Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds all compete to be a girl’s (and guy’s) best friend in today’s buoyant global jewellery market. As the demand for jewels grows, so do the opportunities for forgers and counterfeiters.
Independent jewellery valuer, expert and historian John Benjamin has some straightforward advice on what consumers, resellers and even brands can do to spot fakes and avoid them or take them off the market.
Don’t assume you can spot a fake
Whatever assumptions you may have about the kind of jewellery that can be faked or forged – you might be surprised. Antique status, affordability or physical maker’s markers and engravings; none of them completely guarantee the authenticity of a piece. For as long as jewellery has existed, counterfeiters have been using ingenious methods to mimic the appearance of authentic stones and precious metals; and imitating high-end brands to drive up the price of goods.
Speaking about these difficulties, John Benjamin says, “One of the problems is a tendency towards ‘wishful thinking’ from the public.” His best advice? “People are keen for a bargain, and they forget that if it seems too good to be true, then it generally is.”
The problem is not only confined to expensive, potentially high-ticket items. Near-worthless cubic zirconia or moissanite – exceedingly difficult to differentiate from genuine diamonds, especially when small or placed in recessed channels – can be set in cheaper rings and other pieces. For coloured gemstones like rubies and sapphires, unscrupulous forgers heat and fill them with glass to enhance their appearance and perceived value.
And while fakes and forgeries are less common at the higher end of the market, it is a significant problem. Business Wire estimates a 7% increase in the “imitation jewellery” market over five years, with advances in things like 3D printing making forgeries easier than ever before. There’s also the issue of “antique” jewels that are sometimes sold in plausible – but fake - settings.
So, in an industry where fakes are becoming increasingly convincing, we asked Benjamin for his advice to make sure you always know what you’re buying.
A paper trail is vital – up to a point
Makers marks, receipts, certificates of authenticity and gem reports are essential. “Always ask for a receipt which provides a detailed and unambiguous description of what you’re buying,” says Benjamin. “And make sure that any alterations are clearly noted at the outset.”
None of these things guarantees authenticity, however. Marker’s Marks have been around for centuries, and documentation can be forged. And while reputable shops, dealers and auction houses regularly sell stones with independent gem reports, these have not been able to prevent counterfeiting either.
Buy your jewellery from well-established suppliers
As a basic rule, only buy from suppliers whose businesses are long-established, with a sound reputation and a depth of stock which reflects their status. Make sure they are members of the NAJ where possible. If an auction house, do they hold regular, dedicated jewellery sales?
All of these checks can help make sure that someone making an investment in a piece of jewellery is protected.
But none of them alone will guarantee authenticity, and new digital solutions may be able to help.
Protecting investments with blockchain
If you are buying a high-value piece of jewellery – as an investment, a family heirloom, or entirely out of love for the craftsmanship, then the problem with counterfeits is obvious. But forgery is a much larger issue than just cheating the consumers out of the real thing – especially when physical makers marks and authentication paperwork are not working. Brands and consumers need something more.
“Many brands are adopting blockchain-based systems for their content and their products,” said Yaliyomo CEO Nihat Arkan. “The beauty of blockchain is that once we create a record, for example, a ‘digital sibling’ of a bracelet from Tiffany and Co, this data can’t be deleted. We can record details of the stone and setting, as well as the maker’s mark, gem report and any history in minute detail. Any amendments show up immediately, with complete visibility, and only genuine brands can create those records – protecting the customer’s investment and defending brands against unwelcome forgeries,” He added.
Y platform – the company’s consumer-facing solution for brands, does just that. Developed by experts in content management and high-end retail, the CMP has the benefit of an API which allows it to sit alongside existing Content Platforms. Bjorn Bayard, Yaliyomo founder, explains, “We wanted something that would dramatically improve security and traceability for both brands and consumers without having to migrate fully onto a new platform, with new processes and lots of difficulties. We can get clients set up and their products recorded and authenticated in the blockchain in a matter of weeks.”
The process is even easier for consumers. “For a customer, all they need to do is download our App, available on the Apple App Store and Google’s Android Store, open their account, and they are ready to go.”
Authorised brands and sellers can create digital siblings and pass these on the consumers as proof of authenticity and ownership. In turn, customers can pass this on again when they sell on their timepiece or give it as a gift.
Whether a watch, a piece of jewellery, a fashion statement or a financial investment, everyone wants to take care and protect themselves from fraud. A digital world needs a digital solution – blockchain and Y platform offer a ready to go solution that could help end the massive global forgery market for good.