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Selling gemstones means following specific rules and regulations, panelists noted in a seminar on “The Burma Bill, Irradiated Stones, Cultured Pearls: How to Be Compliant.”
Cecilia Gardner, president and CEO of Jewelers Vigilance Committee, noted her group focuses on the “legal compliance realm—what’s legal, and what’s not.” She noted that being “ethical” often requires going beyond what’s legal.
She said that the Tom Lantos JADE Act, which prohibits Burmese rubies from coming into the country, was passed last year and was one of the last pieces of legislation signed by the Bush Administration.
Under the act, to legally import rubies, importers must have “verifiable evidence” the items are not Burmese, she said. That verifiable evidence is not precisely defined in the law, she said, but Customs has told her it could mean paperwork or a warranty from the exporter.
It is still legal to sell Burmese rubies that came into the U.S. before the ban, which began Sept. 27, 2008, she said.
In addition, Gardner said irradiated gemstones currently can only be imported, possessed, and distributed by Nuclear Regulatory Commission license holders.
Douglas Hucker, executive director of the American Gem Trade Association, said that while he wants all his members to obey the law, his group has issues with the JADE Act, which it recently expressed in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We feel the legislation will not meet its expected goals,” he said. “We would like Congress to take a look at this and readdress it. This will have a tremendous impact on the artisanal miners that produce rubies. There a lot of people that make a living producing these goods that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the Burmese government.”
Armand Asher, a pearl dealer, noted that non-naturally-produced pearls have to be described as “cultured” under the FTC Guides.
Catherine Sproule, director of North American operations for the Responsible Jewellery Council, said her group wanted to give members a way to ensure a responsible supply chain. “Now more than ever, we must demonstrate responsible practices,” she said.
The panel was moderated by former JCK senior editor Gary Roskin, whose Web site roskingemnews.com will premiere soon.