Beware Of Jewellery Fraud

Beware Of Jewellery Fraud

In late 2019, the British Hallmarking Council said it was worried that buyers were being scammed following a ten-day internet sweep unearthed the fact that 36% of gold jewellery listings were not advertised as hallmarked. Keeping up with the diverse jewels and jewellery being increasingly available, there are more opportunities than ever to pass off the fake as real. With the growing market, new methods of production also give motivated scammers the chance to come up with jewellery fraud. 

Jewellery fraud: view from the top 

Naturally, if the jewellery sold online can be demonstrated to be less than hallmarked, it qualifies as a fake. The sellers are therefore engaging in jewellery fraud. In plain English, it is illegal to sell anything in the UK made from gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, above specific weight sans hallmark, which attests to the genuineness of the material. Per the aforementioned study, close to 150,000 fake gold jewellery items could be listed for sale annually. It is true that the UK Hallmarking Act of 1973 was put in place to shield consumers and retail jewellers from fakes. However, the relevant law’s application to online trading activity has yet to be tested. 

There has been insufficient initiative coming from the online merchants’ side to ensure consumer rights or quality standards. The authors of the aforementioned study said they managed to highlight just a mere fraction of the infringements made by online jewellery sellers in the country today. They tell us that it is with the local Trading Standards departments that the enforcement duty currently rests. An effective factor could be the whittling down of their resources by a staggering 50% in the preceding five years. The authors believe more powers should be afforded to the departments to discharge their duties better.  

Per sources in the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office, the latter joined the British Hallmarking Council in representing to the UK government the need of the latter to work with such organisations (drawing in other Assay Offices) to evolve a vibrant enforcement strategy that shields consumers from internet-based, dishonest trading practices. 

The foregoing proposed measures would be complete if they included a review of the current Hallmarking Act to examine the potential of its extension into internet trade. 

The Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office (with the British Hallmarking Council) is also asking the government to work with eBay and Amazon to increase hallmarking information on precious metals listings, boosting consumer and seller awareness about the law and hallmarking. 

Advisedly, consumers ought always to ask if a product is hallmarked prior to making their purchase. If they do not, they are only giving jewellery fraud a chance. 

Citizens Advice is the go-to agency for general queries regarding hallmarking and dispute resolution. There are actually a good number of agencies to turn to if you are afflicted by fraud. Action Fraud immediately comes to mind. However, forewarned is forearmed. 

Jewellery Fraud: spotting fake diamonds 

Puzzle of the day. Grandmother’s ruby engagement ring, a Boucheron bracelet with name engraved, a Swarovski pendant. Which of the three would you reckon to be a fake? 

Regardless of the assumptions, you may have regarding the sort of jewellery that can be faked or forged, the truth remains that, sans the grading report, there’s no proof of authenticity. 

Jewellery Fraud: the counterfeit gems & jewelry industry 

You would be extremely surprised to learn that, for centuries, the counterfeit gems & jewellery industry has been employing ingenious methods to mimic the appearance of precious metals and authentic stones and replicating high-end brands to jack up goods’ prices. 

Something that purports to be what it is not is a fake. Conversely, a forgery is a wilful alteration of a bona fide item with full intent to defraud. In other words, a purported ‘Art Deco’ is a fake. Also, a piece of Cartier signed Art Deco jewellery crafted by a back street workshop is a forgery. 

Consumers aggravate the tendency toward jewellery fraud. They become a part of the problem when they only engage in ‘wishful thinking. Looking for bargains, they set out to find great deals. However, a genuine artefact, a real work of art, an authentic jewel, or a piece of jewellery can compromise neither its high standard quality nor its price. Jewellery is not bought ‘for a song’.  

Jewellery fraud: a short course in counterfeiting 

Across centuries dealers and merchants have benefitted from selling jewels apparently worth a small fortune. However, these are, in reality, merely worthless replicas. Back in the eighteenth century, colourless rock crystals were foiled behind the setting, then sold as sapphires and rubies. In the 1920s, artificial coloured gems were regularly set beside diamonds – a practice that can take the mickey out of even today’s seasoned jewellers. 

It is too easy to engrave a prestigious name like ‘Faberge’ or Boucheron’ on the setting of a totally fake modern replica, transmogrifying the crudity into elegance. So the bespoke jewel retailing for thousands is, in fact, an ersatz product – an unmitigated dud.  

Jewellery fraud: practical counterfeiting today

The problem is not restricted to high value, possibly high ticket items. Small nine-carat gold rings and earrings may effortlessly be set with close to worthless moissanite or cubic zirconia – extremely hard to tell apart from real diamonds, particularly when small or set in recessed channels. There’s also the problem of sapphires and rubies that are routinely heated, filled with glass, and undergoing treatment to enhance their appearance. Most modern emeralds are impregnated with oils and resins, permitting a plain stone to appear far more appealing and hence, more valuable. 

Jewellery fraud: relief and caveat in the high-end market 

You would be relieved to know that forgeries and fakes are much less pervasive in the high-end market. It would be too taxing on scammers to copy the materials used in high-end production. Conversely, it is the middling and lower end markets that have the scammers’ unmitigated attention. 

Importantly, there’s a high degree of incidence of jewellery fraud in antique jewellery. Old jewellery is camouflaged and passed off for what it is not.  

Jewellery fraud: does the buyer beware? 

Forewarned is forearmed. 

Caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware because vigilance is freedom from fear and fraud. 

  • The paper trail 
    Do not ever overlook asking for a receipt that gives a comprehensive, unequivocal description of your purchase. In case the item is antique or second hand, do not leave the showroom without the supplier giving you his appraisal of the date of manufacture. Replacements and modifications within a piece of jewellery may bring down its value. So make a clear note of alterations at the outset. 
  • Gem reports and certificates 
    Established shops, auction houses, and dealers frequently sell coloured gems, diamonds, and natural pearls with independent gem reports. These reports state vital specifications such as the colour weight and clarity of the said stone. In case a gem is not described by a gem report, you can assume it is likely treated. You have to bear in mind that a sapphire or diamond cannot be separated from its paperwork. Therefore, an independent grading report behind a decent gem/jewel is the surest guarantee of a legit deal completed. 
  • Purchase a decent 10x lens 
    For jewellery aficionados, a decent 10x lens is the best possible investment. With next to no training, you can become adept at examining settings and stones for yourself. For example, you may check if the numbers emblazoned with lasers onto a diamond’s girdles tally with those on the gem report, or if the settings have undergone alterations. Granted it is challenging to precisely differentiate between diamonds and their simulants, glass copies are still easy to make out. The latter’s ‘moulded’ appearance, facets with traces of abrasion, and internal bubbles are clear indicators. Real stones also come with natural defects and crystalline inclusions. 
  • Certain suppliers are called ‘well-established for a reason 
    Perhaps still looking for that delusional but ever-elusive ‘bargain’, consumers keep on patronising little known suppliers. While one must be open-minded enough to help more enterprises gain a solid footing in the market, the prevalence of bad eggs amongst this crowd necessitates a prudent exercise in vigilance. Unobtrusively – without sticking out like a sore thumb – you, the discreet consumer, ought to pursue a certain line of action. Since you know what you are looking for, the honest purveyors have nothing to fear. Jewellery fraud perpetrators, however, will stand to lose. 
  • The shop would be entitled to face a barrage of queries: 
  • Are the suppliers National Association of Jewellers’ members?; 
  • Do they have an in-house certified gemologist?; 
  • If they are an auction house – do they hold periodic, dedicated jewellery sales?. 
  • Remember to ask for a condition report always. In case you are purchasing a diamond from a dealer or shop, please ascertain that it originates from an ethical sound source free of conflict. 

Conclusion

Jewellery fraud is easy enough to sidestep if you know which questions to ask at the suppliers’. National Association of Jewellers members frequently is available for independent expert advice. Avail of these. 

Whether heirloom, engagement ring or a piece of jewellery that you adore, the attachment that you feel for the jewel makes it special. You would do that affection justice by knowing all technical details about it. You can even get insurance cover for your jewellery. 

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