When it comes to lab-grown diamonds, you don’t want to get too creative with language. Here’s a refresher on the lingo (and legalities).
In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concluded a major overhaul of its Jewelry Guides, including its recommendations on lab-grown diamonds. Many in the lab-grown community, with some validity, hailed the changes as a major victory.
And yet, in the months since, some have gotten “creative” with their interpretations of the new Guides, says Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) president and CEO Tiffany Stevens. A year after the overhaul, the FTC sent eight companies that sell lab-grown diamonds and diamond simulants letters about their marketing, warning their advertisements could possibly “deceive” consumers.
Which is why it’s important to review what the FTC Guides do—and don’t—say:
Disclosure is still required
In perhaps the most commented-upon change, the FTC removed the word natural from the definition of a diamond. “It is no longer accurate to define diamonds as ‘natural’ when it is now possible to create products that have essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds,” the FTC wrote, explaining the change.
That has led some to insist that the FTC has declared “a diamond is a diamond.”
While that’s a possible interpretation of the change, the commission never used that particular wording. Under the new FTC Guides—just like the old ones—the unadorned word diamond can still refer only to a natural, mined gem. That means disclosure remains a requirement for non-natural diamonds.
“Marketers still need to make those disclosures [if they are not selling] a mined diamond,” says Reenah L. Kim, staff attorney for the FTC’s enforcement division, who worked on the revamp. Furthermore, the disclosures need to be clear and conspicuous—and the closer the disclosure comes to the claim, the better.
“Some advertisers reveal the true nature of their products behind vague hyperlinks, in an FAQ section, or on an ‘education’ page,” wrote the FTC in a June blog post. “That won’t do. Consumers could easily overlook the information because it’s not close to the product description.”
Marketers even have to be careful on social media. If the only descriptor comes in a hashtag (#labgrown), that could be misleading, the FTC says.
The FTC recommends three descriptors for lab-grown diamonds
So how should companies describe lab-grown diamonds? The FTC recommends the terms laboratory-grown, laboratory-created, and [manufacturer name]-created. It has okayed use of the word cultured, but manufacturers need to use other descriptive or qualifying language.