Cultured War: Trade Wants C-Word Terminated

Jewelers Vigilance Committee and nine other industry trade associations want the Federal Trade Commission to amend its Jewelry Guides to disallow the term cultured as a description for laboratory-created diamonds.

“We really felt it was time, given the increased interest in synthetics, to get clarity on the subject,” says Cecilia Gardner, JVC president, chief executive officer, and general counsel.

In a petition it submitted to the FTC, JVC notes that the agency already denied use of the word to describe Chatham Created Emeralds in 1964 and says its consumer surveys show that “41 percent of the respondents believed that cultured diamond is a natural product.” It also notes that its proposed amendment would be “consistent with the regulatory approach taken in other countries,” since Europe has already banned use of the term cultured diamond.

Stephen Lux, president and CEO of Gemesis, Sarasota, Fla., says the company has been actively marketing its synthetic diamonds as cultured for the past six years, and there has been no misunderstanding.

“I think it’s safe to say that we feel that cultured adequately describes what we do, and it’s not misleading to the consumer in any way,” he says.

Lux says he was disappointed that JVC finds time for this petition when it should be actively trying to enforce the Guides with respect to Web sites that promote man-made or synthetic diamonds that are actually cubic zirconia or moissanite. “These are truly blatant and illegal,” Lux says.

He says the petition “certainly has no bearing on our aggressive business plan going forward. … We will take appropriate action when it becomes a matter of public record.”

Tom Chatham, president and CEO of Chatham Created Gems, who does not use the term cultured, nevertheless argues that consumers understand what the term means.

The FTC should “go to any dictionary on Google and look up cultured,” he says. “There it is, still surviving all the changes in our language over the past 50 years—’cultured: produced under artificial and controlled conditions.’ The term cultured is not defined exclusively for use when describing an organic action or result.”

Gardner says it is not clear what will happen next: “There is no timetable,” she says. “The FTC does not do timetables.”

“The next step is for us to review it and make appropriate recommendations,” says Robin Rosen Spector of the FTC Enforcement Division. “The FTC will look at the petition very seriously and evaluate it.”

The other organizations involved in the petition are American Gem Society, American Gem Trade Association, CIBJO (The World Jewellery Confederation), Cultured Pearl Association, Diamond Council of America, Diamond Manufacturers and Importers Association of America, International Diamond Manufacturers Association, Jewelers of America, Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America, and World Federation of Diamond Bourses.

“We are pleased that so many trade associations have joined us,” Gardner says. “It is a powerful petition because of that.”

The petition can be viewed at www.jckonline.com/contents/pdf/JVCRevised.pdf.