I came early to a concern about accurate, complete and legally acceptable descriptions of costume jewelry, partly because of knowledge of the same concerns within the fine jewelry industries. The first expression of this can be found in a message I shared with fellow dealers, Truth or Consequences , a chatty caution about the subject and the possible ramifications.
The government entity that regulates marketing practices of all types, whether on the internet or in your store, is the Federal Trade Commission. Call them at 202-282-4357 for a free copy of their "Jewelry Guide" which identifies unfair marketing practices. They also operate a program, called "Jewelry Surf" whose aim is to protect consumers from deceptive internet advertising .
The information in the FTC's "Jewelry Guide" applies directly to the makers and purveyors of Fine Jewelry and Precious Metals. If you are in that category, you should obtain your own copy of the guide and bring your marketing and/or website into compliance.
The FTC rules are not limited to fine jewelry, therefore much of it, especially about descriptive phrasing, applies as well to purveyors of costume jewelry. Here are the ones I consider most important, most misleading, and most commonly done in the costume jewelry community.
The FTC calls violations of their guidelines "UNFAIR & DECEPTIVE".
This is an important one. The word " FAUX" by itself is NOT sufficient, in relationship to PEARLS or in relationship to the NAMES OF GEMSTONES.
Acceptable terms are "artificial", "imitation" or "simulated", any of which can be used with or without the term FAUX. Be careful that you don't forget that this applies to faux "seed pearls".
The following terms are NOT acceptable for imitation pearls: "faux pearl", "fashion pearl", * "Mother of Pearl", "Oriental Pearl".
If the pearl is NOT an imitation pearl, then it is either a (1)cultured pearl or a (2)natural pearl, and must be called by its proper name, whichever that may be.
*Don't let the "Mother of Pearl" confuse you. They are not referring to natural Mother of Pearl material as sometimes used in costume jewelry and some fine jewelry, but rather to imitation faux pearls that are misleadingly called Mother of Pearl.
Another important one. The word "GOLD" by itself is NOT sufficient, unless it is, in fact, 24 karat gold.
The unfair practices regarding gold in its many forms, including karat gold, gold plate, gold plated, gold filled, rolled gold plate, rolled gold plated, gold overlay, gold electroplate and gold electroplated, is very complicated and has to do with thicknesses of plates, durability, karat finenesses, etc.
I don't know what you want to do in this regard. I have been using "gold tone" in my descriptions. I believe I will be changing that to "gold tone base metals, probably plated" or "probably gold filled", "probably gold wash" etc., unless the item has a mark indicating the gold content (as some gold filled pieces do).
The word "VERMEIL" falls into this category as well, and the FTC description indicates what can and can't be called Vermeil.
The word "SILVER" by itself is NOT sufficient. It follows the same types of guidelines as Gold. The world "SILVER" is not sufficient by itself, unless it is, in fact, 1000 silver.
I use silver tone in my descriptions. Silver tone base metal may be a better description for most pieces. Pieces marked 800, 925, 950, etc are described as such if their appearance and the tests support the marked content. Not all pieces so marked are, in fact, what they purport to be.
RUBY, SAPPHIRE, EMERALD, TOPAZ
or the name of any other precious or semi-precious stone.
You cannot use the name of ANY gemstone (by itself), precious or semi-precious, to describe an imitation, artificial, or simulated gemstone of any kind. The qualifying word "FAUX" is NOT sufficient. So, faux amethyst, faux topaz, faux pearl, faux turquoise, etc., etc., are NOT acceptable.
Acceptable terms are "artificial", "imitation" or "simulated", any of which can be used with or without the term FAUX. Be careful here that you do not confuse "simulated" and "synthetic". Faux stones (which include glass, rhinestones, plastic, etc.) are SIMULATED. So, simulated amethyst, simulated topaz, simulated pearl, artificial pearl, imitation pearl are all acceptable.
You cannot use the name of ANY gemstone, precious or semi-precious, and you cannot use the words "stone" or "birthstone" to describe a SYNTHETIC GEMSTONE , unless you also use a qualifying word or phrase, such as "laboratory grown", "laboratory created", or "synthetic". FAUX (by itself) is not acceptable.
You cannot use the words "real", "genuine", "natural", "precious" and "semi-precious" to describe a product that is manufactured or produced artificially. Therefore you cannot use these terms with IMITATION gemstones, nor with SYNTHETIC gemstones.
The qualifying words or phrases should be easy to remember about mainstream gemstones, but don't forget it will apply to (imitation) amber, ivory, coral, jet, chrysoprase, opal, jade, peridot, hematite, moonstone, aventurine, turquoise, lapis lazuli, and others that describe color but whose name comes originally from a mineral or gemstone.
This one was a surprise.
You cannot use the word "gem" to describe any gemstone or pearl that does not possess the beauty, symmetry, rarity and value necessary for qualification as a gem. This definition includes SYNTHETIC stones, which must first meet the definition and then further be identified as being synthetic.
The guideline is very tight on this subject, even indicating that some diamonds may not qualify as gems. Before you write me, think of the many grades of diamonds, including industrial diamonds.
Obviously our glass stones and rhinestones cannot meet the definition. While it may be difficult to avoid calling our beautiful costume jewelry "gems" or "gemstones", it will be best to cultivate calling them "glass stones" or "rhinestones".
"It is unfair or deceptive to use"....."any visual representation"...."computer image" ....which misrepresents the type, kind, grade, quality, quantity"...."SIZE".
An example is given of a depiction of a gemstone that portrays it in greater than actual size, which may mislead, unless a disclosure is made about the true size.
This does seem an important point on gemstones and karat jewelry; and perhaps less so on costume jewelry, but a good idea to stay within the guidelines, nevertheless, by describing the size of what we sell, especially as we often tend to enlarge the pictures to show detail. Who among us hasn't disappointedly received a tiny pin that had been pictured as a large brooch?
MISUSE OF THE TERMS "HAND-MADE", "HAND-POLISHED", "HAND-FORGED", "HAND-ENGRAVED", "HAND-FINISHED"
The thrust of this seems to be that any of these terms are unfair and deceptive unless what is described is, indeed, what was done.
For us, I would think it imperative to learn the
difference between hand-engraving, machine-engraving, and a stamped
engraved look; or not use the term "hand engraving" or "engraved". The difference between molded and carved is perhaps
another pitfall, though it is not addressed
directly. Certainly a difference in value is there between a molded piece and a
hand-carved (or even marchine carved) piece, and a buyer has a right
WARRANTIES and GUARANTEES
If you need information on Warranties, please refer to the FTC's Guides for the Advertising of Warranties and Guarantees.
The FTC's position on GUARANTEES is that if you use a phrase like "satisfaction guaranteed" or "money-back guarantee", you must be willing to give full refunds for any reason (no quibbling) You also must tell the consumer the terms of the offer, such as time limits, etc.(perhaps then you can quibble).
This is a quote from the FTC:
"The FTC periodically joins with other law enforcement agencies to monitor the Internet for potentially false or deceptive online advertising claims.
If your advertisement don't comply with the law, you could face enforcement actions or civil lawsuits. For advertisers under the FTC's jurisdiction, that could mean:
orders to cease and desist, with fines up to $11,000 per violation should
injunctions by federal district courts. Violations of some Commission rules also could result in civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Violations of court orders could result in civil or criminal contempt proceedings. in some instances, refunds to consumers for actual damages in civil lawsuits."
My Opinion: Personally, I believe that if we sell costume jewelry on any level, we need to bring ourselves into conformance with these rules. If we sell costume jewelry that includes coral, ivory, & natural stone beads, our care and concern should increase. If we sell estate jewelry, we should take care to be in FULL compliance. The FTC has made clear that these apply to individuals in business as well as large businesses. The government is arbitrary, as we know, and it is possible that their interpretation of whether you are in business may differ from your interpretation of whether you are in business. So, I say again: Personally, I believe that if we sell costume jewelry, we need to bring ourselves into conformance with these rules.
This information, the interpretations and the opinions are meant only as a reminder that rules and laws DO exist and may apply to you. That the FTC is watching the Internet is fact.
For exact wording, more guidelines, etc., please obtain a copy of Guides for the Jewelry, Precious Metals and Pewter Industries for yourself. You might also want The Federal Trade Commission's Rules of the Road, Advertising and Marketing on the Internet.
The FTC website can be found at www.ftc.gov
I recommend a tour of the whole site, including Anti-Trust. The page that specifically refers to jewelry terms is http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/jewel-gd.htm
The page with general guideslines, "Rules of the Road" is http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/ruleroad.htm. Of special interest are the sections for Non-Compliance, Warranties & Guarantees, and Jewelry. Dateline July 2000 - Newly offered is How Existing Consumer Protection Laws Apply To Online Advertising, http://www.ftc.gov.opa/2000/05/dotcom.htm.
The FTC phone number is 202-282-4357
They offer a complete list of their free brochures and publications, titled "Best Sellers"
For legal advice, see your lawyer.
DISCLAIMER: Information has been distilled and re-worded, and, as such is incomplete and may be inaccurate. Please consult the FTC and your legal advisor for the implications for your business.
4/4/99 updated 12/31/00
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Gaynor, P. O. Box 35038, Tucson, AZ 85740-5297 Website est. February 1997
Janet W. Gaynor, P. O. Box 35038, Tucson, AZ 85740-5297
Website est. February 1997