John Anthony Jr., representing John Anthony Jewelers of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., on Tuesday received a unanimous “not guilty” decision by a 12-member jury at the conclusion of a two-day trial in which Anthony was accused of switching a diamond.
The case stemmed from a misunderstanding of diamond grading, comparing a courtesy appraisal written by John Anthony Sr. in 1988 with a professional appraisal performed by David Atlas in 1999. Anthony Sr. had used GIA grading terminology, even though he had no formal education in diamond grading. This, along with verbal descriptions given to the original clients and passed down to their surviving daughter, caused the daughter to believe that the diamond had been switched.
The original diamond, a 2-ct. round brilliant Anthony Sr. had sold to a local couple in 1965, was at the time described as “a fine white stone.” In 1988, Anthony Sr. performed a quick and free appraisal, using his 5X watchmakers eye loupe and relying on memory to complete the quality analysis. In his deposition, Anthony Sr., now deceased, said that he wanted to update his appraisals, and therefore used GIA grades for color and clarity. He graded the “fine white stone” as “Internally Flawless, F color.”
In 1999, the diamond was graded as VS1, E color by David Atlas, head of Philadelphia’s best-known professional diamond grading laboratory and appraisal service.
When was the alleged switch? In 1991, the diamond was remounted by John Anthony Jr. In his testimony Anthony said, “We do one job at a time,” noting that there would have been no other diamonds on the bench. Also, he told the jury, jewelers don’t keep an inventory of fine white 2-ct. rounds in the safe. “The jewelry business is based on trust,” Anthony said, pointing out that a jeweler who’s switching stones will lose his credit rating. “Reputation is everything in this business. We don’t switch diamonds.” Anthony’s testimony of how remounting is performed and how diamond switching is not an option was well received by the jury.
Anthony Sr.’s wife Rita, who typed the 1988 appraisal, said the whole thing was ridiculous: “Who switches one fine diamond for another? It just doesn’t make sense.” The mother and father were nice people, she said.
The plaintiff was suing for the value difference between an Internally Flawless/F and a VS1/E, or roughly $12,000, plus punitive damages.
Anthony had two options: Either settle out of court, admit no wrongdoing, and pay off the daughter … or spend even more money and time to protect his honor and reputation.
Anthony chose the latter course of action.
To aid in his defense, Anthony brought in Cos Altobelli, an AGS jeweler and appraiser who has for decades taught and been personally involved in expert witness testimony. Altobelli’s testimony solidified the jury’s understanding of diamond grading, comparing the differences in using 5X vs. 10x+ magnification, the use of an eye-loupe vs. a professional binocular microscope, the use of GIA terminology vs. the verbal description of “fine white,” as well as his expert opinion as to whether the diamond currently in the ring could in fact be the same diamond that was sold back in 1965. Altobelli noted that he has looked at dozens of VS1 GIA-graded diamonds using a 5X eye-loupe and could not see the grade-making inclusions in them.
After hearing final arguments from both the plaintiff and defense attorneys, the jury spent less than 20 minutes before returning to the courtroom with a unanimous decision for Anthony. (In Pennsylvania, one needs only a 5/6 majority to win a civil lawsuit.) “It would have been even quicker,” said a beaming Anthony, “but the jury didn’t fill out the paperwork correctly.”