Kay Jewelers, one of the largest jewellery chains in the US became the centre of controversy over allegations of switching diamonds in customer’s jewellery. Signet Jewelers Ltd., the owner of the Kay, Zales and Jared jewellery chains, denied they are systematically switching customers’ gems.
The importance of proper take-in procedures
As jewellers, we are often asked to work on our customer’s most cherished and valuable possessions. When we accept a client’s jewellery for repair or appraisal, it creates a bailment relationship, which in short, means that the jeweller is legally responsible for the safety of the customer’s item. Most jewellers block insurance policies cover bailment. Check with your insurer to be certain you are covered. Your insurer may require specific documentation at take-in for the item to be covered. Follow their rules to the letter or you may not be covered.
Stone switching happens in the jewellery industry, but not as often as media and consumers might believe. In many cases, false accusations of stone switching result from a combination of the customer not knowing the details of their stone and a lack of proper take-in procedures at the store.
Stone switching can work the other way around. A customer may come in with ring containing a low-quality stone. Upon picking up their repair, they accuse you of switching their stone with a piece of junk and will produce a lab report for a fine stone to back their claim. They may threaten to go on social media to damage your good name. Without a proper take-in it is your word against theirs…and guess who will win.
Get the picture
Every take-in counter should have a microscope with a camera. You can adapt a camera to a standard gemmological microscope, or there are small, inexpensive digital microscopes that attach to your computer. You want to have the image on a video screen for your customer to see along with you. Point out the identifying characteristics of the stone. To be sure your customer sees the right thing, ask them to describe it to you. They may say an inclusion looks like a crack, or they may see an image of a butterfly. Whatever they say, point it out to them on the screen, repeat their description and write it down on the take-in form. If there is a laser inscription, show it to them and record the number. Capture and print a digital photo of the inclusions or prepare a plotting diagram. Have the customer sign the printed image. Give them a copy as well.
Imaging or plotting the stones covers two important tasks. It provides you with the documentation to protect yourself and gives the customer an opportunity to get to know and recognise their stone. When the customer picks up their item, repeat the procedure. Visually identify the characteristics with the customer, matching it with the photos or plot created at take-in. If everything matches, have the customer sign a release and you are set.
You don’t want to be at the centre of a stone-switching controversy. Proper take-in imagery and documentation will protect your store and reputation.