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Jewelry Chain Sued for Alleged Illegal Business Practices

It’s accused of preying on servicemembers.

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WATERTOWN, NY – New York’s attorney general has hit Harris Jewelry with a lawsuit claiming that the chain “used servicemembers as pawns in a predatory scheme.”

In a press release, Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood’s office states that the retailer, which has dozens of locations across the country, engaged in “false and deceptive acts and illegal lending in the financing of jewelry sales to active-duty servicemembers.”

“My office will not tolerate companies that seek to take advantage of New Yorkers in order to line their own pockets,” said Underwood.

Harris Jewelry said in a statement:

“Harris Jewelry will vigorously contest the inaccurate and baseless allegations raised by the New York State Attorney General. Harris Jewelry operates in full compliance with the laws that regulate our industry. Harris Jewelry stands behind its decades-old business model.  The New York Attorney General has unfortunately reached the wrong conclusions about our business and the work we do.

“For more than 60 years, Harris Jewelry has sold quality jewelry and watches to active duty military personnel, Reservists, National Guard, and Retirees. Today, the company continues to honor that tradition and enables its customers to purchase quality jewelry designed specifically for them, and to do so on credit terms customized to meet their needs.”

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The lawsuit is the result of an ongoing multistate investigation co-led by New York and Tennessee.

Specifically, it charges that Harris Jewelry allegedly engages in unfair, abusive, false and deceptive acts and practices, deceptive credit repair services, and illegal lending in the financing of jewelry sales to active-duty servicemembers. The company, headquartered in Hauppauge, NY, has stores near, and in some cases on, military bases around the country.

It is alleged that Harris Jewelry targets and then entices local servicemembers into the stores with “Operation Teddy Bear” — a purported charitable program in which Harris Jewelry sells teddy bears in military uniforms with promises of charitable donations.

In fact, “the complaint alleges that this is nothing more than a marketing ploy to dupe servicemembers into high-priced, illegal in-house financing contracts for vastly overpriced jewelry,” according to the release.

Harris Jewelry sells lines of military-themed jewelry and other commemorative items such as the “Mother’s Medal of Honor,” “Token of Pride Coin” and “Forever as One Dog Tag Necklace” on credit it provides under the name Consumer Adjustment Corp. USA, according to the release.

According to the release: “In reality, Consumer Adjustment Corp. is merely the alter ego of Harris Originals of NY, Inc., a relationship that, the Attorney General alleges, is never clearly disclosed to the consumer and is used to finance more than 90% of its sales.”

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The complaint further alleges that Harris Jewelry tells servicemembers it can provide them with an opportunity to build or improve their credit score through “The Harris Program” — the company’s own financing. Only after the servicemember agrees to participate in this “credit-improving program” does Harris Jewelry begin to discuss jewelry or its other products with the servicemember in an effort to max out the credit limit, the press release states.

The complaint alleges that Harris Jewelry advertises “quality” jewelry on “fair” terms, but in reality, marks up its jewelry between 600 percent and 1,000 percent over its wholesale price compared with the industry standard of 200 percent to 300 percent. It says the company then attaches an additional interest rate of 14.99 percent on the financing contract, “thereby disguising its inflated profit-taking and the true cost of the items,” according to the release.

For example, Harris Jewelry allegedly purchases the popularly sold “Mother’s Medal of Honor” for $77.70 and then sells it for $799 plus warranties and interest, according to the release. The “Forever as One Dog Tag Necklace” is allegedly purchased at $97 and sold for $699 plus warranties and interest.

Harris Jewelry’s use of a “per payday” advertised price on its merchandise further prevents the servicemember from calculating the total cost of a Harris Jewelry transaction over the life of the contract, according to the release. These unlawful business practices are alleged to have been secured through misrepresentations and omissions in advertising and during the loan’s origination.

Operation Troop Aid Inc., the original charitable partner in Operation Teddy Bear, voluntarily dissolved and was assessed a suspended penalty earlier this year in a settlement with the New York Attorney General and other states, resolving potential charges of improper charitable co-venture activities, failures to account for donations and distribution of funds, and other deceptive practices, according to the release.

The multistate investigation is being conducted by lead states New York and Tennessee, executive committee states Nevada and North Carolina, and participating states Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

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Jewelry Store Closes After 50+ Years, but ‘We’re Not Done Yet,’ Says Owner’s Son

‘More than one customer had tears in their eyes.’

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Shown here is Andy's Jewelry in 1962.

Looking back more than 50 years, one of Keith Anderson’s earliest memories is sliding in his socks across the polished terrazzo entrance to his father’s jewelry store in Blue Ridge, GA.

Built in 1962, when Anderson was 5, the building is still there, butting in the back to the tracks now used by a tourist train that is one of the town’s biggest attractions. And the old mosaic spelling out Andy’s Jewelry is still there, inlaid in the terrazzo at the front.

The store itself is gone, however, one of 52 jewelry stores reported to the Jewelers Board of Trade as closed or sold during October.

“It was an awful thing,” says Anderson of the closing of a local institution, which dates back to 1949, when his grandfather opened up to do watch maintenance for the railroad. “More than one customer had tears in their eyes.”

Anderson shed some tears of his own. The store, he says, was “an anchor in my life,” he says, and even now when he passes the old building, leased to a dress shop, “I still have ideas of leasing it back. Anything can happen.”

But probably not that, he admits. Since 1980, Anderson has had a small design studio, TK Anderson Designs, a little over 100 miles away in Athens. After his father died 20 years ago, Anderson’s mother, Betty, ran the old store and Anderson divided his time between the two. Since Betty Anderson’s death in 2017, the demands on his time became a strain, even for a man who says “I have always had a bad habit of working too much.”

Plus, Anderson and his brother and sister, co-owners of Andy’s Jewelry, received “a tremendous offer” for the property, which sits in the middle of a highly desirable area in booming Blue Ridge.

So Anderson is resigned to the sale, more or less, even if he still rents a storage space containing all the miscellany he moved out of the store’s catch-all basement — leftovers from Anderson’s grandfather’s time, everything from hair dryers to musical instruments.

Before Anderson’s father built the new place to focus on jewelry, the store was “a kind of neighborhood Walmart,” in the words of Anderson’s son, Wes.

Wes Anderson, 30, works full-time with his dad in the Athens studio, running the design operation with state-of-the-art CAD equipment that leaves Keith Anderson awed by its capabilities.

Even considering the internet and its enormous effect on sales, he thinks the computer-aided design is the biggest thing to have changed in the jewelry business during his long tenure.

By the time he was 12, Anderson had his own miniature bench and an electric soldering iron to do “repairs” in the back of the store.

“I never really thought of doing anything else,” he says, so after college, he returned to Blue Ridge and the family business.

“I am not much of a numbers guy,” says Anderson. “I never took the route that would make me the most money. I was lucky to find something to do that I loved.”

And that’s the secret, he says, to success in any business. “Find something you love and just love it.”

Wes Anderson started working off and on at the Athens design studio while he was in town as a student at the University of Georgia. After graduation, he joined full time.

“I was shocked,” says Keith Anderson. “You know, things happen, and I had had a divorce from his mother, and I think he just felt sorry for me at first. But he really jumped in, and after a year he had found his place here.”

Wes Anderson does most of the design work these days, as his father moves gradually toward retirement, possibly next year.

“I won’t buy a condo in Florida and sit,” he says. “I have always wanted to be an artist-jeweler instead of jewelry-store-owner jeweler. For me, retirement is getting to make jewelry that I want to make for myself.

“I have a beautiful collection of stones, waiting on me to play with.”

Recently, father and son worked together on CAD to transform one of those stones into a five-carat diamond engagement ring that sold for more than $150,000, representing the largest single sale of Keith Anderson’s long career.

“Legacy is important to both of us,” says Wes Anderson. “And we’re not done yet.”

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Marie Antoinette’s Jewels Sell for $36M

Other key items sold in the $2M+ range.

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This pearl and diamond pendant sold for $36 million at auction.

A pearl and diamond pendant that was owned by Marie Antoinette, queen of France, who died in 1793, sold at auction for more than $36 million, CNN reports.

Sotheby’s had touted Marie Antoinette’s collection as “one of the most important royal jewellery collections ever to come to auction.”

The pendant had been predicted to sell for only $1 million to $2 million. The sale took place in Geneva.

The sale resulted in a new auction record for a natural pearl, according to Sotheby’s.

According to CNN, other items in the collection that sold for significant amounts included:

  • A pearl and diamond necklace ($2.2 million)
  • A diamond double-ribbon-bow brooch ($2.1 million).
  • A “monogram ring with woven strands of Antoinette’s hair” ($440,000).

Read more at CNN

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‘Pink Legacy’ Diamond Sells for $50M, Setting Per-Carat Price Record

It was sold by Christie’s in Geneva.

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The Pink Legacy, an 18.96-carat fancy vivid pink diamond, sold for $50.4 million in the Magnificent Jewels auction on Nov. 13 at Christie’s in Geneva.

It was promptly renamed The Winston Pink Legacy by its new owner, Harry Winston.

“The saturation, the intensity of this stone is as good as it gets in a colored diamond,” said Rahul Kadakia, international head of jewelry for Christie’s. “To find a diamond of this size with this color is pretty much unreal. You may see this color in a pink diamond of less than one carat. But this is almost 19 carats and it’s as pink as can be. It’s unbelievable.”

While most pink diamonds exhibit a colorr modifier like purple, orange, brown or gray, the Pink Legacy shows no trace of a secondary color, according to a Christie’s press release. Its even color distribution, combined with a balanced saturation, tone and straight pink hue, qualify the 18.96 carat diamond for the “fancy vivid” color grading from the Gemological Institute of America.

Only one in 100,000 diamonds possess a color deep enough to qualify as “fancy vivid,” and the Winston Legacy set a record price per carat for a pink diamond, according to the release.

In the fancy vivid pink range, diamonds of more than five or six carats are rarely encountered. In fact, fewer than 10 per cent of pink diamonds weigh more than one-fifth of a carat. In the saleroom, fancy vivid pink diamonds over 10 carats are virtually unheard of — in over 250 years of auction history at Christie’s, only four such stones have ever appeared for sale.

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