Orwell’s ‘1984,' De Beers’ Lobbying, & the New FTC Lab Diamond Guidelines
Today the FTC released a highly-anticipated update to their jewelry guides. The most substantive change to the guides is the reversal of the FTC’s “circular, inadequate,” & Orwellian ban on words to describe lab diamonds.
The FTC’s decision resoundingly rejected the arguments of De Beers’ lobbyists, and instead chose to side with science on the definition of a diamond — A crystal of carbon, regardless of subterrestrial or superterrestrial origin.
I applaud the FTC for their chemically accurate, linguistically correct, and well thought out changes to their guidelines. Here’s the TL;DR of the 161 pages released by the FTC today:
#1) A Diamond is no Longer Natural. Both Mined and Laboratory-Grown Diamonds are Diamonds.
Here’s the old FTC definition of a diamond: A diamond is a NATURAL mineral consisting essentially of pure carbon crystallized in the isometric system.
Here’s the FTC’s new definition: A diamond is a mineral consisting essentially of pure carbon crystallized in the isometric system.
The FTC justified their change as follows: The final Guides therefore eliminate the word “natural” from the diamond definition. When the Commission first used this definition in 1956, there was only one type of diamond product on the market — natural stones mined from the earth. Since then, technological advances have made it possible to create diamonds in a laboratory. These stones have essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds. Thus, they are diamonds.
The distinctions between these lab-created diamonds and mined stones are addressed elsewhere in the Guides. Because it is no longer correct to define diamonds as “natural,” the final Guides do not include “natural” in the diamond definition.
Given the FTC’s new guidance, the Diamond Producers’ Association might consider changing their slogan from ‘Real is a Diamond’ to ‘A Crystal of Carbon is a Diamond, Regardless of Origin.’
#2) Love to Slander ‘Synthetics?’ Tread Carefully…
For those of you in the diamond industry that love to cheapen man-made diamonds by calling them synthetics… *cough* Jean Marc *cough* Martin *cough*… I encourage you to read the FTC’s new guidelines carefully:
The record indicates many consumers mistakenly believe “synthetic” means an artificial product such as cubic zirconia, which lacks a diamond’s optical, physical, and chemical properties. Given the likelihood of consumer confusion, the final Guides do not include “synthetic” among the examples of terms that marketers may non-deceptively use to qualify claims about man-made diamonds, thus eliminating the contradiction […] If a marketer uses “synthetic” to imply that a competitor’s lab-grown diamond is not an actual diamond, however, this would be deceptive.
Furthermore, synthetic is a scientifically inaccurate term for a man-made diamond. Why? You cannot synthesize an element:
There is no such thing as synthetic gold
There is no such thing as synthetic platinum
There is no such thing as synthetic carbon
There is no such thing as synthetic diamond
#3) A Laboratory-Grown Diamond is a Gemstone.
In a move eerily reminiscent of Orwell’s famous novel ‘1984’, the mined diamond industry has, in the past, successfully lobbied the FTC to ban multiple words from the lab diamond lexicon. These previously banned words included gem, gemstone, stone, real, genuine, and even birthstone!
In a victory for reason, the FTC reversed their Newspeak ban on many of these words, calling their previous guidelines “circular, inadequate guidance that relied on highly subjective judgments.”
The new guidance from the FTC is that a man-made diamond gemstone is, in fact, a gem:
The Commission extends the increased flexibility in its new guidance addressing cultured diamonds to the guidance for other man-made gemstones. Specifically, the final Guides advise marketers of man-made gemstones sharing the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as the named stone that they may use words or phrases immediately preceding the gemstone name other than the ones listed (“laboratory-grown,” “laboratory-created,” “[manufacturer name]-created,” “synthetic”) if they clearly and conspicuously disclose that the product is not a mined stone.
#4) A Lab Diamond is a Cultured Diamond.
Of all the words that the mined diamond lobby has sought to ban, ‘cultured’ has been enemy #1. Unfortunately for the mined diamond lobby, the FTC ruled against them, contending that the word ‘cultured’ can be used to…
describe laboratory-created diamonds that have essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as mined diamonds if the term is qualified by a clear and conspicuous disclosure (for example, the words “laboratory-created,” “laboratory-grown,” “[manufacturer name]-created,” or some other word or phrase of like meaning) conveying that the product is not a mined stone.
Why is the mined diamond lobby so resistant to “cultured”? Much like the concept of cultured pearls has been widely adopted and accepted by mainstream consumers as simply “pearls,” lab grown/cultured diamonds are headed in the same direction.
#5) Cubic Zirconias, Diamond Simulants, and Diamond Hybrids are not Diamonds.
Much to the chagrin of companies that sell diamond simulants, the FTC has asserted clear delineation between laboratory created diamonds and those cheap diamond simulants:
It is unfair or deceptive to use the word ‘‘laboratory-grown,’’ ‘‘laboratory-created,’’ ‘‘[manufacturer name]-created,’’ ‘‘synthetic,’’ or other word or phrase of like meaning with the name of any natural stone to describe any industry product unless such product has essentially the same optical, physical, and chemical properties as the stone named.
It is unfair or deceptive to use the word “composite diamond,” “hybrid diamond,” or “manufactured diamond,” unless the term is qualified to disclose clearly and conspicuously that the product: (A) does not have the same characteristics as the named stone; and (B) requires special care. It is further recommended that the seller disclose the special care requirements to the purchaser.
I imagine the developers at Diamond Nexus Labs and MiaDonna will be working overtime this week to amend their web sites to be compliant with the FTC’s new guidelines.
My company, Ada Diamonds, purchases laboratory grown diamonds from the general public. On a daily basis, we receive solicitations from consumers seeking to sell diamond hybrids, diamond simulants, or cubic zirconias; materials these consumers genuinely believe are lab grown diamonds.
Many of these individuals have been defrauded by eCommerce companies that dupe the public into thinking that they have purchased a diamond. These unethical companies even accompany their cubic zirconias and diamond hybrids with dubious grading reports from questionable organizations such as the American International Gemologists.
I extend my public thanks to the FTC for an excellent piece of regulation that protects the consumer from unethical actors in the jewelry industry.
[Here’s the mined diamond and the grown diamond]