Brought To You By Jewelers Vigilance Committee

There have been big changes on how to advertise jewelry that you should make sure you’re up to speed on, especially with the holiday season coming up and the uptick in advertising and sales.

Last summer, the Federal Trade Commission announced revisions to its Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries which address advertising claims for precious metal, gemstone, pearl and many other jewelry industry products.

The Jewelry Guides explain how to avoid making deceptive or unfair claims for and outline the language that should be used to describe products at all levels of the jewelry supply chain. This means they tell us the way those of us in the trade are allowed to advertise jewelry, whether to an end consumer or along the supply chain - and a lot has changed.

These rules apply to ads in both print and online. There have been major changes in several categories, this article will give you what you need to know in reference to diamonds. You can also watch a video here outlining these changes. 

First off, responsible advertising is your responsibility! Failure to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s Guidelines Jewelry Guides or Green Guides (which set out the FTC’s views about environmental claims in advertising) can result in legal action against your business by the FTC, consumers, competitors and more, so it’s important.

What to do - Disclose Disclose Disclose

Exercise care when describing your items in all advertising mediums, such as websites, flyers, social media, hashtags, verbal conversations, invoices, contracts, reports, receipts and any others. The Jewelry Guides and the truth-in-advertising provisions of the FTC Act apply regardless of how you choose to communicate claims to customers. Even hashtags are covered by the Guides.

The Jewelry Guides state that you can use the following synonymous terms to describe your laboratory-grown diamonds and products containing laboratory-grown diamonds:

  • Laboratory-grown
  • Laboratory-created
  • [Manufacturer name]-created
    • These phrases should be used in #hashtags as well!

The revised Guides remove the word “natural” from the basic definition of diamond, reflecting that there is now more than one way to create a diamond. However, this does not change the requirement to describe a laboratory-grown diamond with the language described above. The use of the unqualified term “diamond” still refers to a natural diamond. 

The previous Guides required use of the terms “laboratory-grown,” “laboratory-created,” “[manufacturer name]-created” or “synthetic” immediately preceding the word “diamond” to describe laboratory-grown diamonds. The revised Guides now advise marketers of man-made diamonds sharing the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds that they may use words or phrases other than the ones listed in the previous Guides (“laboratory-grown,” “laboratory-created,” “[manufacturer name]- created,” “synthetic”) if they clearly and conspicuously convey that the product is not a mined stone.

Further, the revised Guides remove “synthetic” as a recommended descriptor, but do not prohibit the use of that term to describe laboratory-grown diamonds, so it’s still okay to use as long as you’re not asserting the product is fake or a simulant. 

As a best practice, make sure your invoices, order forms and other writings match any oral representations made to you or by you to vendors, customers or other members of the trade. This is especially important as the JVC has encountered instances of an item being represented orally as “natural” but then described as “laboratory-grown” on an invoice. This, of course, led to a dispute between the vendor and retailer. You can avoid this by ensuring what you are told about a product is reflected in writing. 

What about “Cultured”?

The previous Guides did not specifically address use of the term “cultured” to describe laboratory-grown diamonds or other gemstones. The revised Guides advise against using the term “cultured” to describe a laboratory-grown diamond without additional descriptive or qualifying language.

The accepted descriptors or qualifications are “laboratory-grown,” “laboratory-created,” “[manufacturer name]-created” and “some other word or phrase of like meaning.” Importantly, the descriptors or qualification must be clear, prominent and understandable. 

Use of “Real,” “Genuine,” “Natural,” Etc. 

The previous Guides disallowed use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” “semi-precious” and similar terms to describe a manufactured or artificially-produced product. The revised Guides retain this guidance, thereby disallowing these terms to be used for laboratory-grown diamonds or any other industry product that is manufactured or produced artificially (for example: rubies, sapphires, etc). 

About Eco and Green Claims

The FTC has a separate set of guides that govern all industries and their abilities to market their products as being environmentally friendly. The FTC Green Guides caution against use of the following terms to describe your laboratory-grown diamonds and diamond products: 

  • “Green”
  • “Grown” [without the preceding “laboratory”]
  • “Greenhouse”
  • “Ethically-grown” or “Ethically-produced”

The FTC’s revised “Green Guides” caution marketers not to make broad, unqualified claims that a product is “environmentally friendly” or “eco-friendly” because the FTC’s own consumer research confirms that such claims are likely to suggest that the product has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits.

Per the FTC, very few products, if any, have all the attributes consumers seem to perceive from such claims, making these claims nearly impossible to substantiate; unsubstantiated claims in advertising can subject a company to legal action by customers and the FTC.

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