The One Thing Jewelers Shouldn’t Carry

A Florida jeweler suspected a “customer” was going to draw a weapon, so he pulled his own gun and prepared to fire. “I beat him to the draw,” he said. There was only one problem. He forgot to take the safety off. The gun wouldn’t fire, but the intruder had no such handicap. He shot the jeweler five times. The jeweler was left with “big craters” in his stomach and endured multiple operations. His pregnant wife lost her baby from the shock.

This is one of several violent incidents involving jewelers related by managing editor Barbara Spector in her shocking story about guns, starting on page 130. The shootings illustrate a disturbing phenomenon that may be unique to the jewelry industry: One out of every three store owners keeps a gun on the premises. And a startling 11.5% of these owners have used their guns in connection with their business. (Both figures are from a new JCK survey.)

It’s ironic—and troubling—that in a sedate setting dedicated to refined beauty, the Wild West lives on. At any moment in some American jewelry store, bullets could start flying and people start falling. The scenario is not that far-fetched. According to the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, one jewelry store in this country is robbed nearly every day. About half the holdups involve violence. Each year, more than a dozen people are shot or killed in jewelry stores.

The right to bear arms is a proud constitutional right in this country, and the impulse to keep a gun in a vulnerable retail setting is understandable. But it is also dangerous and unwise. No amount of merchandise is worth the life of a single innocent person.

Though there are some cases of jewelers successfully pulling a gun and shooting a robber, these are rare exceptions, JSA says. The robber always has the advantage. He’s the aggressor. He has a plan. He has experience using a gun. He’s willing to kill anyone at any time. A gun is no defense for the jeweler unless he has it in his hand, ready for use, before the robber takes his weapon out.

Furthermore, bullets travel far and sometimes erratically. Any shots fired can wind up hitting an innocent bystander, resulting in an avalanche of legal expenses that will greatly outweigh any loss due to robbery. Even worse, the panicked jeweler can wind up killing family members who work in his store, as has happened in two recent horrifying incidents.

So does all this mean jewelers must go defenseless? Not at all. The best defense against economic loss is insurance. It’s worth every penny it costs, and you should never be without it. And the best defense against physical harm is complete cooperation with the robber. Do what he asks and give him what he wants, because you must assume that he’ll shoot without hesitation. Trying to play Wyatt Earp can ruin—or end—your life.

Help Make History

Who was the single most important figure over the past century in the jewelry industry? Was it Robert Shipley or Richard Liddicoat, Jr.? George Kunz or Carroll Chatham? Marcel Tolkowsky or Ernest Oppenheimer? Henry Dunay or Jose Hess? Morris Zale or Harry Winston? Or was it someone relatively unknown who worked behind the scenes to change jewelers’ lives?

It’s a fascinating question, and one we’d like your help in answering. As part of our special millennium series this year, we’ll celebrate jewelry’s Man or Woman of the Century. You can have a voice in the selection by filling out the form on page 168 of this issue. There you’ll see we’re seeking nominations not only for the single most influential person but also for the top people in nine fields. Won’t you take a few moments to help us avoid overlooking anyone who belongs in jewelry’s 20th-century pantheon?