A German court has ruled the term “cultured diamonds” misleading, and has restrained the German distributor of Gemesis Diamonds from using it to describe synthetic diamonds.
The ruling, which ordered the company to use the terms “synthetic” or “artificial,” came after the German distributor placed ads in local newspapers for its “cultured” stones. The judges said a fine of 250,000 euros would be incurred for each case of noncompliance with the restraining order.
This is the first known legal judgment against the term, which has caused controversy in the industry. The ruling has no impact on the use of the term “cultured” for cultured pearls.
The judges’ ruling was partly based on the “Blue Book” of CIBJO, the World Jewellery Federation, and was widely seen as a feather in the cap for the group. “This was a major achievement,” CIBJO president Gaetano Cavalieri said at the Antwerp Diamond Conference.
Legal commentators have suggested that since the ruling took place within the jurisdiction of a European Union country, the verdict could have an impact on future rulings in other EU countries. “I am sure that soon, we will have an industrywide consensus on the banning of the term ‘cultured diamonds,'” Cavalieri said.
The term’s legal status for diamonds in the United States is unclear, as the FTC has not ruled on it.
Gemesis president David Hellier noted that the company does not use the term “cultured” alone, and its advertising materials label the gems as “lab-grown.” According to Hellier, the court “ruled against the German translation that was being used by our German distributor. We will continue to move forward with Gemesis cultured diamonds. Consumers fully understand the meaning of the term.”
Bryant Linares, president of Apollo Diamond, the other company manufacturing synthetics, noted his company was not involved in the lawsuit but defended the term “cultured” as accurate.
“The production of an Apollo cultured diamond conforms to the standard definition of ‘cultured’ as related to elements of jewelry,” he said. “According to Merriam-Webster Online, the definition of ‘cultured’ is ‘grown in a prepared medium.’ The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as ‘produced under artificial and controlled conditions: cultured pearls.’ Apollo’s diamonds fit these unbiased definitions.
“Apollo views the terms ‘synthetic’ or ‘artificial’ diamond as misleading because the public perceives these terms to mean something other than real diamond,” he added. “Apollo’s diamonds are 100% real diamond.”
He said his company “finds it unfortunate that a Munich, Germany, district court chose to use a diamond definition created by a membership-based trade organization (CIBJO) whose mission it is to represent and advance the interests of their financial supporters without regard for advancements in science and the opportunities presented consumers based on these advancements.”
Meanwhile, Hellier expects further challenges to the term “cultured,” which industry members continue to criticize.
Cecilia Gardner, executive director of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, says the term “cultured” alone “is insufficient disclosure to describe the true nature of a synthetic or laboratory-grown diamond.”
“I get a bit agitated by it,” Stephen Lussier, marketing director of the Diamond Trading Company, De Beers’ marketing arm, told JCK in Europe. “I have spoken at length to people in the pearl industry who have explained the difference between synthetic pearls, natural pearls, and cultured pearls. Synthetics do not come from a culturing process-it’s not a natural process.”