Eight stores in Florida charged with gold underkarating

Eight jewelry stores in four Florida cities were charged today by Florida Attorney General Richard E. Doran with misrepresenting the quality of their products, commonly known as underkarating.

Civil complaints filed in the circuit courts of Broward, Leon, Miami-Dade, and Seminole counties seek consumer restitution and civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation of the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, said a statement from the Florida Attorney General’s office.

Named in the complaints are Golden Bay Jewelers, located at the Swap Shop in Fort Lauderdale; Golden Way, located in Miami’s Mall of the Americas; S.B. Jewelry, located at the 7th Avenue Flea Market in Miami; Watches Plus, located in the Tallahassee Mall; and Big Daddy’s Gold & Silver Mine, Infinity Trading, Universal Jewelry, and YB Jewelry, all located at Flea World in Sanford.

All eight stores were charged with selling jewelry whose gold content was not as high as represented by the seller.

“Consumers were simply lied to about the gold content of the jewelry they were purchasing,” Doran said. “Our investigation revealed pieces said to contain 10k or 14k gold that in fact fell from about one karat to as much as 5.5k below the represented gold content, making them less valuable than advertised. Under federal standards, those items falling below 10k shouldn’t even have been called gold jewelry. Had the items been properly labeled, shoppers might not have bought them or been willing to pay the amount charged by the store.”

The attorney general’s investigation was prompted by information provided by the Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee. JVC’s Precious Metals Testing Facility was able to determine the true karatage of the gold jewelry.

“The pieces that failed to meet minimum gold standards are nothing more than pretty yellow metal and are not gold under the law,” said Cecilia L. Gardner, JVC executive director and general counsel. “When shopping for gold jewelry, look for the karat mark. Though the law does not require manufacturers to stamp a karat mark on fine jewelry, most do. If a jewelry manufacturer stamps a karat mark, the law does require that its registered trademark also appear next to it. And, even if an item is not stamped, when a jewelry or other outlet sells to a consumer, they must indicate the item’s karatage to the buyer in some way.”

The complaints were prepared by Assistant Attorney General Jody Collins with assistance from financial investigators in the attorney general’s Orlando, Tallahassee, and Tampa offices.