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How do I safeguard my jewelry from being switched at repair shops?

Consider “birth marking” your stones. Several manufacturers, among them PhotoScribe (888-746-8672), offer this process whereby a laser is used to inscribe the stone with a secret code or serial number. Once a piece of jewelry has been repaired, you can look at it through a loupe to make sure your jeweler hasn’t made a switch.

Also, find out if the jeweler is a member of a trade organization such as Jewelers of America (800-459-0130) or the American Gem Society ( or call 800-340-3028). The American Gem Society, based in Las Vegas, frequently conducts secret shopping excursions to and inspections of its 890 retail member firms.

In addition, consult your local Better Business Bureau ( or chamber of commerce to find out how long the jeweler has been in business, advises Shaye Strager, spokesperson for the Jewelry Information Center (800-459-0130), a nonprofit trade association based in New York. The BBB can also tell you if any consumer complaints were filed against a particular jeweler. Strager also suggests that you request a complete description of your jewelry on your receipt; including the percentage of gold (given in karats) and description of your diamond, (the four Cs: cut, color, clarity and carat weight). This may provide the best protection of all.

Mail your consumer-related concerns to Ask Your Advocate at black enterprise magazine, 130 Fifth Avenue, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10011 or send an e-mail to

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