February 22, 2020 @ 7:51 PM

How to handle abandoned jewelry repairs

Every store has repairs (jewelry and watch) that have not and will not be picked up. The repair ticket you have that says “after 6 months unclaimed repairs will be ours” will not hold up in court. “Forgetaboutit”.

Each state has a law how to handle things being repaired and what to do with them if abandoned and it’s not what you think, nor will it be easy for you to get a straight answer.

Typically, your state Attorney General’s Office knows the laws but you’ll still find getting an intelligent answer difficult. If you google:

“abandoned repairs, ‘my state name’” you come up with a huge list and you’ll see more often than not info on abandoned cars and furniture/belongings inside a home or apartment rental. Go to this link and find your attorney general’s office and start there. Your attorney might be able to help and is the best place; but won’t be an easy journey.


Here’s a snapshot:

  • Some states say after a year it’s yours.
  • Some states say longer.
  • Some states say after a period of time it belongs to the state and you’ll have to send the jewelry to the state.

I’m in Georgia and 40 years ago I did my “do-diligence” and this is what I found for Georgia. You’ll have to do your own, start with the website above.

This is really the law as I read it 40 years ago.

“A company must keep a customer’s abandoned repair for one year. After one year the company must give the owner of the repair a 10 day notice by posting the notice on the sheriff’s bulletin board that if not claimed after 10 days the company can sell the repair item for the repair charges and the customer cannot hold the company liable. “

Can you believe the sheriff’s bulletin board? Yes. Furthermore if you sold the item for more than charges (example: size a 1 ct diamond ring for $50.00 and sell it as abandoned for $3000.00) then you get to keep the $50.00 for the store, make a record of the $3000 sale and any time in the future if that customer comes back you must give them the excess you received $2,950.00! That’s the way it was in Georgia.

So this is what we did:

  • We of course called multiple times during the year and sent out postcards to pick up your work.
  • After a year we sent out a certified letter to the address on file with a return receipt to be signed that it was received. The letter stated that if not retrieved within 10 days of the mailing of this letter the customer will forfeit the item and can be sold by our company to retrieve repair charges.
  • Copies of this were attached to the job and in customer notes in the pos system.

This action brought in at least half of the customers. We kept this paperwork forever on these customers so we could prove we made the attempt. The law states they don’t have to receive the letter we only needed to prove we mailed it, which we had.

Most items were low value, but we had a few thousand dollar items, which if not saleable, we scrapped them. We only had in 25 years one customer come back 3 years later crying but nothing we could do and we never had any problems handling this in this manner.

What we learned from this was to get paid UP FRONT for low end items (like silver repairs) and when it came to watch repairs this is what we did.

Many watches aren’t worth the cost of repair but of course you must send to the watchmaker to get an estimate. If the customer didn’t approve the repair over the phone easily half wouldn’t waste their time to pick up a worthless watch.

Our solution? We took in a $20.00 advanced refundable deposit in CASH upon take in on watch repairs. The twenty-dollar bill stayed IN the envelope. So if they didn’t want the watch repaired they would come back in to get their $20.00 bill. Worked every time.

I know many stores that get many repairs paid for up front. We started offering a 5% discount to pay for anything at drop off. You wouldn’t believe how many customers would pre-pay for a $3000 sight unseen custom job just to get the 5% discount!

Another headache of the jewelry industry.

David Geller

Director of things abandoned.