NDC Complaint Sees Lab-Grown Company Banned from Using ‘Misleading’ Ads

Leah Meirovich

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that Skydiamond may not use advertising with “misleading” terminology that fails to make it clear their diamonds are not natural.

The Natural Diamond Council (NDC) filed a complaint with ASA about the ad, which debuted in February 2023 and featured text including, “Say hello to the world’s first and only diamond made entirely from the sky” and “We make diamonds using four natural ingredients, the sun, the wind, rain and something we have too much of, atmospheric carbon.” It also stated the company’s jewelry were made with the world’s “rarest diamonds.” The NDC challenged whether the claims made clear that Skydiamond was selling lab-grown diamonds and not natural, the April 10 ruling said.

Skydiamond, owned by energy firm Ecotricity founder Dale Vince, argued that its graphics and information made it clear its product was not mined from the earth and therefore didn’t need qualifiers such as “synthetic” or “laboratory grown.” The company also referred to the 2018 US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling determining that “a diamond is a diamond” regardless of whether it was mined or made. The word “diamond” is the name of an object and does not denote or describe origin, he explained.

Based on the information, the ASA ruled that Skydiamond’s marketing was misleading as it omitted material information or presented it in an “unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous, or untimely manner. Further, a survey of more than 2,100 UK adults found that 25% were unaware man-made diamonds existed.

“The ads all included images of clear gemstones and references to diamonds,” the ASA ruling noted. “The ASA considered that consumers would understand the word ‘diamond’ in isolation to mean a mineral consisting of crystallized carbon that was naturally occurring. We considered that while some consumers may have been aware that synthetic diamonds could be manufactured or created in a laboratory, many would not.”

Additionally, the ASA determined that whether a gemstone was natural or synthetic would be a key consideration for many consumers and was therefore material information.

“We therefore considered that ads for synthetic diamonds needed to make clear the nature of the product in order to avoid misleading consumers,” the ruling said. “We told…Skydiamond not to misleadingly use the terms ‘diamonds,’ ‘diamonds made entirely from the sky,’ and ‘skydiamond’ to describe their synthetic diamonds in isolation without a clear and prominent qualifier, such as ‘synthetic,’ ‘laboratory-grown’ or ‘laboratory-created,’ or another way of clearly and prominently conveying the same meaning to consumers. We also told them not to use the claim ‘real diamonds’ to describe synthetic diamonds.”

Alan Cohen, copresident of the London Diamond Bourse (LDB), welcomed the ruling, saying it “safeguards British consumers from misleading marketing of synthetic diamonds.”

“We have seen this misleading marketing and terminology for many years and hope the ASA ruling puts an end to this and for the future, we also hope the eco-friendliness claims are scrutinized, too,” he added.

Main image: A lab-grown diamond engagement ring. (Skydiamond)

Source Rapaport