IDMA: Don’t Say ‘Cultured,’ Say ‘Synthetic’

In a sign that the nomenclature wars are heating up, the International Diamond Manufacturers Association passed a resolution condemning the word “cultured” to describe lab-grown gems and insisting they be described as “synthetic.”

“The addition of other adjectives such as lab-grown or man-made is fine with us, but as an addition to the word synthetic, not as a substitute to the word synthetic,” said IDMA president Jeff Fischer. IDMA passed the resolution at its President’s Meeting in Mumbai, India, in November.

Those who manufacture the controversial stones said they don’t intend to change what they’re doing. “Consumers tend to misconstrue the meaning of the word ‘synthetic,’” said Chuck Meyer of Gemesis. “We feel the word ‘cultured’ is a term that the consumer understands from its use in cultured pearls.” He noted that company materials also label the stones as “lab-grown.” “We want the consumer to understand just where these are coming from,” he said.

IDMA’s stance goes further than the Federal Trade Commission’s current Guides on the subject, which say “lab-grown” is acceptable. Gemological Institute of America president William E. Boyajian has also said he is receptive to the words “lab-grown.”

In other news from Mumbai:

  • The World Federation of Diamond Bourses, also meeting in Mumbai, gave a green light to its WFDB Mark program. The mark, which will be a trademarked logo that approved bourse members can display, confirms that they abide by the World Federation’s codes of conduct.
    WFDB also stood by its decision not to seek membership in the newly created Council for Responsible Jewelry Practices, which aims to provide a social and ethical framework for the industry. A WFDB statement said the Council’s current structure is “problematic,” with officials expressing concern that it is more geared toward bigger companies and organizations. IDMA has also declined to get involved with the group.
    “We are fully supportive of the purpose that [CRJP is] serving, but we have our own solution through the WFDB mark,” said WFDB president Shmuel Schnitzer.

  • WFDB and IDMA issued a joint resolution expressing concern that the PATRIOT Act’s new rules for the jewelry industry, which take effect this month (see “Reminder: PATRIOT Act Rules Begin This Month,” Upfront Spotlight, p. 34), will create a “trade barrier” toward overseas dealers.
    The PATRIOT Act requires that jewelers who do business with non-U.S. dealers set up anti-money-laundering programs. Because of this, overseas dealers worry that American jewelers will favor domestic companies. “There is concern that the [PATRIOT Act] will hurt the businesses of people outside the U.S.,” said Schnitzer. “Everyone should get fair treatment.”
    Schnitzer argued that many countries have anti-money-laundering regulations as stringent as the PATRIOT Act’s. The joint resolution calls for “U.S. regulators to accept foreign dealers who fully comply with their countries’ [anti-money-laundering] legislation in the same way they accept U.S. dealers who comply with the U.S. PATRIOT Act regulations.”
    Some U.S. delegates believed that the fears of overseas delegates are overblown, a point echoed by Cecilia Gardner of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. “The rules are not onerous to comply with,” Gardner said.

  • Attempting to tackle a chronic problem, WFDB said it would look at improving the industry’s “payment ethos.” The group plans to study the legal ramifications of publishing names of bourse members who are delinquent in their payments.

  • Among the bigger behind-the-scenes topics were the problems at the GIA lab. “Everyone agrees that GIA is still an honorable and respectable lab,” says Schnitzer. “We all have supported GIA because they are important for us and we are important to them. But there were clearly some rotten apples, and they have to be dealt with.”
    GIA Lab head Tom Moses addressed the group and noted that for the next six months, the lab will re-examine free of charge any diamond whose grading report may be suspect. The groups asked that the time be extended, and Moses said that would be considered.

  • Bourse members were cautioned against handling diamonds from the Ivory Coast, which are currently being embargoed by the Kimberley Process.