The way we shop has changed, with more and more purchases being made on our phones, tablets, and laptops.
However, there are some products that can be risky to buy online given you can’t see them in person; jewellery being one of them.
A survey commissioned by Pandora UK found that 17% of Brits have fallen victim to scammers selling counterfeit jewellery in their lifetime, with this figure rising to 60% among 16 to 17-year-olds.
Men were scammed more than women – as one in five males reported being duped into buying fake jewellery – with almost of half of respondents saying they’d seen advertising for knock-offs on social media.
Counterfeit jewellery won’t just part you with your hard-earned cash, it could leave you with green fingers or a red face after you gift it to a loved one.
Tarnishing may be the first sign that you’ve been scammed, while poor quality materials can lead to breakage in the short-term and potential skin irritation long term.
So to help you avoid shelling out for fakes, Pandora’s resident expert Nicholas Golding has shared his cheat sheet for spotting the real deal online.
Does it have the correct hallmarks?
‘First of all, look for any hallmark engraving somewhere on the piece of jewellery,’ explains Nicholas.
‘Hallmarks are a set of marks applied to articles of precious metals, the presence of which shows that the item meets the legal standards of purity. They can also tell you who the maker is and where the jewellery was hallmarked.
‘By law, in the UK any jewellery over the minimum weight which is claimed to be gold, silver, platinum, or palladium, must have a hallmark stating its purity and metal type. The UK Assay Offices independently check and hallmark jewellery to protect consumers.’
He advises researching the hallmark number you spot online, which will give you more information about the purity and provenance of the piece.
Does it come with an authenticity certification?
Nicholas says: ‘Check that there is an authenticity certification with any jewellery with diamonds, like engagement rings.
‘Any items that claim to have real diamonds should have documentation from an independent agency such as the IGI, EGL and GIA, which evaluates and grades the stone.’
Check for brand inaccuracies
If you’re buying branded jewellery, Nicholas recommends checking the font, spelling, logo, and colouring on the piece are consistent with what you’d expect from that brand.
‘Inspect images of other jewellery on the brand’s official page to help see if you can identify slip-ups on counterfeit piece,’ he says. ‘It can be as minor as one letter that is slightly misshapen.’
Is the price realistic?
We all know the phrase ‘too good to be true’, but it’s important to put such statements at the front of your mind when it comes to investment purchases.
‘If it is dramatically cheaper than all other similar pieces, chances are something may well be amiss,’ Nicholas says. ‘Extremely cheap jewellery purporting to be precious metals and gemstones should ring alarm bells.’
A bargain isn’t always worth the lower price.
Go to trusted sellers
When in doubt, consult the experts, says Nicholas, specifically the brand itself or an authorised seller.
He adds: ‘If it is not possible to get the exact item you want directly, for instance if an item is discontinued, and your only option is to buy it second-hand, you could take the jewellery to an independent jewellery evaluator to verify its authenticity.’
How to spot a fake Pandora piece
When shopping Pandora jewellery specifically, Nicholas says there are some simple checks you can undertake to ensure you’re getting what you pay for.
He suggests looking out for the Pandora maker’s mark, which is engraved on all of the brand’s jewellery: ‘Before 1st January 2021 this was just “ALE”, which are the initials of Algot Enevoldsen, the father of Pandora’s founder Per Enevoldsen.
‘However, in the wake of Brexit you may now see a new maker’s mark on PADORA jewellery being sold in Great Britain, being “PJ” inside a square in addition to “ALE”.’
Nicholas continues: ‘Additionally, there should be a crown on top of the “O” in the Pandora logo on any piece of jewellery. It is these small touches that counterfeit jewellery is often missing.
‘All new Pandora jewellery sold in Great Britain meets current British hallmarking rules, so unless the metal is under a certain weight, the items will now be accompanied by post-Brexit hallmarks – which should include a castle mark from the Assay Office.’
If you’ve fallen victim to a fake item
‘If you discover that you have bought a counterfeit item, you may well have a legal right to a refund under consumer protection legislation and you should seek a refund from the seller,’ says Nicholas.
‘However,’ he adds, ‘if the seller is knowingly breaking the law by selling counterfeits, they may not respect your consumer rights either.’
He recommends using a credit card for high value purchases to ensure you’re protected, as transactions of over £100 are subject to section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
This means you can make a claim with your credit provider if things go wrong, and you may be able to recoup the money if you’ve been scammed.
Nicholas continues: ‘In the UK, you can report any counterfeit sellers to the Trading Standards or Action Fraud (for online sellers) who can take legal action against the seller. You can find out more about how to do this at Citizens Advice.’
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