By Michelle Graff
Rockford, Ill.--At Clodius & Co. in Rockford they have store meetings twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

While store security is important year round, it is emphasized during busy holiday seasons, when hours get long, the shop gets packed and employees are tired, factors that combine to increase the likelihood of a crime. 

With decades in the business, this is certainly a lesson Mark Clodius, who owns the store with his wife and business partner Monika, knows well. But every lesson bears re-learning from time to time, as the jeweler discovered recently.

In the fall, during a day when the store was packed with people, a gentleman came in to sell a stone that Clodius understood to be a diamond. 

Though the retailer normally cleans a stone and takes it in the back for an inspection under the microscope before buying, he didn’t in this case because the atmosphere in the store was so hectic. He notes also that the seller didn’t want the stone out of his sight, which is something that happens occasionally when buying over the counter but not frequently. 

So Clodius examined the stone quickly using a loupe, noted that it was singly refractive and gave the man a “super-low offer,” which he took. 

It was only after putting the stone in the ultra-sonic cleaning machine for an hour and looking at it more carefully that Clodius discovered exactly why the seller was so insistent that the stone not be subjected to further inspection--it was not a diamond. “After cleaning it and putting the loupe on it I [thought], ‘oh no’ instantly,” he says. 

The stone was a moissanite with a flat culet that was abraded, meaning roughed up or worn away, that’s worth about half of what he paid for it. The abrasion masked the fact that the stone was doubly refractive, making it possible to mistake it for an old European cut diamond, which has a flat culet as well, instead of a moissanite.  

Clodius believes the culet was abraded deliberately to defraud. (Charles & Colvard CEO Randy McCullough confirmed that the moissanite maker did produce old European cut moissanites at the request of a large wholesale customer but wouldn’t have shipped the stones with an abraded culet.  He says they are working with authorities to assist in the investigation.) 

The jeweler, who has the seller’s driver’s license on file, put in an incident report with the Rockford Police Department. 

Several other jewelers in the area had been fooled by the same seller, to the extent that the Chicago Jewelers’ Association issued a crime alert and the police department in nearby Schaumberg, Ill., launched an investigation. No charges were ever filed, though, because intent to defraud could not be proven. 

Even though criminal charges may never come in these cases, the incident does bring up two important points for jewelers, Clodius says.

The first is for retailers to be aware of any scams criminals are attempting to perpetrate on jewelers, particularly in their area. 

The second is for jewelers to establish proper procedures for handling different transactions, including buying goods off the street, and not to make exceptions, no matter how busy the store gets. He says jewelers need to take their time when buying merchandise over the counter and exercise due diligence in inspecting the metal and stones. 

“When you are busy is when you can make mistakes,” Clodius says.  

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