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NJ Jewelry Stores Face Charges for Improper Gold Buying Practices

6-26-14

By Brenda Flanagan
Correspondent

The cash for gold crackdown caught 21 jewelry stores across five northern and central Jersey counties.

“Often these businesses attract people who are facing financial hardships — who are selling their jewelry for cash as a last resort. We want to make sure these financially vulnerable consumers are being treated fairly,” said NJ Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee.

The State Division of Consumers Affairs says its unannounced inspectors and undercover officers found gold buyers breaking the rules. In all, authorities issued 936 summonses — civil citations for alleged violations of consumer protection laws.

“The buyer must weigh the precious metals and test their fineness within clear sight of the seller,” Lee explained.

Investigators confiscated unregistered scales with expired inspection stickers. Fairfield Police worked with the prosecutor’s office.

“We wanted to limit any avenue in which people fencing stolen property could go,” said Anthony Manna.

Investigations in Edison led to a separate, criminal case. Police charged two men with multiple alleged burglaries and thefts. They charged two jewelers — including the owner of International Gold Buyers — with receiving stolen property.

We asked him if he suspected that some of the material he was getting might not be legitimately obtained. He said, “In this business, you don’t know what is legit or not. You can’t tell. I’m not a police.”

Consumers selling gold and silver can avoid getting scammed by following the rules. Rule number one — go to an established, reputable business.

We brought several pieces to Bauman Jewelers in West Orange. They passed state inspections with no violations. Russell Bauman demonstrated how it’s done — everything in plain view, including a scale with a current blue and white inspection sticker. Prices?

“Absolutely there should be a list of the prices we’re paying. If they’re not, they can just make it up,” Bauman explained.

He inspected gold and silver jewelry for markings. But he also tested purity, using acid.

“It’s smoking. Yeah — that’s the 14 karat one — has a reaction. The 10 karat is having no reaction,” he said.

All the gold gets weighed separately, according to purity — 10 karat, 14 karat — and then they do the math while you watch.

Three hundred seventy-seven dollars for the lot. Bauman keeps detailed records, photographs the items it buys and stores jewelry for at least 10 days — so police can check it against jewelry that’s been reported stolen. And that’s the gold standard.