The Federal Trade Commission dropped the final version of its revised Jewelry Guides on Tuesday the 24th, relaxing the rules surrounding lab-grown diamonds and metal alloys while creating standards for describing “composite” gemstones like lead glass-filled rubies.
The Jewelry Guides are guidelines the FTC provides on the terms used in marketing and advertising gems and jewelry.
While they are not official laws or regulations, JVC President Tiffany Stevens said those that do not follow the guidelines run the risk of being sued by a competitor, sued by a consumer and/or hit with civil penalties by the FTC.
The publication of the final version of the Jewelry Guides follows six years of back-and-forth between the industry and the commission, and many of the changes included do not vary greatly from the proposed changes the FTC released in 2016.
On Tuesday the 24th, National Jeweler spoke with Stevens and JVC Senior Counsel Sara Yood about the most significant changes to the guides, starting with the contentious battle over the terminology used to describe man-made diamonds.
1. The FTC is allowing the use of the word “cultured” in connection with lab-grown diamonds, but not by itself.
The FTC said cultured can be used in connection with lab-grown diamonds as long as it is “immediately accompanied, with equal conspicuousness” by one of the following terms: laboratory-created, laboratory-grown, [manufacturer name]-created, or by some other word or phrase of “like meaning.”
The commission said it received a total of 21 comments on this issue, and none of the commenters agreed with its position.
Lab-grown diamond sellers, like the Diamond Foundry and the International Grown Diamond Association, advocated for the use of the word cultured by itself, while other organizations, including the JVC and the Diamond Producers Association, pushed back against it.
They argued that lab-grown diamonds are not “natural” and using the word cultured would mislead consumers into associating the man-made stones with the organic process used to cultivate pearls.
In the end, the FTC opted to allow “cultured” into the lab-grown diamond lexicon but not without additional qualification.
2. “Synthetic” was removed from the recommended language for lab-grown diamonds, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used.
“Given the likelihood of consumer confusion, the final Guides do not include ‘synthetic’ among the examples of terms that marketers may non-deceptively use to qualify claims about man-made diamonds, thus eliminating the contradiction … However, the commission does not ‘prohibit’ marketers from ever using ‘synthetic.’