Cloud-themed scent, I shared the same concern as the layering for the scents is similar and where the actual scent is reassuringly non-overwhelmingly flowery, it definitely has a different feel to it.

The ‘fruit’ in the scent comes first and it appears like a burst of sweetness from fresh fruit being cut in half. Where the fruity layer shares similarities with Sephiroth’s scent, the citrus tones are less present and in its place, the melon, peach, and apricot are stronger which gives the scent a richer feel.

What follows next in the way of a morning glory twining its way up a trellis is the second floral layer. The second floral layer also shares similarities with Sephiroth’s scent, but where the floral qualities were more muted in the Sephiroth version, the floral comes out stronger – enhanced by the sweetness of the previous fruity layer.

With the floral scent being sharper and more pronounced, when the third and final layer appears, introducing the last earthy notes (particularly, amber, musk, and oak moss) into the mix, the final result is an overall richer, spicier, and earthier scent compared to the Sephiroth-themed version.

Like with the Sephiroth Eau de Toilette, just a little is all that’s needed to give a full impression and a sparing bit goes a long way as a single spritz in the early afternoon lasted me all the way until I headed for bed.

Overall, where the scent combination harmonizes well, for someone like me who prefers something lighter and crisper with subtler spicy and earthy notes for the final touch, I would choose the Sephiroth Eau de Toilette for my scent as opposed to this Cloud Strife version.

The scent, like the Sephiroth-themed scent, is unisex, and the deeper floral and earthy notes lends itself as a potential favorite for those who favor the strength of such scents. If my nose knows what it is smelling, I would suggest that for the men who like the muskier Armani scents and for the women who like the richer Lancome scents, the Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette would suit particularly well.

In the end, it is a richer scent that can make a bold statement and since the scent is best (especially since it is stronger than the Sephiroth Eau de Toilette) applied lightly, the 50mL bottle will go a long long way. The potential boldness of the scent cannot be overlooked, so my advice would be to be especially mindful in regards to application.

Finally, as I consider the scent to be a bit too rich – a bit too floral and a bit too much amber and oak – and find it a bit too easy to over-apply (and I am very conservative in application to begin with) I nicked a bit off from the overall product rating.

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Overall – 4.5/5
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From packaging to perfume, Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette is both an excellent collector’s item and a (not-so-surprisingly) sound competitor against other branded scents.

Encouraged by my earlier Sephiroth Eau de Toilette purchase, I purchased this item as a complementary piece to match and counter the Sephiroth-themed scent.

Since the Sephiroth Eau de Toilette had given me such a positive impression, I was quite confident in the potential quality of this purchase and I am very pleased to say that the product does not disappoint and where I did nick a bit off of my ratings, much – if not all – of it is a matter of personal taste rather than actual fault in the product.

Cloud Strife Eau de Toilette delivered on all accounts and then some more; the product is – in construction, looks, and utility – quite a handsome collector’s piece and I am extremely pleased that I have one in my collection.

Over and out,
Aith

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Scent of Sephiroth – in Review

In a previous post, I mentioned that I lost my wallet to a collector’s item called Sephiroth Eau de Toilette – an Eau de Toilette perfume scent themed after Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII.

Much to my pleasure, I received the product in my mailbox today and since I promised a review, here it is!

Since it’s a rather handsomely-crafted product, I will try and get some good pictures soon to help illustrate the features I will be describing in my review.

EDIT: Images have been added as of October 26, 2010!

Sephiroth-themed Eau de Toilette I’m not much of a collector, but after owning one of the 10,000 Perfect Grade Necklace boxed sets (featuring a replica of Squall Leonhart’s Griever necklace) that were released way back when to commemorate Final Fantasy VIII, I had high hopes for this product and it did not disappoint.

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Packaging – 5/5
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OUTSIDE:

Sephiroth Eau de Toilette

The product came packaged in a black box made of very stiff cardboard and embossed on the full-sized lid simply in silver lettering: Sephiroth Eau de Toilette, and embossed in smaller lettering: e50mL 1.7FL.OZ.

Sephiroth Eau de Toilette

To help protect this box packaging was a slipcover made of a sheet of plastic which is stuck with a sticker on the back side with the UPC code and product information printed on it.

Overall, the packaging is sturdy, simple, elegant, and tastefully labeled. I particularly appreciate the fact that the UPC sticker is stuck to the plastic slipcover instead of the box itself and I appreciate even more that the box comes with a slipcover in the first place.

These little details speak volumes to me about how Square Enix is marketing this product and in packaging alone, the message is clear: I am a collectible!

INSIDE:

Sephiroth Eau de Toilette

Opening the box and looking into the full-sized (meaning, the lid extends to the bottom of the box and not just partway) box lid shows a thick memory-like foam padding.

Inside the actual box, the bottle of Eau de Toilette is nestled in a very snug and secure compartment made of the same thick black foam, but in layers to ensure adequate padding on all sides.

Overall, the inner packaging is not only tastefully done, but also gives me a peace of mind in knowing that if I keep the bottle in storage that I will not need to worry about possible breakage.

The thick foam padding is as sumptuous as it is practical and like the outer packaging, it speaks volumes. Not only is this product a collectible, but it is something to be cared for and has been given its own ‘amenities’.

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PRODUCT – 5/5
==========

BOTTLE:

Sephiroth Eau de Toilette

The bottle makes an elegant statement with its rectangular length of thick black glass and silver embossed lettering that matches the lettering style found on the black box.

Sephiroth Eau de Toilette

In addition to the labeling that is duplicated on the black box – the Sephiroth Eau de Toilette message – the bottle is also embossed with a simple silver wing design and the whole effect is completed with a dangle charm that comes wrapped in tissue paper to prevent scratches.

Sephiroth Eau de Toilette

Sephiroth Eau de Toilette

Overall, the bottle is nothing particularly fancy but it matches the theme set by its packaging. It is tastefully elegant and packs a visual punch whether displayed on its own or displayed in its box.

SCENT:

So admittedly, I had misgivings about the scent of this perfume and I am more than happy to report that I was wrong to have my misgivings.

I’m not much of a scent sort of person – hell, I’m allergic to most scents – and the fruitiness of the top layer and the possible strength of the second layer concerned me.

But the perfume in question IS an Eau de Toilette which only has 1/6 of the concentration that Perfume Perfume has (Eau de Toilette and Eau de Cologne are all considered perfumes, did you know that?) and true to the name of ‘Eau de Toilette’, Sephiroth Eau de Toilette is a match.

The ‘fruitiness’ comes first and as quick as it appears like a fresh whiff of citrus and tropical fruit from the piercing of a peel, it dissipates in a whisper of lingering scent that is followed by a faint ‘sweet fullness’ of flowering blossoms. The final scent follows right on the heel and the scent transitions from ‘sweet’ to something more earthy, bold, and exotic that only Cedarwood, Sandalwood, and Musk can offer.

The scent that is left is something a touch tangy, a bit spicy, a sense of warmth, and a notion of something exotic.

The end result – provided that one is sparing when dispensing the scent – is a flash of a little something extra and a little something special that will leave a swift but gentle impression that will last until the fullness of the scent has evaporated. For myself, the scent was first spritzed on around two in the afternoon and lasted all the way until I headed for bed which was past midnight.

Overall, where the initial ‘fruitiness’ does not ‘match’ what I envision Sephiroth to be like, it refreshingly opens the senses to the real scent within which unfolds into something of an enigma and THAT – the real scent within – is something that I feel matches Sephiroth better.

Don’t let the fruitiness fool you; the scent is unisex, but the final lingering traces have rich, deep, earthy tones with a hint of spice and warmth that will match any well-orchestrated cologne.

In the end, it’s a sleek scent that makes a statement without being overkill and since the scent is best (in my opinion) applied lightly, the 50mL bottle will go a long long way.

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Overall – 5/5
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From slipcover to scent, Sephiroth Eau de Toilette is both an excellent collector’s item and a (surprisingly) sound competitor against other branded scents.

I originally purchased this item as a moment of frivolity and as a way to commemorate the years that I have been a Final Fantasy VII (and Sephiroth) fan.

Where I was secretly hoping for something as collector’s worthy as the Perfect Grade Necklace boxed set that commemorated FFVIII, I wasn’t willing to keep my hopes too high.

Sephiroth Eau de Toilette delivered on all accounts and then some more; the product is – in construction, looks, and utility – quite a handsome collector’s piece and I am extremely pleased that I have one in my collection.

Over and out,
Aith

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