Ward: 'Disclose in Writing'

April 1998

Gemstones & Pearls:News

Ward: 'Disclose in Writing'

Fred Ward, the jeweler who lost a high-profile court case recently, advises jewelers to disclose treatments in writing. Despite proper verbal disclosure, he got stung

Disclose treatment of every diamond and colored gem you sell, and put it in writing on your invoice. So says the voice of experience in these matters, Fred Ward of Blue Planet Gems, Bethesda, MD.

Ward recently lost a complex court case involving damage claims brought by a customer whose insurance company – State Farm Mutual – refused to pay the customer for a damaged emerald. Ward took the case to arbitration and won. State Farm declined to accept arbitration and instead took the case to court, where a jury delivered a verdict against Ward and an appraiser.

Jewelers and gemologists often refer to the Ward case as involving disclosure. But Ward said the case was not about disclosure because he did disclose verbally that the emerald was treated. "This is a damage case," he said. "There is no law about disclosure." The American Gem Trade Association and Federal Trade Commission say verbal disclosure is acceptable, he pointed out. But as he found, that's not enough to hold up in court. "Put it in writing," he cautioned as a result of his case. "Write anything and everything you can. Show a good intention."

Ward made his comments at a meeting of the Santa Barbara Watchmakers and Jewelers Guild. He later told Professional Jeweler, "Nothing is going to protect you. If every insurance company does what State Farm did, you'll have to defend yourself in court."

Also speaking at the meeting were gem dealer Dana Schorr and gemologist Richard Hughes. Schorr said every jeweler should have a written disclosure policy. "It's a time bomb. Anyone who doesn't disclose faces serious problems," he said. He asked those in attendance if they disclose a gemstone's treatment every time they sell one and only a few jewelers raised their hands. "Why don't you disclose?" he asked, then answered his own question: "Until you get in trouble you don't think about it."

Hughes advised simply telling consumers the facts, and offered a sample statement: "The stone is treated, it may be filled with various substances and we don't know what they are." He discussed various treatments and how jewelers can spot them. But he added this caution: "nothing is foolproof."

by Jack Heeger

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


HomeAsk the ExpertBrainstormStatsSite of the WeekConsumer Press Scan
Your Business On-LineCalendarMagazine & Site ArchivesStaffSite Map
Professional Jeweler EventsGuide to Electronic Services
Classified On-LineJA Certification Study Session

Home Ask the Expert Brainstorm Stats Site of the Week Consumer Press Scan Your Business On-Line Calendar Staff Site Map