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Jewellery Scams and How to Avoid Them

Q Report Team
Updated on October 06, 2022
3 min read

The majority of our readers live in Australia, where we thankfully have an extremely high standard of both jewellery craftsmanship and ethics when it comes to jewellery retailing. 

Most of the jewellery scams that we have come across involve jewellery that people have purchased overseas. The scammer is attracted to the naïve tourist who thinks they’re going to get the deal of the century and likely won’t be able to come back to complain about the purchase. It’s like “bees to honey”. 

While many of the scams could be avoided by simply using some common sense, let’s identify some of the tricker scams we have seen and how best to avoid them. 

Purchasing Gemstones in Certain Countries

A layperson purchasing colour gemstones, in particular loose sapphires and rubies, in countries such as Thailand, India and Sri Lanka should be particularly cautious. All too often people are told that they are buying loose gems from the source and that they could even sell them for a profit when they return home. Be cautious! The majority of these loose gemstones, often presented in tiny white folding parcels, have either been treated with glass or are in fact coloured glass themselves.

The customer will often pay on average 20 times the actual value.

At the end of the day, if you want to buy jewellery from these locations, unless you have expert knowledge and / or an excellent recommendation or referral, prepare to be the victim of a scam. The exception of course is purchasing from a branch of a reputable international (or internationally recognised) brand. If you do happen to get scammed at one of these locations, at least you have a larger entity to go back to later.


Purchasing as Part of an Organised Tour

Many organised tours (particularly in India and South East Asian countries), include stops for tourist to purchase jewellery. You should be aware that the tour operator often receives as much as 50% commission on your purchase. The merchant doesn’t lose out, they simply adjust their prices accordingly. So you essentially end up paying double.


Things to Look For

Most people today are wary of buying expensive jewellery overseas without a good referral or from irreputable stores. However, even when buying from a seemingly reputable store, there are a few tips that will help ensure you are comfortable with your purchase and might avoid a potential scam.


1. Diamond Grading Certification

If purchasing jewellery with a diamond, ask to see the diamond grading certification. Unless the certificates are from an international laboratory such as GIA, you should be highly sceptical.


2. Magnification Tools

You may wish to ask if they have a jeweller’s loupe or eyeglass. Look to see what magnification you are given. It should be printed on the side. If it’s less than 10 times magnification, another alarm bell should go off as this is the standard magnification used by the trade itself. What don’t they want you to see?


3. Quality of Workmanship

It’s perfectly acceptable to bring the item of jewellery close to your ear and tap it gently with your index finger to listen if any stones are loose. Hearing a clicking sound of stone tapping off metal indicates that the stone is probably loose in the setting. If this is the case, it’s often the result of poor workmanship, which should also be an alarm bell.


4. Grade Bumping

A common problem is overstating the quality of a natural gem. When it comes to diamonds already set in a ring, the setting often enhances the colour of a stone. This is sometimes known as grade bumping, where a I-J coloured diamond is presented in a ring as a G-H colour.


5. Valuations

If you are presented with a valuation as part of the selling process, this should again set off alarm bells. The only exception to the valuation being a legitimate tool is in the case of jewellery auctions. However, there has been shocking cases of hyper inflated valuations from online auctions in Australia, so buyer beware. You can always contact the Auctioneers and Valuers Association of Australia to confirm if a valuer in Australia is bonafide.


Most people do a bit of homework before they make a major purchase of jewellery. The golden rule is ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is too good to be true’. Although there is a very small percentage of those who are out to scam you, an unbelievable deal is just that. So don’t be a “mark” for the unscrupulous people out there.


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