ELKHART — A family is mourning the loss of several pieces of heirloom jewelry after they were stolen from an Elkhart apartment Christmas Eve.
They’re afraid that after a confrontation in a local gold shop, they’ll never see the jewelry again.
Elkhart police responded to a burglary at an apartment on the city’s southwest side Dec. 24. Officers found no doors forced open or windows broken, but the family reported 13 pieces of jewelry with a total value of $3,700 had been, according to a police report.
Gone were a cameo that an 81-year-old woman received for high school graduation, several lockets, an aquamarine ring and a ruby ring, to name a few pieces, said a daughter of the couple who declined to be named.
“My mom and dad don’t have a lot,” the woman said. “Those are special things they were saving for us.”
On Monday, the woman and her teenage daughters planned to visit several area pawn shops to try to find their grandmother’s lost treasures. When they were at the first store, a place that buys gold on Elkhart’s south side, a man entered the store with several jewels that looked familiar to the couple’s daughter.
“I looked over and said, ‘That’s my mom’s jewelry,’” the woman recalled.
She confronted the man, who scooped up the jewelry, knocked the woman down and left the store. Her daughters tried to catch him, but couldn’t.
Elkhart police are working the case, said Capt. Michael Sigsbee of the Criminal Investigation Division. Officers are trying to obtain video from the gold business and an adjoining grocery store so they can get a better picture of the man. Officers have a general description, but no clear identification yet.
But the woman’s reflexive instincts could have hurt her rather than helped.
“She confronted him before he gave his ID to sell the items,” Sigsbee said.
Det. John Perry, who investigates property crimes for the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, said that even if the jewelry shows up at a local shop, it could be difficult to identify and prove that it belonged to the family. Elkhart County has at least 30 shops that buy secondhand jewelry.
“Trying to identify your jewelry would be a lot easier than me trying to identify it,” he said.
By state law, shops that buy jewelry from customers are supposed to take a photo of it and copy the identification of someone who sells it, but that doesn’t always happen, Perry said.
“We’ve talked to (shops) where they come in and have underage kids sell them stuff that they know it was stolen,” Perry said.
Those same shops buy jewelry for low prices, then turn around and sell it to a smelting firm that pays more money for the gold, Perry said. Sometimes this happens the same day they buy the jewelry. Those shops differ from pawn shops, which must hold a license and are regulated by the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions. Pawn shops hold on to their jewelry for 30 days, Perry said.
Perry recommends photographing important items such as heirloom jewelry and itemizing it on homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.
“If we don’t find it at least you can get reimbursed for it,” he said. “Some of these things are grandma’s jewelry. You can’t replace it.”
The family no longer hopes it will get its jewelry back. The daughter said she was happy the older woman was wearing her wedding band.
“She didn’t get a diamond until their 25th anniversary,” she said.