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
by Jack Heeger Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.