Diamond Switching

Some people will tell you this never happens. I’m here to tell you it does happen because it happened to me, and at a jeweler I trusted and everyone in the area told me could be trusted.

The diamond switch can be done very fast by someone with a lot of practice. Don’t believe anyone who tells you a minute or two “isn’t enough time.”

What happens is you take your diamond for cleaning or to have the prongs adjusted – or something. Maybe you browse the showcases while it’s being done. Whatever you’re doing, you aren’t watching the bench jeweler who is doing the work on your jewelry. It doesn’t take them long to switch your diamond for a similar-size CZ.

The reason this works so well is because they have complete deniability by the time you realize a switch has been made. In most cases, a good-quality CZ will fool you for months, possibly even years (the brilliance of CZs fades over time – eventually you will notice the difference). The more time that passes between the switch and its discovery, the more deniability they have. Quite simply – you can’t prove anything unless you discover the switch while you’re standing in the store.

How do you prevent this?

  • Never let your diamond out of your sight. When you take it for a cleaning or a prong adjustment, let them know that you insist on watching the entire time. If the jeweler protests, go to another jeweler. No reputable jeweler will refuse this request.
  • If you must leave it for more extensive work, go over the anatomy of the diamond with the jeweler before you leave it. Let them know you’re familiar with your diamond and how it looks. If you don’t have a certificate, go over the qualities of the diamond with them and map any inclusions. If you have a certificate, that’s even better – take it with you and show it to them, go over the inclusions and make sure both of you agree that the diamond you are leaving matches the certificate. The whole idea of this exercise is to let the jeweler know that you know what your diamond looks like. When you pick it up, repeat the process to make sure you are getting the same diamond back.

Many jewelers have a device that “pings” the stone and beeps to let them know it’s a diamond and not a CZ. Don’t trust this process. The device may not be accurate or it may be rigged. The only way you can tell you are leaving the store with the same diamond you brought is by following one of the steps above. My Story I’ve had a lot of people ask me “how could you not know?” My diamond was a very high-quality, GIA-certified diamond. One of the remarkable things about it was it had a lot of flash. On the theory that it’s hard to lose something you wear all the time, I rarely took my ring off, even to wash my hands. I used a toothbrush to clean the diamond and a couple times a year took it in to the jeweler for cleaning. Because I wore the ring all the time, the band frequently needed adjustments – I’d gain weight, lose weight or the band would become misshapen. The jewelry store was one of the few places I took off the ring.

I did notice something different about the diamond but it never occurred to me that a jewelery I had gone to for years couldn’t be trusted and at that time, I didn’t even know that switching is a very common scam. I had hit the ring very hard on a metal door frame and one of the prongs was loose. At the particular store I went to, they used the device that beeps if it’s a diamond. However, they didn’t do this if you weren’t leaving the stone – so for cleaning or just tightening a prong, there was no check of the stone. I believe the stone was switched when I took it in to have the prong tightened.

Over the next few months, I noticed the diamond looked different, but I attributed it to a need for a good cleaning. Approximately a year after the prong adjustment, I took the ring in to the jeweler’s to have the band adjusted. Because that required me to leave it, they “pinged” the stone – and told me it was not a diamond. I was shocked. I told the owner that was impossible – the only place I removed the ring was in her store. She insisted that I must have taken it somewhere else and forgotten. It was my word against hers.

Still, I had difficulty believing that this had actually happened. I did not leave the ring with her that day. I took it and went with the certificate to a forensic jeweler in the area, who removed the stone from the ring and weighed it. CZs weigh more than diamonds and that is the fastest way to determine the difference. Indeed, the stone weighed over 3 carats, when it should have weighed 1.01 carats. I was a victim of one of the oldest jewelry thefts in the business.

It wasn’t just the loss of a high-quality, expensive diamond that upset me. That diamond was the first gift my husband gave me. It was my engagement diamond and represented over 18 years of marriage and our commitment to each other. It had a lot of sentimental value. A replacement might look the same, but it would never be the same.

You can report the theft to the police, but there won’t be anything they can do about it. The only reason for filing a police report is so they can see if there’s a pattern established with that particular jewelry store.

You should also be aware that your homeowner’s insurance policy won’t cover this theft, as it doesn’t take place in your home. If you have a rider on your policy to cover your diamond(s), make sure it covers all types of losses.