Laws & Litigation

Two actions in washington protect jewelers

Following years of lobbying by Jewelers of America and retail jewelers across the country, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Postal Service have taken action on issues involving military exchanges and insured mail.

The House Committee on National Security ruled that the U.S. Department of Defense could not lift long-standing restrictions on the type of jewelry sold at military exchanges (PXs). Under the restrictions, PXs cannot sell any diamond jewelry over 0.50 carat and any gold jewelry valued at more than twice the market price of 1 ounce of gold.

The issue stemmed from a 1996 proposal by the Defense Department to lift the restrictions. JA and its retail members subsequently explained to their Congressional representatives how the proposal would affect them negatively.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service increased the insurance coverage limits on high-value merchandise to $5,000 for regular and Express mail. JA had worked with the Postal Service for two years, saying the former $500-$600 limit was too low to be useful to jewelers.

The Postal Service also approved funding for a new tracking system that will give delivery confirmation for Express Mail, Priority Mail, international shipments, certified mail and registered mail.


Police in Honolulu, Hawaii, have declined responsibility for enforcing the Hawaii Gold and Silver Stamping Act, which was approved in April.

In a letter to U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye in June, Police Chief Michael Nakamura said seizing jewelry andarresting offenders of the act was beyond the police department’s jurisdiction. That decision was reached following a meeting the police had with representatives of the U.S.

Customs Service, FBI, Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, Department of the Corporation Counsel, state Sen. Rod Tam and Brenda Reichel of Carats & Karats, a jeweler in Honolulu.

Nakamura referred in his letter to 1990 state legislation indicating a trademark can be printed on attachments or boxes as well as branded or engraved on the piece of jewelry. “The Department of Prosecuting Attorney’s position indicated that the Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 482D provisions were broad enough to allow stamps and trademarks to be printed or written on attached cards, boxes, enclosures or containers and did not require stamping on the item itself,” Nakamura wrote.

Those at the meeting also said the National Gold and Silver Stamping Act has similar provisions allowing trademarks to be printed on accompanying signs and packaging, Nakamura said. “It was further pointed out that even if federal statutes do preclude such stamping, [the Honolulu Police Department] does not have the jurisdiction to act under federal statutes,” the letter said.

In April, police were called to a Honolulu trade show to confiscate materials without trademark stamps. Some vendors taped trademark applications on their booths, and police decided such displays would suffice.

“This is the law, and they’re basically saying that the federal guys have to come in to do it,” says Reichel, who worked for three years with the Hawaii state legislature to design and pass the act. “Robbing a bank is a federal crime, but who are the first people on the scene? The local police!”

The FBI and U.S. Customs are continuing to look into the matter, Reichel says. In the meantime, Reichel plans to continue working with the legislature to make the language of the law loophole-free. She also continues to raise public awareness through her weekly radio show in Honolulu.


John J. Alves Jr., who started as a shipping clerk 38 years ago at B.A. Ballou & Co., East Providence, R.I., and rose to the position of national sales manager for findings, has announced his retirement.

“John has personified the spirit and character of Ballou during nearly four decades of representing our company to the industry in his own unique and exemplary way,” says Tod Ballou, chief executive officer.

During his tenure at Ballou, Alves served as president of the Providence Jewelers Club, Metal Findings Manufacturers Association and Diamond Peacock Club in Boston. He also is a member of the Providence Jewelers Club and the Boston Jewelers Club.

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