Kentucky Jeweler Wins Suit Over Emerald Valuation

In a decision mostly applauded by the trade, a Louisville, Ky., jury said a Kentucky jeweler did not defraud a customer, now deceased, when he sold him a 42.00 ct. emerald necklace with a $300,000 markup.

The case seemed unprecedented: Jim Jackson, owner of Aesthetics in Jewelry, in Louisville, in March 2005 sold client Robinson S. Brown Jr. an emerald and diamond necklace for $800,000. It was patterned after a necklace Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor. Jackson said he paid $500,000 for it, and that the suggested list price was $1 million.

After Brown died, his sons inherited the piece. They say they tried to sell it but could not get what their father paid. But Sandra McLaughlin, Jackson’s attorney, said the sons “never got a legitimate appraisal. Two of the appraisals were auction estimates from Christie’s and Sotheby’s. They were all liquidation values, essentially.”

When Jackson declined to buy it back, the sons sued, claiming his markup was “excessive” and he “fraudulently” represented the stone.

The case featured considerable talk of treatment issues. McLaughlin notes that while the jury found that Jackson disclosed to Brown verbally that the emeralds in the necklace were ExCel-treated, he did not disclose it in writing.

“The [Federal Trade Commission] Guidelines do not require written disclosure, but from now on he will make this a policy,” she said.

Jackson said he is happy the ordeal is over. He’s suing for attorney fees.

“This has just been a nightmare,” he said. “But I was really grateful for the outpouring of support I got from the industry and my customers.”

The Browns’ attorney did not return a phone call from JCK.