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Theft at Art Shows

Thanks again to all on the list that spoke highly of Pepe tools,
expecially the disk cutter. I plan to order it and will probably ask
again about how to use it so as to not dull the cutter. Here is
another topic I have knawing on my mind. Theft. I had my jewelry in a
small town for a celebration. Many people looked, and many people
bought. That part was great. BUT someone stole a ring from me! I know
this because I only sold two rings and there were 3 vacant spots on
my ring holder. This was 3 weeks ago and I am still angry. How should
I arrange my tables in my booth so that I can see people from the
front as they are looking? I have a 10x10 tent and 4 tables that are
24"x 48". I have heard that if jewelry is kept under glass, you will
have fewer sales. Those of you seasoned Art show people, can you help

Jean Menden

I agree with Gerry that it is best to keep jewelry under glass. It
not only protects the items from theft, but it makes a much nicer
presentation than if the jewelry was displayed on a table, bargain
basement style.

Each piece should be displayed in a way that indicates to the buyer
that it is a custom, hand made item. Such a presentation will
encourage sales, not discourage them.


Theft happens. I put my more expensive pieces under glass and keep
less expensive out. It also depends on the show. A community event
with beer drinking, stages with loud music, greasy food, face
painting…caters to all, and you will get a younger crowd…your
theft rate could go up.

An art festival that is just for the art-draws an older crowd and
the youngsters don’t tend to be there, I may leave more expensive
pieces out at that kind of a show. I do keep the work that is out in
the center of my display so no one can reach around my booth sides
and do a snatch & grab easily. I also pull work out of the glass
cases all the time. If I think someone is looking at a piece, even
just for fun, I get it out and tell them to “play” with. People love
to handle the jewelry, I love their reactions to my work. I’ve only
had 1 thing stolen in several years on the circuit.

And it was my fault but…I had a ring I hated-why I bought the cab I
don’t know. Why I made it into a ring is beyond me. The customers who
loved it couldn’t make it fit. The ones with fingers for it, didn’t
like it. It sat in my case for 2 years-ugly thing. So at one show I
pulled it out of the case hoping it would get handled and sold. It
was stolen. I was delighted. Huzza! Bad karma goes with that ring. It
was a double bonus for me. I got rid of it & its karma.


Hi Jean,

Sorry to hear about your theft, I’m sure that would eat at me for
quite a long time if it’d happened to me. I personally have my
jewelry behind “glass”, as I can’t expect to be able to keep my eyes
on everything at the same time. As much as I’d like to think that I
wouldn’t have a problem, I must be realistic & know that it’s
possible. I don’t think I could pay as much attention to any one
customer if I had to be looking around all the time. I’m not sure
what your price points are, but I’m sure no one wants things to be
stolen, no matter the price point, anyway. I also like to use the
cases, quite frankly, because that’s how the pieces would be shown if
they were in a regular store. I want people to enter my booth & feel
like they’re in a very small fine jewelry store, and I think the
cases help with that. I know some vendors feel that reduces the
buying, but I make sure to be very welcoming to people when they
come in, be sure to mention I’m happy to take anything out they may
want to see up close, answer any questions, etc. And if it seems
someone’s eye does stop on something for more than a moment, I talk
to them about it & take it out for them to see, just so they know
it’s not at all a problem. Some vendors barely acknowledge you coming
into their booth, and I’m sure people are much less likely to ask to
see something if they aren’t feeling very welcome (not to mention,
that sort of attitude would reduce sales, no matter if there were
cases or not!). I also make sure the price tags are showing, since I
know many people don’t want to ask for a price (myself included). So,
if you feel your pieces are such that cases make sense, then don’t
worry about what others think. On a related note, I was once in a
store that had a really cool ring display, and it was theft-proof.
It’s been a few years since I saw it, but I’ll try to remember. It
was a tall square table, into the top of which were a bunch of holes.
Rings were set above each hole, with a wire cable looped through the
ring shank & then went down through the hole. Something below the
table kept the cables from pulling all the way out, but the cables
were pretty thin, so the ring could still potentially be tried on.
I’m not sure of how it worked, how the store clerk undid it to get
the ring off, but as I recall it wasn’t too complex. Anyway, it
wouldn’t suit just any type of rings. These were rather hefty ones,
very artsy, not elegant gold things with fancy stones. I did think it
was a clever way to display them, though, so people could still hold
them, feel them, but not steal them!

Designs by Lisa Gallagher

Last year I had a ring stolen from me and I felt bad and then one of
the other merchants showed me how to set up my booth so I could see
all three tables at just a glance, now no one gets past my vision. Or
you could take a friend with you.


Sorry to disagree Gerry, but I have had less expensive work out
where my customers can handle it for years. I have done hundreds of
art fairs in the past 22 years and have had a retail shop for 10
years. Once in a while something goes missing, but very rarely. Once
I had 2 gold rings lifted, priced at $600 each, but these were in a
glass case and the thief worked the show for several days before he
made his move. I usually have work priced up to several hundred
dollars out where it can be handled, but either myself or my staff
is always there, being alert for the opportunity to make a sale more
than out of concern for security. It is a disappointment when
something is stolen, but it has not happened to me very often. I
think it is safe to say I have lost more to bad checks at shows than
to outright theft.

This is not to say that you should be careless or sloppy, but I
really think the risk of robbery or theft is greater before and
after the show, when the work or money can be taken all at once. I
am always most diligent leaving the show, or at my shop, locking up

Stephen Walker

Have you found any jewellery retailer keep all of his less expensive
items open for ‘grabs’? Just to make a sale? If he did, he’d be out
of business in less than one day…missing pieces!

When I was at the Buffalo “BENCH” Conference and working my booth or
even at my two seminars, I made every effort and visually count each
’setting design’ ring…every few minutes! how long did this
take…seconds. but here is the clincher, both trays were under a
glass lid…if anyone wanted to view up close, I would take it out
and let them finger it…then back it went…UNDER THE GLASS LID…I
am responsible for my own possesions…my loss, my fault!

I positioned each ring in a display that no spaces were around any
ring for showing…ring out of basic layout…woops! I requested at
each seminar that these were ‘my resume’ material and everyone
acknowledged the fact that they were S/S and only Cubic
Zirconias…“under glass” means less chances of getting misplaced,
long term…my answers may not agree with everyone…but it works for
me…if anyone wanted to ‘touch’ any ring. I was there to let them
feel, and loupe each item, then it was given back to me. I only took
out ONE…RING…AT…A…TIME…complete control of the


This is always a problem inside or out. In a more generic sense I’ll
remind or teach everyone the first two rules of security:

  1. Don’t give them the opportunity.

  2. Even honest people might steal something if they feel 100% certain
    they won’t get caught…

Hello Orchidland,

Interesting discussion. I’ll throw in a bit of personal experience.
My hubby retired and is now my booth assistant - at last, someone
strong enough to lift and tall enough to reach! Any way, he owned and
operated a small convenience store for a couple decades, so has
extensive experience watching for shoplifters.

He told me that he learned to watch people who watched him. Those
who were not interested in stealing, did not pay any attention to the
clerk and just went about their business. Those who were wanting to
take something, continually looked at the clerk, waiting for a moment
when the clerk’s attention was diverted.

Makes sense. His inventory wasn’t theft-proof, but he lost very
little to shop-lifters. He obviously makes a great booth assistant!
Judy in Kansas, who just had a weekend show with lovely weather and
decent sales. Woo-hoo!

I take my best friend with me so I can run to the bathroom

I had one ring stolen a $10 dollar sterling it was not worth the
fuss to chase the girls down I left it to karma

I saw it occur but was working with actual buyers and did not wish
to interrupt hundreds of dollars of sales over a ten dollar ring

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry

I had one ring stolen a $10 dollar sterling it was not worth the
fuss to chase the girls down I left it to karma I saw it occur but
was working with actual buyers and did not wish to interrupt
hundreds of dollars of sales over a ten dollar ring 

I’ll have to say I don’t agree with this philosophy. They steal a $10
ring from you, OK maybe you don’t mind, but I think it emboldens them
to possibly steal a $200 ring down the lane. I’ve had pieces stolen
anything from my booth, their Karma is not going to be good at all!


Even honest people might steal something if they feel 100%
certain they won't get caught. 

Then they aren’t really honest people, are they?

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ

Honest people don;t steal…it does not enter there minds to steal
if they see something vulnerable they are more likely to say
something to the vendor about how they need to maybe improve their
setup not steal it…??

This statement bothered me

Even honest people might steal something if they feel 100% certain
they won't get caught. 

Silver & Cameo Heritage Jewelry

Even honest people might steal something if they feel 100% certain
they won't get caught. 

Then they aren’t really honest people, are they?

Your point is well taken and to the point. It is true, though, and
it is true that we are all of us human beings…

I saw it occur but was working with actual buyers and did not wish
to interrupt hundreds of dollars of sales over a ten dollar ring 

Somewhere, in the foggy past, I read a qoute by someone very
wealthy(don’t remember who now) that people become wealthy by paying
attention to the scenarios that add to our lifes, rather than worry
about protecting ourselves from every little instance. In
otherwords, decide what your personal risk level is that you can live
with, and then go for it with everything else you have. No risk, no
gain. Over the years, I have found that some products sell well
enough in riskier displays to make it well worthwhile. Some things
simply have to be handled/fondled to sell well. Displaying totally
safe will sometimes kill a product’s salability, so then, how much do
you lose?

I picked up a $1200.00 strand of black diamonds at a gem show that
the dealer had no idea was sitting on the floor in front of his
case. I put it on the counter instead of pocketing it. It would have
been easy to slip it into a bag on the floor. I KNEW I wouldn’t get
caught but I wouldn’t risk the karma. Stealing is stealing. I agree,
honest people don’t steal.

Even honest people might steal something if they feel 100% certain
they won't get caught. 

I understand that the above statement is unpleasant - seemingly a
paradox, too. But I didn’t make it up - it is a known fact of
security procedures. Even though I also am honest and possess that
quality known as “integrity”, and understand people’s discomfort and
relate to it, it is a simple fact that people are human, and pretty
much nobody is a saint or actually, truly, 100% honest in every way.
Even though I am pretty “saintly” myself, I include myself as being
only human. We could make up scenarios all day, but suppose an honest
person had lost everything in a fire, needed an operation, and their
mother needed one too, and there is a million dollars in cash right
there for the taking - a life-changing amount? I’m not by any means
saying they will, or you will, or I will. The point is not that
honest people “MIGHT” steal something, the point is that the essence
of security is keeping control of your product to begin with. That it
is better to control your inventory to begin with than to lose a
$50,000 watch because you depended on someone’s good nature. The
statement is not meant to be a condemnation of honest people, it’s
meant as a word to the wise - don’t assume, don’t be naive, lock it
up. Somebody takes a $10 ring, it means they liked it - somebody
picks up your whole line in a case you walked away from because
you’re surrounded by honest people, you’re out of business. It could
very well be the one and only bad thing a person does in their
otherwise saintly life, but you’re still out of business.