GIA supports Global Jewelry Crime Investigators

April 2012

More than $1.5 billion of jewelry and precious metals were stolen in the U.S. in 2010, with a recovery rate of only around 4.2 percent, according to the Uniform Crime Report issued by the FBI. To help combat gem and jewelry-related crime, law enforcement turned to GIA (Gemological Institute of America) for expertise and assistance. In March, 22 special agents and detectives from international agencies completed a custom-designed intensive two week program at GIA world headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., that armed them with the skills, knowledge and network to help successfully identify and recover gems and jewelry involved in criminal cases.

Law enforcement officers from Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia and South Africa joined representatives from 13 U.S. cities including police officers, FBI agents and Homeland Security Investigators to learn how advanced gemological information and training from GIA can help solve international gem and jewelry crimes.

The experienced professionals received training in the GIA-created 4Cs of diamond quality (Color, Cut, Clarity and Carat weight) and their grading factors; tools of the trade including loupes and microscopes; an industry overview outlining the role of diamonds in the marketplace; synthetics, imitations and treatments; field identification of colored gemstones; how to read a GIA grading report; how jewelry is made; and breaking down stolen jewelry.

FBI Special Agent Daniel McCaffrey participates in a custom-designed laboratory class at the GIA world headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif. Image © GIA.

The objectives of GIA and law enforcement coincide because they both dedicate themselves to the people they serve, according to Special Agent Daniel McCaffrey, a 16-year veteran of the FBI. “A GIA education is indispensable. The information and practices I’ve learned give me a certain edge because I’m able to employ a more technical perspective,” he added.

“Our mission is to protect the public in gemstone and jewelry purchases,” said Donna Baker, president and CEO of GIA. “We’re pleased to have built a strong working relationship with law enforcement agencies around the world. By working together, we can help reduce gem-related crimes.”

The goals of the seminar were to teach practical gemology for use in investigations and demonstrate how GIA resources are readily available to assist in criminal cases. The blend of national and international attendees added the crucial element of transnational cooperation. Representatives from mining countries such as Canada and South Africa brought their unique experience with crimes that occur at the source of gemstones; while others brought a consumer perspective.

In the 1980s, a database of diamonds and colored stones with GIA grading reports was started to assist law enforcement in identifying gemstones involved in crimes. Stones, even if they have been recut, can be identified in the system. Another way GIA can identify a stone is through a laser inscription . A police report with a certified English translation is required to utilize this system.

Criminal cases solved through the GIA database are not restricted to jewelry theft. McCaffrey described how identifying the stone in an engagement ring led to identification of a murder victim. Investigators were able to trace the ring back to the jeweler who sold the ring by flagging it in the database, which eventually led them to the victim’s family.

“Jewelry theft is often a gateway crime,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Eric Ives, organized crime and major theft program manager. “These crimes are often associated with very sophisticated and sometimes violent international criminal enterprises involved in other criminal violations, including money laundering. The illicit proceeds from the trafficking of stolen jewelry are sometimes used to fund other criminal activities.”

GIA has supported and educated law enforcement for decades. The current intensive program began as a partnership between GIA and the Major Theft Program at FBI Headquarters in 2007. Through this collaboration, the training course was coordinated, the curriculum was developed and attendees were selected.