“Diamonds and Pearls” – and revisions to the FTC’s Jewelry Guides
That you will hear me say
Read the F-R-N
That’s not quite how Prince opened his 1991 classic “Diamonds and Pearls.” But if your company sells diamonds and pearls – or is otherwise involved in the jewelry business – you need to know about a Federal Register Notice announcing final revisions to what are now called the FTC’s Jewelry Guides. (They don’t have a cryptic symbol, but we like to think of them as the C.F.R. Entry Formerly Known as the Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries.)
First things first – and we get this question a lot – just what are “industry guides”? They’re not stand-alone statutes. Rather, to help marketers avoid consumer deception, they offer the FTC’s interpretation of how Section 5 of the FTC Act applies to certain practices in a particular industry. In this instance, the FTC published proposed changes to the existing Guides, hosted a national roundtable, and considered public comments before issuing the final revision to the Jewelry Guides.
Industry members will want to read the Federal Register Notice in depth, but here are a few highlights. Leaving no stone unturned, the revised Guides include new provisions about composite gemstone products, man-made gemstones, varietals, “cultured” diamonds, and treatments to pearls. In addition, industry members can test their metal mettle with changes that address the surface application of precious metals, below-threshold precious metal alloys, and products containing more than one metal.
To reflect changes in the marketplace and to streamline compliance, the FTC has deleted two provisions that discussed the use of the word “gem,” removed a section on misleading illustrations, and eliminated the word “natural” from the definition of diamond in Section 23.12(a). The accompanying Statement of Basis and Purpose offers a more detailed explanation for the changes the FTC made.
For industry members, the issuance of the final Jewelry Guides marks a good time for a compliance check. But even if your business has nothing to do with diamonds and pearls, the revised Guides offer two insights into the FTC’s approach to regulatory reform:
- The FTC undertakes a systematic ongoing look at existing rules and guides to ensure they keep pace with advances in the marketplace, don’t impose undue burdens, and further the agency’s mission to protect consumers and promote competition.
- The FTC has been crowd-sourcing since before crowd-sourcing was a thing. For decades, we’ve asked for feedback on rules, guides, and other matters important to consumers and businesses. We often convene public workshops to hear from consumer advocates, industry voices, law enforcers, and academics. When the FTC announces that it’s looking into an issue of interest to you, let your voice be heard by filing a comment on the public record.