Plagiarising from Stone Mania but Caught Red Handed
Plagiarism is the practice of taking someone else's work and ideas to pass off as your own. Although online the practice violates Google's User Policy, it remains a serious problem. Google has become wise to this in recent years hence duplicate content doesn't rank well in search results and can lead to a copyright infringement notice being issued or a website even being blacklisted. Most perpetrators will do their best to cover their tracks and make sufficient alterations to the stolen material to minimise the chances of it being recognised. For Lumina Jewellery however it was far too easier to just use copy and paste to take whatever they needed from Stone Mania to create their business and build a website. What was even more shocking was that it didn't stop there. I would even go as far as to say that Lumina Jewellery owned and run by Sara and Picky Saund, may well only have come into existence because they discovered Stone Mania.
Having landed Lumina Jewellery's website purely by chance, the style of the gemstone jewellery in their collection immediately caught my attention because it was so similar to my own. As I tried to find out who was behind the company and where they were based, I found myself reading information that sounded strangely familiar. It took a while for me to realise what was going on and the deeper I dug, the more shocked I became. Not only had they plagiarised pages of information but had also copied designs, the style of some photographs that I'd taken, my display equipment and the way I set up my stand up at retail events and were even using trading policies that I'd written for Stone Mania to run their business.
Husband and wife team Sara and Picky Saund set Lumina Jewellery up in 2008 and two years later in 2010 launched a website. In a small article on the homepage that talks about the company Sara says "although this site acts mainly as a portfolio of our work, we are more than happy to do mail order and can process payments over the phone". By 2014 and thanks to Stone Mania they had a fully functional website with a whole new look. Explaining on their homepage how they came to set the business up Sara 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".
The truth of the matter however was quite different. Instead of using their "brains and creativity" to come up with something original of their own, they instead plagiarised everything they had from me. In fact I believe they probably saw me at one of the markets or retail shows that I did at that time around the country and liking what they saw, created Lumina Jewellery.
I landed on their website in 2017 whilst doing research on a mineral that I was writing about. After fifteen years of trading online I knew who my competitors were and had never seen this website before. It was the similarity of their jewellery that initially captured my attention but then I noticed the links at the top of the page. Just like on my own website they had an Order & Returns Policy, Shipping Policy and Terms & Conditions but it was the page called Our Photos that really set alarm bells ringing. On the Stone Mania website the links to each of these pages were in exactly the same position and whilst this information is common on retail websites, having an "Order & Returns Policy" and a page called "Our Photos" was more than just a coincidence. I soon found myself reading information that I had written some years earlier and the only changes that had been made were to the company name. Even the internal links that I'd built were still in place but instead of pointing to pages on my website they pointed to pages on theirs.
Although I knew of many jewellery companies online who were based in the UK, Lumina Jewellery was different to anything I had seen before because their jewellery was so similar to mine. Not only was the style almost identical but they focussed primarily on gemstone pendants many of which were unusually large, chunky and featured a wide variety of different gemstones. The number of pendants available for sale ran in to the hundreds and each piece was unique. They spoke about choosing the gemstones in Jaipur in India and working closely with local artisans who created each piece of jewellery by hand. They even included photographs of the entire process. Apart from the company name and a few other very minor differences, I could have been looking at my own website.
By using the internet archive service Wayback Machine I was able to pinpoint fairly precisely when the plagiarism had taken place. My pages first appeared on Lumina Jewellery's website in late 2014 and in March 2015 I updated all four pages but it was the original text that had been plagiarised. The Terms & Conditions, Shipping Policy and Order & Returns Policy had been tailored precisely for my business and were specific and detailed yet appeared virtually verbatim on the website of Lumina Jewellery.
Our Working Practices Being Used by Lumina Jewellery
And the original version on the website of Stone Mania;
The only changes that had been made to the Shipping Policy were the company name and some minor details towards the bottom. They had even kept the line that said "jewellery will be sent in a stylish gift pouch". I wonder whether they ever bought anything from Stone Mania to see what our "stylish gift pouches" were like and if they subsequently had the same ones made for themselves?
The screenshot of the Shipping Policy from Stone Mania is slightly different because the earliest snapshot I could find on Wayback Machine was taken after I'd updated the page. Prior to being updated the page was identical to the one plagiarised by Lumina Jewellery except for the middle two lines in the final paragraph which had been changed.
I feel quite offended that Sara Saund didn't like what I wrote on the "Our Photos" page! It's not difficult to see however where her version was plagiarised from.
Lumina Jewellery Shockingly Unbelievable
As I looked more closely I could see there were many similarities to the Stone Mania website before it was redesigned in 2015. Their company name and logo were in the same position at the top and the bar which featured links to various pages was also the same apart from a different coloured font. The banner which featured photos of their jewellery on a rotating loop was the same except on my website it was on a white background. Even the search box, shopping cart and company tagline were all in exactly the same positions. The colours they had chosen to use for the design of the Lumina Jewellery website were also uncannily similar and although they'd clearly had a logo designed, the fact that it includes a kind of octagon shape was more than yet another coincidence.
When creating a design for a website a graphic designer needs something to work from in order to come up with new ideas and I think it's clear to see where those ideas came from. Even their tagline “The natural beauty of gemstones combined with creative use of silver to breathtaking effect” was vaguely similar to mine which at the time was, "Transforming magnificent gemstones into breathtaking pieces of jewellery”. I stopped using it in 2010 because that's when crystals rocks and minerals started being added to our collection.
The way the gemstone rings were organised on their website was unsurprisingly exactly the same as it was on Stone Mania. They also had a section called "Stone Directory" but instead of writing about each gemstone individually as I did in my Gemstone Directory (now Articles & Photos), they just included one long list of names and I'm assuming they hadn't yet copied those pages over.
The audacity of these two individuals was quite unbelievable. Creating a website takes time money and effort and since launching mine back in 2002 I've invested a huge amount of all three. Sarah and Picky Saund on the other hand seem to think that whatever they see online is theirs for the taking.
Just when I thought I'd seen everything, I noticed from one of their photos they did retail fairs around the country which I did for many years and having seen their stand I immediately recognised who they were. I had seen Picky Saund at a few fairs over the last couple of years and he caught my attention not only because of the similarity of some of the pendants but also because of the size of their collection. The first time I saw them was at the travelling French Market in St Albans, I then saw them again at the Rock n Gem show at Kempton Park and finally at Winchester Cathedral Christmas market. Needless to say Stone Mania traded for many years in all three of those locations. I had even spoken to Picky whilst visiting the Christmas Market in Winchester some years later and introduced myself and explained that I had a company called Stone Mania. I didn't find him to be particularly friendly but little did I know, he knew exactly who I was.
OMG Where Will it End?
Wanting to see what else I could find out about Lumina Jewellery I turned to Facebook and found this photo, I have erased their faces to comply with privacy laws. If you're wondering why photos of loose cabochons is relevant, you'll see when you look at the next photo which was taken by me whilst buying loose cabochons for Stone Mania whilst in India.
I used to have many photos like this on my website and on social media platforms to show that the cabochons featured in my collection were carefully selected prior to the pendants being crafted.
This was now really getting beyond a joke but the worst was yet to come. Take a look at the next couple of photos, the first one is also from the Facebook page of Lumina Jewellery and I'm assuming it's them with their supplier in India choosing labradorite cabochons.
What follows is not another photo of them choosing labradorite but is instead a photo that I took whilst at my supplier in India choosing labradorite for Stone Mania. This photo has been on our website for several years (right here) and the original which can be seen here is dated January 2007. 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 their jewellery was displayed but also how the stand was set up. The next two photos show Stone Mania at one of the very first country shows that we did back in 2004 and Lumina Jewellery more recently at the Royal Berkshire Show. I think you'll agree there are far too many similarities for it to be yet another coincidence.
In 2007 I had cherry wood display boards made to match my existing countertop display cases. This photo of Stone Mania at the Winchester Christmas market was taken one year before Lumina Jewellery began trading.
Copyright Infringement Noticed Served on Lumina Jewellery
By now I had seen more than enough and immediately filed a copyright infringement notice with Google. I also sent an email to Lumina Jewellery confronting them about what I had found but they were not brave or courteous enough to reply. What they did do however literally within minutes of receiving the email was remove all of the plagiarised material from their website.
Stupidly Sara Saund believed that deleting the pages would remove any trace of them but it's much easier to upload information to the internet than it is to delete it. Not only does Google cache pages which means it regularly takes a snapshot which remains accessible until the page is next crawled and the cached version is then updated, but there are also internet archive websites like Wayback Machine which enable you to go "way back" in time to see how a page once looked. Despite the Order and Returns policy that had been plagiarised from Stone Mania having been deleted, it will remain freely available to whoever wants to view it for many, many years to come. I can still look at pages from my original website from 2002!
Sara deleted all of the pages that had been plagiarised from Stone Mania on 17th April 2017. The screenshot below of the now deleted page was taken on 7th December 2017. When this article was updated in 2020 I added a link which although slow to load because it's an archived page, will take you to the Order and Returns policy on the Lumina Jewellery website as it was before Sara deleted it. Here's the link but be patient with it. The best part as you'll see at the bottom of the page when it loads is that they've even included a copyright notice.
The audacity really does defy belief!
Protect Your Business from Plagiarism
This article shows that there are people out there like Sara and Picky Saund who are quite happy to plagiarise other people's work and ideas instead of creating something original of their own. I have to say after many years of trading online and being well aware that plagiarism happens, I have never heard of anyone stealing pages from a competitor's website and using their trading policies exactly as they were written, to run their own business. Nor have I heard of anyone taking identical photos or replicating the way someone sets up their stand at a retail event in such detail. To be honest I think it's all very weird and creepy and almost feels like they've been stalking me.
When most people start a business they usually want to create something unique, exciting and original that they can truly call their own but following my experience with Lumina Jewellery, I realise that's not always the case. Despite stealing so much from Stone Mania they then had the audacity to write on the home page of their website, "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 in 2002 and I owe everything that I've achieved to many years of hard work, absolute dedication and an unwavering desire to succeed. As it's plain to see from this article and the accompanying photos and screenshots, Lumina Jewellery have a very different mentality.
The next screenshot which I took from the feedback section of their Google business listing sums these two up perfectly. If you're going to pose as a customer and leave a review for your own business, at least have the common sense to use a different name!
The final screenshot in this article was taken from Lumina Jewellery's original website (via Wayback Machine of course) and states they were looking to do something together and were drawn to working with stones. I'll always wonder whether the idea to work with stones came about before or as a result of discovering Stone Mania.
My advice to these two individuals is don't plagiarise other people's ideas and hard work, use your "brains and creativity" and come up with something unique of your own.