In a case that demonstrates the dangers of informal “courtesy appraising,” a Pennsylvania jeweler recently was found not guilty of switching a diamond.
According to John Anthony Jr., owner of John Anthony Jewelers in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., the case stemmed from a misunderstanding of diamond grading. The stone involved was a 2-ct. round brilliant sold by his father, John Anthony Sr., to a local couple in 1965. At the time, it was described as a “fine white stone.”
In 1988, Anthony Sr. performed a quick, free appraisal, using his 5X watchmakers eye loupe and relying on memory to complete the quality analysis. In his deposition, Anthony Sr., (subsequently deceased), said that he wanted to update his appraisals, and therefore used GIA grades for color and clarity, even though he had no formal education in diamond grading. He graded the 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.
The difference between the two appraisals led the couple’s daughter to believe that the diamond was switched in 1991 when John Anthony Jr. did a remount. The plaintiff sued for the difference between an Internally Flawless/F and a VS1/E (roughly $12,000) plus punitive damages.
To aid in his defense, Anthony brought in Cos Altobelli, an AGS jeweler and appraiser. Altobelli talked of the differences in using 5X vs. 10X magnification, the use of an eye-loupe vs. a professional binocular microscope, and the use of GIA terminology vs. the verbal description of “fine white,” and gave his 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.
The jury deliberated for less than 20 minutes before returning a unanimous decision for Anthony. (In Pennsylvania, a 5/6 majority decides civil lawsuits.) “It would have been even quicker,” said Anthony, “but the jury didn’t fill out the paperwork correctly.”