From a legal and ethical standpoint, retailers represent the front lines of the jewelry industry. Cecilia Gardner, executive director and general counsel of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC), explains that it's the retailer who must make certain that everything that needs to be said is said at the counter and that what needs to be written is written on the receipt. Jewelers need effective communication skills and complete and accurate knowledge of the subject.
One of JVC's education seminars, entitled "Disclosure," covers the legal requirements of gemstone disclosure as well as the ethical responsibilities related to communication with business partners and customers. The seminar also covers written disclosures and explanations made on appraisals and invoices.
Gardner notes that a number of different laws apply to disclosure of gemstones, pearls, and precious-metal quality. These include the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines for the Jewelry Industry, the Lanham Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines Against Deceptive Pricing.
According to Gardner, treatments that must be disclosed include, but are not limited to:
treated gemstones that require special care
treatment that has had a significant effect on the stone's value
laser drilling and high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) treatment in diamonds
irradiation of diamonds or colored gemstones
cultured pearls—all types: freshwater, South Sea, Tahitian, etc.
Precious metals: must identify karat quality, if less than 24k, on ad, sales receipt, tag. Item need not be stamped but if it is, the stamp must be accompanied by a federally registered manufacturer's trademark.
Coloring (dying) of pearls is not a required disclosure, but it's a good idea, Gardner says.
Gardner writes that "according to FTC guides, there is a bright line (certain disclosures that retail jewelers are legally required to make) and a gray line (situations in which it would be best for retailers to disclose information).
"Every retailer has to decide what's best for customers and the best way to deliver information [customers] should know," says Gardner. "Utilizing ethical and sound business practices builds consumer confidence and strong relationships."
For information about JVC seminars, contact Amy Greenbaum, JVC marketing and development manager, (212) 997-2002, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.