In a program likely to revive the debate over the durability and nature of lead glass–filled rubies, the May 15 episode of Inside Edition slammed Zales and Lord & Taylor for selling the treated gems as natural.
While the full broadcast could not be found online, excerpts on the show’s site say that undercover reporters bought ruby rings from the two retailers, who both described them as natural. When the rings were taken to Chris Smith of American Gemological Laboratories, he pronounced them both lead-glass filled.
While selling lead glass–filled rubies is legal, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Jewelry Guides require disclosure of non-permanent treatments like lead glass, as well any special-care requirements. The show did not indicate whether either retailer disclosed the filling or any requirements, but gemologist Antoinette Matlins, who appeared on the show, tells JCK that none of the salespeople mentioned it, although lead glass did appear on some of the sales tags.
On the program, Matlins also took issue with the stores labeling the stones natural.
“Call it by any other name, a composite ruby, a manufactured product, a fake, an imitation. Call it anything you want, except a genuine ruby,” she told the show.
However, sellers of lead glass–filled stones, who say they turned to the treated rubies due to the U.S. ban on Burmese gems, argue they are actual gemstones that can be called such and sold for a reasonable price.
The FTC is said to be taking up this issue in its current review of its Guides, with the Jewelers Vigilance Committee requesting that heavily glass–infused gemstones be labeled “composite” or “manufactured.”
The show also cast doubt on the stones’ durability, by dropping the stones into a jeweler’s clearing solution. After a while the filling was eaten away, it claimed.
“It’s all white, honeycombed. Totally destroyed,” said appraiser Gary Smith on the show. “Now, it’s less than worthless.”
He argued that Zales was overcharging for the $2,000 ring.
“I’m just blown away,” he said. “I can’t fathom that kind of pricing on a piece like this. This should retail around $415 to about $625.”
Zale did not return a request for comment by JCK. But according to the show, it admitted the piece of jewelry was mislabeled and it will now be retagged as “manufactured ruby.” But the company said the piece was fairly priced.
Lord & Taylor told the show that it is examining the issue. It did not return a request for comment by JCK.
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