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Snookered for 15-Carat|Diamond, Woman Says

WEST PALM BEACH (CN) - A Palm Beach Island jeweler cajoled a woman into handing over her 15-carat diamond ring for a "holiday cleaning" and then tried to force her to trade it in, the woman claims in court.

Judith Knudsen sued jeweler Christopher Kaufmann and his business, Christopher Kaufmann Le Salon, in Palm Beach County Court.

Knudsen says in the lawsuit that Kaufmann set the hook in December 2013 when he called her and offered to polish her 15-carat ring, which he had sold her for $550,000.

Knudsen claims that she gave the ring to Kaufmann for the "holiday cleaning," and that Kaufmann proposed a trade-in deal. He suggested she sell the ring back to Kaufmann for a store credit and pay him an additional $580,000 in exchange for a 13-carat diamond piece valued at $1.1 million.

Knudsen says she expressed interest but told Kaufmann that before making her decision, she needed an independent appraisal and wanted to see settings for the 13-carat stone.

She says she gave Kaufmann a $580,000 check but made it clear that the trade-in deal was not final, and that she needed time to mull things over.

She "did not enter into any contract" with Kaufmann regarding the trade-in deal, she says in the complaint.

The day after Christmas, Knudsen says, she visited Kaufmann's Worth Avenue store, Le Salon, to pick up her ring and call off the deal.

To her surprise, she claims, Kaufmann told her the deal already was under way, though the prerequisites, such as the independent appraisal, had not been satisfied.

Knudsen claims Kaufmann told her he already had cashed her check and given up possession of her ring.

It was all part of the "Kaufmann Modus Operandi," Knudsen says in the lawsuit.

She claims Kaufmann gains his customers' trust, "dazzles [them] with his highfalutin style," and then pressures them into jewelry purchases. She says Kaufmann "offers customers a way out, but only through buying more expensive jewelry from him."

Kaufmann's attorney claims that Knudsen did agree to buy the 13-carat diamond.

According to the lawsuit, Knudsen's attorney Steven Schwarzberg received a letter from Kaufmann's attorney that stated: "Our position is straightforward and simply put, your client Judith F. Knudsen entered into a purchase order for a 13.28 Carat Pear Shaped Diamond Ring."

But Knudsen claims in the lawsuit that the "purchase order" is an "illegible and incomprehensible" handwritten memo, which Kaufmann had asked her to sign when she discussed the trade-in with him on Christmas Eve.

Knudsen says the document is too vague to be legally enforceable. Moreover, she says, "any alleged contract ... should be rescinded because it was fraudulently induced."

Knudsen seeks damages for deceptive trade, conversion, unjust enrichment, fraudulent inducement and breach of fiduciary duty. She also wants the ring back and a declaratory judgment nullifying the alleged purchase order.

Kaufmann did not respond to requests for comment.

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