March 1998

Gemstones & Pearls:News


Watch your language when selling pearls or you may trip on FTC guidelines

Follow these criteria to make sure you're abiding by the Federal Trade Commission guidelines when labeling and selling pearls and cultured pearls in your store.

Pearl: This is acceptable only for natural pearls or pearls that have been formed by the invasion of tiny organisms in a mollusk without human intervention. Very few natural pearls are still produced, though they are often found in estate jewelry.

Cultured pearl: Acceptable for almost all saltwater and freshwater pearls. Shell beads are inserted as nuclei and cause mollusks to secrete nacre, which forms in layers over the beads. The nacre is a fraction of a millimeter thick; the rest is simply a mother-of-pearl bead.

Imitation pearl: Refers to a manufactured product that simulates a pearl or cultured pearl. The product can be called an artificial pearl, imitation pearl or simulated pearl. Terms that are not acceptable: pearl, natural pearl, cultured pearl, cultivated pearl, cultured-like, premature cultured pearl, organic (unless distinguished from a natural or cultured pearl), real pearl, genuine pearl, precious pearl, faux pearl, fashion pearl or synthetic pearl.

Seed pearl: Refers to a pearl, either natural, cultured or imitation, measuring 2 millimeters or less. Use "cultured" and "imitation" as appropriate.

Places of origin: The terms Oriental (from the Persian Gulf), Biwa (from the freshwater lakes and rivers of Japan), South Sea (from mollusks in Australia and the South Pacific islands) and Tahitian (from French Polynesia and the Cook Islands) may be used in the names of pearls and cultured pearls only if they come from these areas. (For example, "Biwa" was used inappropriately for similar types of pearls that came from China.)

If the pearl is cultured, the word "cultured" must be used with the geographical description.

Adapted from the "JA Guide to the FTC Guidelines."

- by Stacey King

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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