The Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA) annual crime report is out and the numbers are concerning. According to the report, the dollar losses from crimes against U.S. jewelry firms for the 20-year period 2002 to 2021 totaled $2.2 billion on an inflation adjusted basis. Eighty-five smash and go robberies and 842 grab and run thefts contributed to the 1,687 crimes committed against U.S. jewelry firms in 2021.
Grab & Run losses were reported in 47 states, and these events resulted in a significant dollar loss. The report notes that one Grab & Run in California resulted in a loss of $200,000 in jewelry merchandise. The month of November ranks the highest grab and run thefts, with Monday and Tuesday tied for the most frequent days of the week for those events.
Smash and Grabs — where windows and display cases are broken — can be both devastating to the jewelry stores but also scary to the folks who witness it. A smash and grab in New Jersey just this past month resulted in over $1million in jewelry stolen in 60 seconds after thieves forced employees to the ground at gunpoint. Just look online and you will find many news stories reporting shots being fired and people getting injured, even killed, during jewelry store robberies.
These are serious crimes and the JSA (a non-profit trade association with over 20,000 members) offers advice about protection against jewelry theft, including securing pieces when traveling, online scams, a refresher on what to do during a robbery, and protecting stores during riots.
But there’s another kind of jewelry theft besides the ones reported by JSA: precious metals fraud. As we noted in a previous article, Beware of Precious Metals Fraud During Economic Uncertainty, jewelry store owners and gold buyers have seen a frantic push by individuals racing to sell their little-used jewelry for cash, but unfortunately, not all those metals coming into stores may be precious.
We’ve warned the gold-buying industry for years about counterfeits. In “Fake Gold Bead Necklaces Fooling Shop Owners” we reported that a gold bead necklace had fake beads along the strand that looked like the real ones. It fooled the shop owner and he lost $2,000.
GCAL, the Gem Certification and Assurance Lab, notes a number of serious challenges into the jewelry supply chain, including: under-karated metals and irregular alloys, base metal jewelry with false precious metal hallmarks, new plating materials that contain harmful elements, and platings that mask underlying hazardous metals.
Verification tests that businesses use to combat these risks include the scratch and acid test, which is widely used but not very accurate and potentially dangerous. The most precise method is fire assay, but this method destroys the sample. Laboratory methods with expensive machines require extensive sample preparation. Finally, there is portable X-ray florescence (XRF), a non-destructive method that provides analysis on the spot.
Businesses that need an accurate, fast, easy, non-destructive method of precious metals testing should consider using X-Ray Fluorescence technology on any precious metals products they buy or sell. XRF analysis can measure the content of all gold and precious metals, as well as determine the presence and concentration of other trace, alloying elements, and dangerous heavy elements, which could impact the valuation of the pieces. Desktop XRF precious metal analyzers can be used right on the jewelry counter and can easily analyze the precious metal content of a piece while the customer watches the process and the results. A handheld XRF analyzer for precious metals can be used for larger precious metal items.
Those in the business of buying and selling jewelry made of precious metals should make sure they have the technology to accurately identify the metal and the karat weight. Even a few fake pieces could result in a substantial loss that would make any jewelry store owner want to smash the piece and go.