When all that glitters may not be gold
A counterfeit designer necklace seized as part of a haul of £90,000 worth of fake designer jewellery was on sale - at a 'knock-up' price of £750, as much as five times the price of the real thing.
The necklace is among an Aladdin's cave of jewellery seized recently by Essex County Council's trading standards department that will be on display at the Trading Standards Institute's (TSI) annual conference and exhibition.
Over 500 items of jewellery, marked as being by top designers including Chanel, Gucci, Tiffany, Bvlgari and Rolex, were seized from a market stall in Essex - with most of the prices ranging from £10 to £50.
But one necklace labelled as Chanel - 'gold' and inlaid with unidentified stones - was marked up at £750. This is five times the price of some of Chanel's genuine costume jewellery pieces.
'This is quite incredible - I have never come across an item of fake jewellery being sold at a higher price than the genuine article,' said Bryan Lewin, chairman of TSI, who is also a trading standards expert on counterfeit goods.
'We normally say that if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is - and that would still be our advice.
'But this necklace is an exceptional case - and it goes to show that members of the public should not be guided by price as being an indication that goods are genuine.'
Essex trading standards department seized the haul of jewellery, including necklaces, bracelets, rings, ear-rings and watches from a market in the county two weeks ago. If the items were real and sold at full retail value, the haul would be worth up to £90,000.
The exact location is not being disclosed as the department is still investigating and it does not wish to prejudice any possible prosecution.
Most of the items confiscated in the raid, which trading standards carried out with the support of police, were labelled as silver, although some of those supposed to be Chanel were gold in appearance.
Some had foreign markings indicating the quality of the metal but none were hallmarked, as required in Europe.
All are now being analysed by the Assay Office to discover if they are really silver or gold and, if so, whether they are of the quality indicated by the foreign markings on them.
Mike Drewry, a spokesman for the Hallmarking Council, said: 'For hundreds of years, consumers have been able to rely upon hallmarks as an assurance of the quality of previous metals, such as gold or silver. We recommend all consumers to check to make sure there is a hallmark before buying jewellery made from precious metal.'
The source for the fakes is not yet known but it is thought they did not originate in this country.
Councillor Roger Walters, executive member for trading standards at Essex County Council, said: 'We are determined to make sure that local people are not ripped off by unscrupulous traders.
'In the case of counterfeit goods, not only are consumers being conned but legitimate businesses are also losing out.
'The seizure of these items of jewellery is a prime example of how our trading standards professionals act to protect local people and the interests of legitimate business.'
Geoff Field, chief executive of the British Jewellers Association, which represents 850 jewellery designers, manufacturers and suppliers in the UK, said: 'We run various schemes so that our members can protect their intellectual property - or trade marks - as well as respect the intellectual property of others.
'We applaud the actions of trading standards in clamping down on the sale of goods which infringe intellectual property rights and, potentially, the hallmarking system. And the Essex operation seems to have been a big success.
'It is important for the public to ask about hallmarks whenever they are offered items of jewellery described as gold, silver or platinum.'
Notes to Editors
The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2008, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) - a 'must' for consumer journalists!
The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.
Conference 2008 is being held at Bournemouth International Centre from Tuesday 24 to Thursday 26 June. The conference press office will be open from 8am on Monday 23 June (the day before the event starts) until 2pm on Thursday 26 June.
Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes.
The conference is hosted by TSI chairman Bryan Lewin.
Almost 2,000 people are attending the conference, including representatives from local and central government and those interested in fair trading, representatives of business and commerce, together with consumer organisations. This makes it an ideal place for consumer affairs journalists to mingle and make contacts!
Trading Standards Institute
The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.
Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.
TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.
They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.