Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else's ideas and work in order to then pass them off as your own and whilst it's a massive problem online, most perpetrators are savvy and discreet enough to cover their tracks and make sufficient alterations to the stolen material in order to ensure that nobody identifies it as having originally been created by someone else. It's also pretty well known amongst online retailers that duplicate content doesn't rank well in Google which is another reason why pages of text that have been plagiarised tend to be altered before being republished but more importantly, plagiarism also violates Google's User Policy. Despite that Sarah and Picky Saund the people behind Lumina Jewellery made a conscious decision to set out to steal creative ideas and company policies from another business and I can only assume that was because they are unable to come up with anything original and exciting of their own. Sadly on this occasion it was Stone Mania who was the victim but what we uncovered after having landed on the website of Lumina Jewellery purely by chance, was that they had a very unhealthy interest in our business.
Husband and wife team Sarah and Picky Saund set up Lumina Jewellery in 2008 but their website didn't appear until the summer of 2013. Explaining on the homepage how they came to set up their business, Sarah writes:
"It was a very deliberate lifestyle choice for us. What we wanted was a way to work together which would allow us to use our brains and our creativity and also allow us to spend time together as a family. Neither of us have any formal training in jewellery design but we were both drawn to working with stones".
With that said instead of using their "brains and creativity" to build a business model of their own, after having discovered Stone Mania they simply started helping themselves to whatever they wanted and the amount of plagiarism that ensued was really quite shocking.
Following the launch of their website they clearly weren't happy with its design so decided to make some changes and by 2014 it had a whole new look. Lacking the aspirations that most new business owners have to create something unique and exciting of their own, Sarah and Picky Saund instead plagiarised everything they needed from me. The fact that they'd found another company who not only sold similar products to them but who also had a business model they liked so much that they wanted it for themselves, was more than they could have ever hoped for.
Whilst doing some research early in 2017 in order to write about a mineral in my collection I happened to land on the website of Lumina Jewellery and was immediately curious about who the company was. Not only was the style of some of their gemstone jewellery very similar to mine but I could also see that it was made in India so I was surprised that I'd never come across them before. The links at the top of their website included several pages which sounded strangely familiar, there was an Order & Returns Policy, a Shipping Policy, Terms & Conditions but it was the fourth page called "Our Photos" that really set alarm bells ringing. I had four pages on my website with exactly the same names and whilst it was not unusual to have a Shipping Policy and Terms & Conditions, having an Order & Returns Policy and a page called Our Photos was more than just a coincidence. As I clicked on each link I was shocked to see that the pages I was reading had in fact been written by me and they had literally copied them from my website in order to use them in theirs. Other than changing the company name wherever it appeared to Lumina Jewellery, nothing else at all had been changed. They had literally just copied and pasted pages from my website into theirs. Even the internal links that I had created were still in place but instead of pointing to pages on my website, they pointed to pages on theirs.
By using a great website called Wayback Machine it was easy to pinpoint when the plagiarism had taken place because I was able to go back in time and look at Lumina Jewellery on different dates to see what the website looked like. My pages first appeared on their site in 2014 and must all have been copied by March 2015 because by then, I had updated and changed most of my pages and it was the old versions of the pages that they had taken. To say I was shocked was an understatement and what made things even stranger was that the Terms & Conditions, Shipping Policy and Order & Returns Policy that I had written, had been tailored for my business and was both specific and detailed so Lumina Jewellery had clearly decided to use my policies for their business instead of creating their own.
Lumina Jewellery had made some minor changes to the Shipping Policy page to suit their needs but what made me laugh was that they even state their jewellery will be sent in a "stylish gift pouch". I wonder whether they ever ordered anything from me to see what our gift pouches were like and then had the same ones made from themselves.
Since being plagiarised the layout of this page on my website had changed slightly and I have not been able to find an earlier snapshot.
The "Our Photos" page that I wrote which they also helped themselves to, explained how I photographed pieces from my collection and although some changes had been made to the text, you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out where it had come from.
Lumina Jewellery's website also looked very familiar and having looked back at how my website was prior to being redesigned in 2015, it came as no surprise to see that the two shared many similarities. Their company name and logo were in almost exactly the same position, the shaded bar which featured links to different pages was the same apart from the colour and the large banner featuring photos of their jewellery rotating on a loop was identical apart from my banner had been on a plain white background. Even the search box, shopping cart and company tag line were in the same positions as they had been on my website. The colours they'd chosen to use were also uncannily similar and although they had clearly had a logo designed for them, I believe the fact that it includes a kind of octagon shape is highly unlikely to be a coincidence.
The screenshots above show how similar the colours are to the shades of mauve and yellow in our logo. When creating a design a graphic designer needs something to work from in order to come up with new ideas and there's no doubt in my mind where those ideas came from. I think I can say with some degree of certainty that the four octagons in my logo were very likely the basis for the design of Lumina Jewellery's logo.
Even their tag line “The natural beauty of gemstones combined with creative use of silver to breathtaking effect” was vaguely similar to mine which was at that time, "Transforming magnificent gemstones into breathtaking pieces of jewellery”. We stopped using it in 2010 because that's when we started adding crystals rocks and minerals to our collection of gemstone pendants.
Lumina Jewellery also sold gemstone rings just like we had done until about 2013 and surprise surprise, they too were grouped according to size on their website which was quite rare to see. They even had a section called "Stone Directory" but instead of writing about each gemstone individually as I had done in my Gemstone Directory, they just included a long list of names and I'm assuming they hadn't had a chance yet to plagiarise this section of my website.
It amazes me how audacious some people can be, creating a successful presence for any business online takes time, money and effort and since being launched in 2003 I've invested a huge amount of all three yet Sarah and Picky Saund seem to think it's okay to just help to themselves to whatever they want from another business. It really defies belief.
Just when I thought I'd seen everything, I noticed from photos on their website that they move around doing retail shows and country fairs just like Stone Mania used to do until we started trading solely online in 2013. As I looked at photos of their stand it dawned on me who they were, I had seen them at a few shows in the last couple of years and they caught my attention not only because of the similarity of some of their gemstone pendants but also because of the number they had on display. The first time I saw their stand was when the travelling French Market came to St Albans because we traded in St Albans market for many years. I then saw them again at the Rock n Gem show at Kempton Park Racecourse and finally at Winchester Cathedral Christmas market. Needless to say I had traded for many years in all three of those locations. Whilst looking at some of their pieces at the Christmas Market in Winchester I even spoken to Picky and commented how similar some of the pendants were to mine. I could see they were made in Jaipur but the purity of the silver and quality of the craftsmanship was definitely not the same standard. Their jewellery reminded me of my early days when I first started doing business in India when the quality of the craftsmanship was an uphill battle. It took many years for me to be able to achieve the standard of work that I wanted for my pendants and it was clear that Lumina Jewellery still had a long way to go.
Wanting to see what else I could find out about them I turned to Facebook and found this photo, I have erased their faces to comply with privacy laws. If you're wondering why it's relevant you'll see when you look at the next photo which was taken by me.
We used to have quite a few photos like this on various social media platforms and on our website because I thought it would be nice to show our customers how we bought gemstones for our collection and what they looked like before they went on to be crafted as pendants.
This was now beginning to get really weird but take a look at the next couple of photos. This first is also from their Facebook page and I'm assuming it's them with their supplier choosing labradorite cabochons.
The photo below is not of them again choosing labradorite but is instead a photo that I took whilst at MY supplier choosing labradorite for MY collection. This photo has been on our website for several years and can be seen right here, scroll down the page and you'll see it. This was more than just plagiarism, it was downright freaky!
I then found myself looking at a photo of their retail stand and immediately noticed a similarity not only in how they displayed their pendants, but also how the stand was set up. The next two photos show Stone Mania at one of the first country shows that we did back in 2005 and Lumina Jewellery more recently at the Royal Berkshire Show. I think you'll agree that there are far too many similarities in the two stands for it to be another coincidence. Not only have they paid for a double trade stand as we always did because of the size of our display, their pendant boards are very similar and in almost exactly the same position. They even have a display case in front of the board on the right and earring stands close to the board on the left. Several trays of rings fill the centre of the counter and although I can't say for sure, I think I can hazard a guess and say they're probably arranged in size order because ours always were! Even the black cloth covering their tables is exactly the same material but at least they came up with a nicer idea than the cloths we used back then behind our stand!.
In 2007 we had beautiful cherry wood display boards made by hand to match our existing counter top display cases and this photo was our chalet at Winchester Christmas market. This was two years before Lumina Jewellery started trading.
I had seen enough and immediately filed a DCMA (copyright infringement notice) with Google. I also sent an email to Lumina Jewellery confronting them about what I had found but needless to say, they were cowards and didn't have the decency to reply. What they did do however literally within minutes of me sending the email was remove all the pages they had plagiarised.
Clearly they believed that by deleting the text there would be no further trace of it but that just shows how naive Sarah and Picky Saund are. Not only does Google cache pages which means it regularly takes a snapshot which remains accessible until the page is crawled again and the cached image is then updated, but there are also archive websites like Wayback Machine which enable you to step back in time. Despite the text on the page below being deleted in April 2017, it will remain visible and fully accessible for many years to come.
This should be a lesson to anyone who has their own business that there are people out there who have no qualms at all about plagiarising the work of others and worse still in the case of Lumina Jewellery, they were so brazen that they didn't even bother altering the text to try and hide the fact that it hadn't been written by them. I have to say after years of working online and writing about plagiarism, I have never heard of anyone stealing pages from a competitor's website which includes working policies in order to use them virtually verbatim on their own website. Nor have I heard of a company who takes almost identical photos or copies the way a competitor sets up their retail stand and displays their merchandise right down to the colour of the cloth that covers the table. To be honest I find that kind of behaviour extremely freaky.
When most people start up a business they want to create something unique, exciting and original that they can truly call their own, well that's what I have always been led to believe however having found Lumina Jewellery, I now realise that clearly isn't the case. Despite stealing so much from my business they still have the audacity to state on their original home page regarding setting up their business, "It was a very deliberate lifestyle choice for us. What we wanted was a way to work together which would allow us to use our brains and our creativity".
Stone Mania has come a very long way since the company was established back in 2002 and we owe everything that we've achieved to many years of hard work, absolute dedication and possibly most importantly of all an unwavering desire to succeed at building a unique and successful business. As it's plain to see from this article and the accompanying photos and screenshots, Lumina Jewellery have very different morals and I think the following screenshot from their Google feedback page sums them up perfectly. If you're going to leave a review for your own business listing, at least be sensible enough to change your name!
It does make me wonder whether Lumina Jewellery was created after these two individuals saw my business and thought to themselves something along the lines of, with Picky's contacts in India this kind of business would be absolutely perfect for us. After all, the text that Sarah wrote on the homepage of her first website before she copied pages from mine, makes it clear that they were looking to do something together and were drawn to working with stones. The only stones they were drawn to working with belonged to me!
Here's a little story for you Sara and Picky Saund, don't plagiarise other people's hard work, use your "brains and creativity" and come up with ideas of your own.