ON MEMO | EN

The "commission", the "deposit" or the "entrusted" are part and parcel of the world of precious stones and jewellery, and it has been so since the dawn of our trade. But if the "mishaps" are not common amongst professionals, the retailer jeweller is more vulnerable in front of the consumer, desired or not, and sometimes not quite scrupulous. Proof of that has just been given.

The guilty party: no doubt our mentality. The diamond dealer and his/her customer, the jeweller, work in a trust relationship. Entrusting goods is a common practice which enables both parties to increase their sales turnovers. The traditional document, a commission warrant, is simple, yet efficient. Some diamond dealers sometimes even forget to sign the document: trust is the rule and it is even further what our very trade is about. Unfortunately, behind this bucolic description, regrettable incidents do increase in practice. And in our trade, a tiny mistake may entail serious consequences, financial ones mores specifically. The broker first of all, who transfers the goods that he has received on a commission without receiving the document he signed in turn, entails a risk. The incidents are rare, but they may occur. The supplier who will find a signed commission order a year later is legally entitled to demand the goods to be either returned or paid. The Signatory broker will also lose out. When there is no such document, logic should be that there is no obligation. And yet, Belgian courts have just set a precedent which is a catastrophy for the jewellery sector.
 
- THE DISPUTE
In 1988, a jeweller who has a very good name is given a diamond set. The client wishes one stone to be taken out to have a solitaire. The stone is taken out, the solitaire is delivered. But the client remains in two minds as regards the rest of the piece. In her diary she writes that the solitaire is intended for a member of her family and the remaining is at the jeweller's. The client dies in 2004 and the heirs find the diary amidst the deceased lady's letters. With this manuscript, the beneficiaries demand the piece to be returned to them as soon as possible: as for the jeweller, he is dumbfounded that a customer comes and demands a piece sixteen years later. He nevertheless embarks on researching his records and traces the necklace. In the workshop logbook the entry states that the piece has been repaired by it and returned on the return date appearing on the work order. In good faith he shows the heirs this written evidence that the piece was in his workshop at some time. A basic mistake since, based on this workshop logbook, the beneficiaries are going to demand the piece of jewellery to be given back to them or its value to be paid to them. Since the customer does not have any document signed by the jeweller, any commission warrant, and that the only "evidence" being the jeweller's workshop logbook, the first instance magistrate decides that there is indeed no evidence. In appeal, however, the Court returns a different verdict and decides that the jeweller has to pay. But on which basis?

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