WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission is proposing changes to its jewelry guides that instruct businesses on how to avoid deceptive marketing claims for precious metals and certain gemstones, diamonds and pearls, and when to provide disclosures.
Broadly, the FTC is proposing revisions related to guidelines covering “below-threshold alloys, precious metal content of products containing more than one precious metal, surface application of precious metals, lead-glass filled stones, ‘cultured’ diamonds, pearl treatments, varietals and misuse of the word ‘gem.’”
In a unanimous vote of 4 to 0 the commission approved a notice of proposed revisions to the “Guides for Jewelry, Precious Metals and Pewter Industries” and is now seeking public comment on the proposed changes until April 4.
In the area of precious metal surface applications, the agency proposed extending current principles on “unqualified” gold claims to silver and platinum. The FTC is now proposing advising marketers against using silver and platinum terms to describe “all or part of a coated product unless they adequately qualify the term to indicate the product has only a surface layer of the advertised precious metal.”
Secondly, based on consumer perception evidence, the commission is for the first time proposing a new section advising marketers to disclose rhodium surface applications on products marked or described as precious metal, such as rhodium-plated items marketed as “white gold” or silver.
The agency also proposed updates of its “safe harbors” for surface applications of gold, referring to “reasonable durability” and “substantial thickness” of an item.
For products containing more than one precious metal, the FTC proposed adding a new section stating it is “unfair or deceptive to misrepresent the relative quantity of each precious metal in a product that contains more than one precious metal.”
The proposed guidance advised marketers to list multiple precious metals in a product in the order of their relative weight from greatest to least, leading with the prominent metal.” An unacceptable description that might be misleading is the use of the term “Platinum + Silver” to describe a product that contains more silver than platinum by weight.
The FTC proposed adding new guidance to the gold and silver sections of the guides, relating to alloys with precious metals in amounts below its minimum thresholds.
Companies that have “competent and reliable scientific evidence that below-threshold products have materially similar products such as corrosion and tarnish resistance to at or above threshold products” may reference the materials in a non-deceptive way without additional disclosures other than purity, the FTC said.
The proposed new guidance would also advise marketers to reference precious metals that are “materially different” than at-or-above-threshold product — for example, eight-karat gold items that tarnish — to disclose that the product may not have the same attributes or properties as jewelry made with the same precious metal at or above the threshold.
Another proposal would add a new note advising marketers to avoid using phrases related to substantial lead glass stones as “treated ruby” or other “treated” precious or semiprecious stones, as a “laboratory-grown” or “laboratory-created” or “synthetic” ruby or other natural stone or as a “composite ruby,” “manufactured ruby,” “hybrid ruby” or other stones of that nature. Instead, the commission proposed acceptable terms such as “lead-glass-filled ruby” to describe a product made with ruby that is infused with glass.
The commission also proposed a note stating it is not unfair or deceptive to use the term “cultured” to describe lab-created diamonds if the term is immediately followed by “laboratory-created” or “laboratory-grown” or synthetic.
Marketers are also advised in a new proposed section to disclose treatments to pearls and cultured pearls if the treatment is “not permanent, creates special care requirements” or significantly affects the value.