The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) after 7 years of ‘commitment’, along with coalition with The World Jewellery Confederation – CIBJO; De Beers, Rio Tinto, BHP, International Diamond Council among others, recently published a new standard – 18323:2015 Jewellery – Consumer confidence in the diamond industry. The standard essentially defines the nomenclature and terminologies that should be used for Lab-grown diamonds, treated diamonds and Earth-Mined diamonds.
Why ISO standards are important?
ISO sets up international standards for best practices in industries globally. For consumers, their objectives include standing for improvement in choice, fair competition, transparency in production information and credibility of standards to support consumer protection laws. For trade, their objectives include enhancing consumer satisfaction, level the playing field, set up guidelines for ethical industry practices and facilitate free and fair global trade.
How does ISO develop standards?
According to ISO, “Our standards are developed by the people that need them, through a consensus process. Experts from all over the world develop the standards that are required by their sector. This means they reflect a wealth of international experience and knowledge.”
How ISO 18323:2015 fails to comply with its own “standards”?
Unfortunately, the new ISO standard fails to follow its own guidelines in drafting the standard as it undermines its objectives enlisted above, for both consumer and trade. For consumers, the restricted use of the term “Synthetic” to refer Lab-Grown diamonds will spread confusion and deception leading into believing that they are fake diamonds like Cubic Zirconia (CZ), Moissanite etc., which is not true. Lab-grown Diamonds has emerge as a new choice for ethical and conflict free diamonds, but the perception that they are fake will eliminate them as a choice for consumers wanting to buy ethical diamonds.
Besides, as per ISO’s own stated process for developing a standard, ‘a consensus process’ involving ‘experts from all over the world’ is adopted. Isn’t then it is outlandish that a new ISO standard on Lab-grown diamonds was developed without any representation or consultation from any Lab-grown diamond producers or retailers!!!
‘Synthetic’ is an inaccurate term: US FTC and various experts agree
The necessity to distinguish the origin of diamonds is essential for consumers and trade, but at the same time any description or nomenclature should be an accurate reflection of the true characteristics of any product. ISO in its new standard defines a ‘synthetic’ diamond as “an artificial product…”. This is where ISO, like everyone else, starts on a misplaced note.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC), US in its 21 July 2008 order has explicitly stated “… the term ‘synthetic’ is a potentially confusing term i.e., consumers associate synthetic diamonds with imitation stones…’. Various experts including global management advisory and research firm – Frost & Sullivan also prescribes that ‘Synthetic’ is an inaccurate term to describe Lab-grown diamonds and hence it should be dropped.
ISO has, in fact, gone against US FTC guidelines by allowing only the usage of terms ‘synthetic diamond’, ‘laboratory-grown diamond’ or ‘laboratory-created diamond’ and bars the use of terms ‘cultured’, ‘cultivated’, ‘real’, ‘genuine’, ‘precious’ and ‘gem’ to describe Lab-grown diamonds (oops… ‘Laboratory-grown diamonds’… it does not even allow abbreviations).
ISO 18323 is narrowly drawn from a single source – CIBJO’s ‘Diamond Blue Book’
The new ISO standard is apparently heavily influenced from CIBJO’s ‘Diamond Blue Book’ and seems to be furthering mined diamond producers’ intentions of destroying Lab-grown diamonds as a choice for consumers. No wonder why the Mined diamond industry professionals and organizations including The World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB), CIBJO et al have hailed the new standard.
Since, CIBJO is the only “Organization in Liason” with the ISO committee, it is highly likely that its “Diamond Blue Book” would have served as the only source of information for all purposes. Gaetano Cavalieri, CIBJO President takes pride in this fact, “We are particularly proud, because the ISO standard essentially codifies our Diamond Blue Book rules.” CIBJO has no representation from Lab-grown Diamond producers and serves the interest of only Mined Diamond producers.
It also seems that the ISO committee responsible for this standard did not consider publicly available information on consumer choices.
Take for example this data from a survey conducted by Frost & Sullivan. It clearly reveals that Jewelry retailers are hardly interested in selling Lab-grown Diamonds (diamonds grown above earth) if they are described as “Synthetic Diamonds”. Pushing of the term “Synthetic Diamond” after looking at this information would only mean that ISO wants to discourage retailers from selling Lab-grown Diamonds and mislead consumers into believing that they are fake diamonds.
If ISO committee wants to ensure compliance to fulfilling their objectives they must involve experts and producers from Lab-grown diamond industry and understand the truth about Lab-grown diamonds. Rather than getting blindsided, shouldn’t ISO take up its responsibility of disseminating the right message of ethical and eco-friendly diamonds to consumers, through its standards?