Real-ity Prevails: FTC declares Lab Grown Diamonds are Diamonds

In its new guidelines, US FTC has removed the term 'Natural' from the definition of Diamond and also the term 'Synthetic' to describe Lab-grown diamonds, taking a right step forward to create a fair level-playing field for all.

Diamond, Lab-grown diamond
[Image Courtesy: Ada diamonds]

Old divides and New Unites. Notwithstanding the making process, FTC issues a new guideline that Lab Grown Diamonds are diamonds too and discerns no difference in ‘mined’ or ‘grown’ diamonds. Use of the term ‘Synthetics’, as practiced by mining companies and some traders in diamond industry, to imply that Lab-grown diamonds are not actual diamonds, is also termed as deceptive.

 

Lab-Grown Diamonds are Diamonds

US FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) previous definition of a diamond was A diamond is a natural mineral consisting essentially of pure carbon crystallized in the isometric system”. However, the new definition released omits the word “natural” from it.  The new definition of diamond is “A diamond is a mineral consisting essentially of pure carbon crystallized in the isometric system. It is found in many colors. Its hardness is 10; its specific gravity is approximately 3.52; and it has a refractive index of 2.42.”

Justifying this change, FTC said “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.”

What this essentially means is FTC now acknowledges that both Mined diamonds and Lab-grown diamonds are diamonds, with the only difference being the source of origin – a point Lab-grown diamond industry has been making since years now. An important implication of this change in definition is that Lab Grown diamonds can no longer be termed as ‘Synthetic’ to qualify them as fake or not real. Any such attempt will clearly be deceptive.

This revision, which is the Guides’ first major overhaul since 1996, “primarily acknowledges technological developments that have led to existence of diamonds that are formed both below and above the ground,” the IGDA (International Grown Diamond Association) said in a statement. IGDA’s Secretary General, Richard Garard said, “The revisions to the FTC guides endorses the fact that a diamond is a diamond, whether from above or below the ground.”

 

‘Synthetics’ is ‘Deceptive’

“Synthetic is a scientifically inaccurate term for a man-made diamond,” says Jason Payne, CEO of Ada Diamonds. “Why? Because you can’t synthesize an element. There is no such thing as synthetic gold or platinum or carbon or diamond.”

Moreover, the use of the term ‘Synthetic’ to describe Lab-grown diamonds confused, mislead and deceived consumers, making them to believe that Lab-grown diamonds are artificial/ fake stones. FTC has also recognized this situation and has prohibited the use of the term ‘Synthetic’ to deceptively describe Lab-grown diamonds.

“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.”

 – FTC 2018 Jewellery Guide

None of the Lab-grown diamond producers would want to use the incorrect term of ‘Synthetics’. The new FTC guidelines, however, indirectly restrains the Mined Diamond industry to use the word ‘Synthetics’ for Lab-grown diamonds.

 

A fair decision to create level playing field for all

Use of the term ‘Synthetic’ as a nomenclature for Lab-grown diamonds is derogatory and deceptive. Various earlier studies have clearly established that consumers relate the term ‘Synthetic’ to ‘Fake’, ‘Artificial’, ‘Cheap’ etc.

To avoid any further confusions, FTC has removed the term ‘natural’ from the definition of diamond and acknowledged that, “The old definition is draconic, considering it was made in the year 1956, a time when mined diamonds were the only kind of diamonds[…] 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.

In the revised FTC Guides, the Commission cautions marketers that it would be deceptive to use the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” or “synthetic” to imply that a Lab-grown diamond is not, in fact, an actual diamond, the IGDA said.

Earlier in 2016, diamond mining companies formed an association, DPA (Diamond Producers Association), to launch a campaign against Lab-grown diamonds – “Real is Rare”. The current FTC direction precisely implies that such campaigns are deceptive.

However, to ensure there is a clear distinction between mined diamonds and Lab-grown diamonds, FTC dies require usage of qualifiers like:

  • “Laboratory-created”
  • “Laboratory-grown”
  • “[manufacturer name]-created”
  • Or some other word or phrase of like meaning conveying that the product is not mined

FTC has also acknowledged that Lab-grown diamond industry is at a nascent stage and it is unfair to restrict its positioning and promotions by allowing usage of certain terms/ qualifiers only, especially with an industry segment that is still emerging & evolving.

 

What is good for consumers it is good for fraternity

At the foremost, FTC essentially has been concerned with protection of consumer’s interests and check any practices that could deceive them. The decision by FTC is based on the scientific facts giving consumers real information so that wise and informed diamond purchasing decisions can be made by them. The thumb rule is simple – a diamond is a diamond no matter whether it is grown in a lab or comes out of earth.

“Retailers can now educate consumers based upon guidelines provided by a federal body, rather than trade associations with their own agendas to push. No one can mislead consumers,” says Amish Shah, president of ALTR Created Diamonds. “The consumer is ultimately who matters and they are the ones the FTC has done right by. The FTC has provided much needed clarity for consumers thereby ensuring transparency and increased confidence. It will create a marketplace where consumers can exercise their right to choose with full transparency,” he continues.

The new guidelines have created a level playing field which allows the Lab Grown Diamond companies to come up with enriched marketing campaigns for their products and transfer such benefits to more and more consumers.

“The FTC revisions have taken an overall view of the industry, weighing it with consumer confidence and fairness. We believe the new Jewelry Guides, which align with 21st century facts, are critical for consumer clarity. They give mined and grown diamonds equal grounds to market their unique offerings to the customers, and customer gets legitimate diamond options and a right to choose.” said, IGDA’s Secretary General, Richard Garard.

 

Lab-grown diamond can be called ‘Cultured’

With regard to the usage of term “Cultured” to describe lab-grown diamonds, FTC stated 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.” This means that with the right qualifier, Lab-grown diamonds can also be called Cultured diamonds.

 

Confusion between Simulants and Lab-grown diamonds will also wane

Any man-made stones that do not have the same optical, physical and chemical properties as its mined counterpart (Simulants – Eg. Cubic Zirconia, Moissanite etc.) cannot use descriptors like “Laboratory-grown”, “Laboratory-created”, “[manufacturer name]-created”, “synthetic” or other word or phrase of like meaning, that can potentially be confused with its mined counterpart.

 

Excessive mis-marketing by the Simulant sellers compounded with misleading by traditional diamond industry lobby had created lot of confusion regarding Lab-grown diamonds in consumers’ mind. Issuing clear guidelines for Simulants, Mined diamonds and Lab-grown Diamonds, FTC has taken the right step to correct the situation.

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