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 It is an unfortunate fact that diamonds are switched by jewelers and the exposesí by the news may understate the problem. It is not uncommon in a large city to find at least one jeweler who has been taken to court and is still in business. Your diamond could be switched with a diamond of lesser quality or even a simulant like CZ! I know of one case where a customer left her mother’s diamond to be reset only to be called by the jeweler the next day to tell her it was a Cubic Zirconia.

  Fortunately the knowledge you have after using this kit will make it impossible for any jeweler to switch your diamond. Once you know the features that make your diamond unique and convey your knowledge to the jeweler you will be able to determine that you have your diamond when you pick it up.

  In all businesses there are a few dishonest, greedy operators who can give the industry a bad name and jewelers are no exception. To compound the problem there has been a lack of expertise among consumers which forces them to act with a high degree of trust. Today the problem is getting worse because the shrinking profit margins on diamonds might make an otherwise honest jeweler seek desperate measures to stay in business. Also keep in mind that an employee has often been the culprit, not the business owner.

  To protect yourself there are three steps you must take. The first is to know the unique features of your diamond. If you have purchased a diamond with a laboratory certificate or a detailed description you have these features in writing. A detailed description would include clarity, color and size measurements and note significant inclusions. If you did not get this information at the time of purchase or were given the diamond then you will need to prepare the description using the kit.

  The second step is to make sure that the jeweler properly identifies the properties of your diamond at “the time of take-in” when you leave it with the jeweler in exchange for a work order receipt. I can’t stress how important this process is and how sloppily it is often handled by both the jeweler and the customer. Some jewelers will write down “round white stone” for the description and many customers seem to lose their claim receipt as soon as they walk out the door! You must insist that a full and accurate description of your diamond is in writing on duplicate receipts, one for you, one for the jeweler. We actually use a triplicate set so a copy is separate from the jewelry in the event of a burglary (more on that later). We will note the accurate size of the diamond, an approximate color and clarity, and most importantly at least one characteristic of your diamond which will guarantee positive identification. We do have an advanced system for identification using the DiaView video microscope with which we can look at the features of a customer’s diamond on a television screen. We are able to point out the inclusions in a way that is difficult with a microscope or loupe. In the absence of this technology you should still have the word “diamond” and its physical size and shape noted on the receipt. If there are obvious features such as visible inclusions or unusual cutting features these should be noted as well. Of course if there are many diamonds or other gems in the piece it will be more time consuming to describe but you get the idea. One issue that came up during this writing is that when you leave your jewelry it is often dirty and when you get it back it is “spanking new” clean. That in itself will make it difficult to verify that you’re getting your diamond back. When we take in jewelry, especially a large diamond, we clean it first so that we can note the proper identification criteria. If your time is short, you might want to clean your jewelry first before you leave it for repair. By the same token if a jeweler doesn't clean a diamond prior to examination then their take-in procedure is questionable. The safest bet is to follow step one which will necessitate cleaning anyway.

  The final step is to confirm that you have your diamond back when you pick up the jewelry. No matter how much of a hurry you’re in, take time to look at your jewelry and make sure everything is as it should be. The loupe is handy for this examination. And do try to have your claim check. Most jewelers will ask for this back to confirm that you have picked up the jewelry. If you want to retain a copy you should make a copy for your own records and that’s not a bad idea if there are problems with the work in the future. For the most part all of this is unnecessary; most jewelers are completely honest and switching diamonds is not worth the damage to their reputation but eliminating the risk of losing a treasured heirloom make this effort quite worthwhile. One final reason for the importance of the claim check is that in the unlikely event that your jeweler is robbed and the customer repairs are taken as well, you claim check will be the key to making an insurance claim.

  As I was writing this book I had the opportunity to talk to a fraud investigator and what he told me will underscore the importance of protecting yourself. When a jeweler is accused in a criminal complaint of switching a diamond they will simply say that an error occurred while the jewelry was being worked on. The jeweler will testify that the diamond was switched by mistake because another stone of similar size was on the bench at the same time! While it is true that jewelers will usually work on multiple jobs at the same time only the most incompetent one could return the wrong stone to the job bag. Unfortunately this defense is sufficient to keep the prosecutor from filing formal charges leaving you to sue in civil court, a costly approach few customers will undertake. So the pattern continues.

  Protect yourself by ensuring that your diamond (or any other precious gem) is properly identified. In doing so you will send a message that you are knowledgeable and the jeweler will see the risk of switching your stone. You should also expect that virtually any resetting or re-tipping (prong repair) of a diamond can be performed in one day. Obviously there may be many jobs ahead of yours which means the jeweler will keep your jewelry for some time before they actually work on it. A much more customer oriented approach ( which we use) is to schedule an appointment so that parts can be ordered and the work performed the same day. This doesn't guarantee against switching but it makes it less likely. We like the idea because it cuts down on the value we have to insure and any jeweler who insists on keeping your diamond for more than a few days should be suspect. I’m not trying to create paranoia but if I keep one heirloom diamond from being switched then this chapter will have been worth writing.



EMAIL to diamonds@jewelry1.com



copyright 2000 JC Hunter