Chris Golis, manager of Golis Family Jewelry in Bluffton, has worked in the business long enough to know a jeweler can help thwart crime when he pays attention to detail and follows the occasional gut feeling.
Earlier this week, Golis noted a tiny numerical inscription on the edge of a stone in a ring worth $10,000, an observation that led to the arrest Tuesday of a St. Helena Island man who tried to sell him the stolen ring.
Golis, who has 20 years experience, said the suspect's story of how he came to possess the ring didn't sound right. After inspecting the laser-made inscription -- visible only if the stone is examined under a powerful magnifying lens -- he locked down the store and called the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office. Deputies identified the suspect -- Reginald Rayshawn Bates, 29, of St. Helena Island -- as an employee of a moving company hired at a home on Cutter's Circle in Bluffton, where the ring disappeared during a family's move.
The situation was a best-case scenario for recovery, Golis said. The ring's owner kept records up to date and alerted law enforcement and jewelers to keep an eye out for the piece -- particularly the laser-scribed numerical code.
Laser-scribed diamonds and precious stones tend to be more expensive, Golis said.
Pat Kinard of The Jeweler's Bench Inc. in Beaufort said inscriptions can be put on any stone sent to a national or international company, such as the Gemological Institute of America or the European Gemological Laboratory. However, pieces that are shipped for inscription sometimes are not returned to the owner for months, according to the companies' websites.
Although laser inscriptions increase the likelihood a jeweler can prevent a stolen item from being sold, Golis said the rightful owner still must do his part to alert law enforcement, local jewelers and pawn shops. And inscriptions are useless if records aren't updated to reflect new owners after a legal sale, Kinard added.
With or without an inscription, Golis and Kinard both said the best protection is being proactive.
Valuables should be photographed and appraisals and insurance polices kept current, Golis said.
"That stone ties those papers to the insurance," Golis said. "Insurance, in the end, is the best thing in the world."
Such measures not only make it easier to be reimbursed for insured pieces, it makes it more likely stolen or misplaced items will be recovered by law enforcement, a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said.
"The most helpful thing citizens can do is to have jewelry properly documented and photographed," Sgt. Robin McIntosh said. "Of course, this won't prevent jewelry from being stolen, but it is imperative when it comes to our recovery efforts."
Depending on how often a piece is worn, a safe within the home or a bank safety deposit box is a smart investment, Kinard said.
"If you leave a hundred dollar bill lying in the sidewalk, it's going to get picked up," Kinard said, comparing cash to jewelry left on night stands or in bathrooms unattended. "Anything you don't want stolen, lock up."