Photo of Sheila Millar
Ancient Greek Jewelry, by MatthiasKabel, GFDL/CC-BY-SA-3.0
Ancient Greek Jewelry, by MatthiasKabel, GFDL/CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission) announced that it will extend the period for the public to comment on its proposed update to the Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries (the Jewelry Guides, published in 16 C.F.R. Part 23). Comments are now due June 3, 2016, instead of April 4, 2016.

The Commission’s proposal is part of a retrospective review that began with a July 2012 request for comment and included a public roundtable. Based on its initial request and public comments (of which the FTC received 43), the Commission has proposed a number of changes. Specifically, the proposal:

  • Advises against using terms like “silver” or “platinum” for coated products unless adequately qualified to indicate that the product has only a surface layer of the advertised precious metal.
  • Updates the safe harbors for surface applications of gold to ensure that marketers’ durability claims match the thicknesses used.
  • Recommends disclosure of rhodium surface applications on products marked or described as precious metal, such as rhodium-plated items marketed as “white gold” or “silver.”
  • Clarifies the Commission’s view of how consumers understand the relative quantity of each precious metal in a product that contains more than one precious metal.
  • Discourages the use of terms such as “gold,” “silver,” or “platinum” for products unless they contain at least a specified level of the precious metal (for gold, typically 10 karat; for silver, 925/1000ths; for platinum without qualification, typically 950 parts per thousand).
  • Clarifies how to adequately disclose purity.
  • States that it is unfair or deceptive to describe products filled with a substantial quantity of lead glass with the word “ruby” or other similar terms and descriptors (for example, “treated ruby,” “laboratory-grown,” or “composite ruby”).
  • Identifies descriptors that constitute incorrect (and therefore misleading) varietals, such as “yellow emerald” to describe a golden beryl or heliodor, or “green amethyst” to describe prasiolite.
  • Confirms that it is not unfair or deceptive to use the term “cultured” to describe laboratory-created diamonds if the term is immediately accompanied by “laboratory-created,” “laboratory- grown,” “[manufacturer name]-created,” “synthetic,” or similar words or phrases.
  • Modifies guidance on misuse of the term “gem.”
  • Adds guidance on disclosing of treatments to pearls and cultured pearls.

The Commission granted the request for extension from an advocacy group citing the potential need to conduct consumer research and metallurgical testing, and to obtain other information from experts. In the meantime, the current Jewelry Guides remain in effect.