The Federal Trade Commission has updated its Guides for the Jewelry Industry, which are voluntarily and extensively followed by jewelry and gemstone marketers in advertising their products to consumers. The updates include new provisions to cover vermeil and pewter products as well as utilitarian items made of precious metals (such as pens and silverware), and other changes to reflect modern technology, eliminate duplicative and outdated provisions, and ensure that various parts of the guides conform to international standards. The updated guides are effective May 29.
“These guides have existed in some form since 1918 and are widely used by the industry to provide accurate, truthful information to consumers about their purchases,” said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Guides like these are particularly important in an area where quality is hard for consumers to judge themselves and consumers must rely on the descriptions, such as the gold content of an item, that sellers provide. In large part, because of widespread, voluntary compliance with these guides, consumers can be confident about the jewelry they buy from reputable dealers.”
The revisions announced today represent the first major changes made to the guides since 1959, and will be published in the Federal Register shortly. In response to a petition from the Jewelers Vigilance Committee suggesting several changes to the guides, the FTC sought public comments on the petition and on other questions about the guides’ costs and benefits. Two hundred thirty-six comments, an unusually large number, were received. Among the most significant changes in the guides:
- they now cover the marketing of items such as pens, pencils, eyeglasses and silverware that often are made of precious metals;
- they offer guidance with respect to the marketing of vermeil (gold-plated silver) and pewter;
- they allow electroplated gold to be described as “gold plate”;
- they conform provisions on gold plate to international practice;
- they provide additional guidance regarding cultured and imitation pearls;
- they now cover detachable watch bands, formerly covered by separate guides, which now have been eliminated; and
- they provide specific guidance for diamond weight representations.
In general, the guides address markings and descriptions of precious metals, diamonds, gemstones and pearl products. The guides define various terms, including “diamond” and “pearl,” and provide examples of descriptions and claims that are not deceptive. The guides also advise that certain disclosures be made to ensure that consumers are told when a treatment to a gemstone is not permanent or that special care is required.
The Commission has determined not to make changes to the provision in the guides regarding platinum products at this time. Instead, the Commission is soliciting additional comment from the industry regarding those products in a separate notice, also to be published in the Federal Register. Comments will be due 75 days after the notice is published. They should be addressed to Secretary, FTC, Room H-159, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, 20580, and should be identified as “Comments regarding Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industry.”
The Commission also announced today that it has rescinded its Guides for the Metallic Watch Band Industry, because detachable watch bands now are covered by the Jewelry Guides.
The Commission votes in these matters were 5-0.
Guidelines are interpretations of the law, but do not have the force of law in and of themselves.
Copies of the Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals, and Pewter Industries, as well as the notices sent to the Federal Register, are available from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. For the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC’s Newsphone at 202-326-2710. Copies of FTC news releases, consumer brochures and other documents also are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web site at http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC Matter No. G711001)
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