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29 September, 1998
Mr. Chris McCarthy
Editor
Retail Jeweller
3rd Floor
338 - 346 Goswell Road
London
EC1V 7QP
Dear Chris

Preston Jewellers Feud

Thank you for letting me know about the impending article about this in the September 17th issue of Retail Jeweller. I believe this case raises several very important points for the jewellery trade in general, for the two jewellers in particular, and for other jewellers in the surrounding area. Your readers will not know that we were the providers of the independent report.

First, I suspect that not only Peter Jackson, but also at least one large multiple has started to give customers oral quality grades on diamonds which are, at least, inaccurate and misleading, and probably negligent or fraudulent. The short term effect is obvious in that it will lead to that particular jeweller winning a higher proportion of sales. The longer term effect will be to discredit not only that jeweller, but to tarnish the public's perception of the entire jewellery trade. Because of this, I believe it is correct for honest, ethical traders to take all positive steps to drop or discourage such sharp practice, and to distance ourselves from it. In this respect, it is therefore not only Whittle's right, but their duty to take action. Misleading the customer's in this way is also unfair competition for honest ethical traders.

As mentioned in your "Comment" column, it may be argued that the complainant should have first contacted Peter Jackson to advise him quietly and privately. Indeed this is the course we would have preferred had it been we who were in the complainants situation, although this type of "gentlemanly" behaviour does not always work. Indeed it is rather akin to a footballer having been fouled having a quiet word with the perpetrator rather than appealing to the referee. He would probably meet with abusive language at best.

After publication of the article, I telephoned Brian Rhodes at Whittle's and had quiet a lengthy and pleasant conversation. I believe as your "Comment" suggests that there should be direct friendly communication between jewellers who are in competition with each other. I also telephoned Peter Jackson's and asked to speak to him, I was told he was in a meeting and that I could try again the next day, Saturday. There was no offer to take a message. As I regard Saturday as my day off, I asked his assistant to tell him who had telephoned, that he would know what it was about, and that he would presumably wish to return my call. He never did. Presumably Whittle's would have had a similar experience.

From your telephone comments to me, I gather that Peter Jackson claims that the weight discrepancy was a "genuine error", but that he disputes there being any inaccuracy in his grading, believing in either his own judgement, that of his supplier, or both, I know not which. If this is the case, then Peter Jackson or a member of his staff should attend a diamond grading course. I gather that Whittles wish him to undertake to stop misrepresenting his goods, and that he is not prepared to do so. I know what conclusion I draw from this. If Peter Jackson believes he is right, he should ask Whittles to send the ring to the London Gem Laboratory, and ask them, at Peter Jackson's expense to remove the diamonds, and give a full report on each stone and the complete ring. He would then know, beyond all reasonable doubt, the correct grading of the stones, he would also have acquired a relatively inexpensive set of comparison stones. I make the obvious assumption that he has not done this because he does not want to hear the truth.

Your "Comment" column mildly criticises Whittle's for not having telephoned first, however he did apparently inform the Trading Standards Office that he did not want Peter Jackson to be prosecuted. It appears that Peter Jackson is reluctant to give assurances that he will cease his practise of misdescribing goods, and that this has left an impasse. As you will gather, my sympathies in this matter are entirely with Whittles, and against Peter Jackson. I believe that this must leave Whittle's with no other course of action but to request Trading Standards Office to instigate a prosecution. Unfortunately, if and when this is successful, Peter Jackson's reputation would probably be destroyed beyond redemption, and may lead to a stampede of his past customers rightly or wrongly, pressing for refunds, as I believe happened after Gerald Ratner's famous remarks about "crap".

By continuing any feud, Peter Jackson is, in my opinion, treading a dangerous path.

What say the rest of your readers?

Yours sincerely
Lawrence Chard


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