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The FTC Guides for Jewelry are Changing

The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC's) Jewelry Guides explain to businesses how to avoid making deceptive claims about precious metal, pewter, diamond, gemstone, and pearl products, and when they should make disclosures to avoid unfair or deceptive trade practices.

If you advertise or sell jewelry, the claims you make about the products must be accurate and it is important that product descriptions are not misleading and that the material information is disclosed. The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC's) Jewelry Guides explain to businesses how to avoid making deceptive claims about precious metal, pewter, diamond, gemstone, and pearl products, and when they should make disclosures to avoid unfair or deceptive trade practices. The Guides can be viewed at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/jewel-gd.shtm.

As part of the FTC's ongoing regulatory review, it is reviewing these guides and has asked for comment from the public. The last comprehensive review of the Jewelry Guides occurred in 1996 and has been modified four times since.

Although the public is free to comment on any portion of the Guides, the FTC has pointed out four particular areas of inquiry.

1. The Advertising and Marketing of Lead-Glass-Filled Composite Stones. The increased marketing of stones comprising a mixture of rub/corundum and lead-glass has raised issues concerning how such products are advertised and sold. These composite stones, which are sometimes referred to as "composite rubies," "hybrid rubies," or "glass-filled rubies", may contain a considerable percentage of lead-glass. Moreover, the method that produces these stones may differ significantly from the techniques traditionally used to treat or enhance natural rubies. The FTC has received informal inquires as to whether a lead-glass-filled composite stone can accurately be identified as a naturally ruby or gem, even when disclosures are made that the stone has been treated;

2. Use of the Term "Cultured": The current Guides do not specifically address use of the term "cultured" to describe lab- or factory-created products that have essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as natural gemstones. The FTC previously determined that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that using "cultured" in reference to laboratory-created diamonds or other laboratory-created gemstones would be either deceptive or unfair if marketers reasonably and effectively qualified the term; however, the FTC now seeks additional evidence on this issue;

3. Disclosures Regarding Freshwater Pearls/Treatments to Pearl Products: The FTC seeks guidance on whether it should amend the Guides to address disclosures concerning freshwater pearls. Since developments in the culturing process have effected changes in the shape, size, quality, and color of the resulting product, such that freshwater cultured pearls may, in many respects, resemble saltwater cultured pearls in appearance, the FTC seeks comments on whether it should amend the Guides to recommend any specific disclosures relating to freshwater pearls. Additionally, the FTC seeks comments on whether the Guides should advise the disclosure of treatments to pearl products, such as dyeing techniques that artificially color the final product; and

4. Whether Information Regarding the Description of the Content of Alloys Containing Metals Below Minimum Thresholds: The FTC seeks comments on whether the Guides should include particular information about how to describe the content of alloys that contain precious metals in amounts that fall below the current minimum thresholds. Specifically, the current Guides provide that it may be misleading to use the word gold or any abbreviation, or a quality mark implying gold content, to describe all or part of an industry product that is composed throughout of an alloy of gold that is less than 10 karats; that it is unfair or deceptive to mark, describe, or otherwise represent all or part of any industry product as silver unless it is at least 925/1,000ths pure silver; and that a minimum of at least 500 parts per thousand pure platinum must be used for use of the word platinum or related abbreviation. The FTC seeks comments on whether it should amend the Guides to provide guidance on how to non-deceptively describe the content of alloys and alloy products that contain less than 10 karats of gold, less than 925/1,000ths silver, or less than 500 parts per thousand platinum.

All comments must be filed online by August 27, 2012.