Missing Link in Gem Disclosure

March 1999

Gemstones & Pearls:News

Missing Link in Gem Disclosure

Do your suppliers give you all the enhancement information you need to pass along to consumers?

Telling customers about gem treatments may seem a complicated task, but it's one you can't ignore. You also must trust suppliers to do their part in passing along such information. Loose gemstone dealers do disclose treatments but manufacturers of gem-set jewelry, by and large, don't, say retailers. The primary reason seems to be a difference in what these manufacturers feel should be disclosed.

Many manufacturers say they don't use treated gems. That's an interesting observation given the fact most gems are treated in some way to enhance their color or clarity. Most manufacturers don't feel "common treatments" have to be disclosed. "Everyone knows emeralds are oiled, most sapphires are heat-treated and blue topaz is irradiated" goes the standard thinking.

The manufacturers often are backed by the FTC Guides for the Jewelry Industry, which don't require disclosure of permanent treatments such as heating sapphire or ruby and irradiating blue topaz. (Emerald oiling, however, is not permanent and must be disclosed.)

Unfortunately for retailers, the FTC Guides are guidelines, not law, and consumers don't split hairs about what's permanent and what's not. If they find out their new piece of jewelry contains a treated gem you didn't tell them about – whether or not you are required to do so &#150 they can lose confidence in you, spread the word among their friends and even take legal action. Ultimately this affects the manufacturers also because retailers will sell and reorder less often.

Education for Manufacturers
The Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America advocates its members adhere to the FTC Guides and use the Gemstone Enhancement Manualissued by the American Gem Trade Association as a guide to proper disclosure methods, says Jim Marquart, executive director of MJSA. "We advise our members to demand disclosure information from their suppliers and to pass it along to their retail customers."

However, Marquart says this area needs much improvement. "We're evaluating the feasibility of establishing a quality assurance program that we would promote in the jewelry industry internationally," he says. "We would start with metals then move to color. We would like to work with such groups as AGTA, the Gemological Institute of America, the American Gem Society and Jewelers of America for guidance in this area."

But until a standard format is established to disclose treatments, many manufacturers advise retailers to ask for the specific information they want. "Independent jewelers can take a tip from the majors," says Mara Shepherd, marketing director of Bagley & Hotchkiss, a manufacturer in Santa Rosa, CA. "Major retailers are more likely to face a vast array of treated gems so most have devised a disclosure form for manufacturers to complete."

Since 1997, when issues regarding emerald treatments became prevalent in the news, more jewelry retailers – large and small – have created their own disclosure forms for suppliers to complete, says Shepherd. Hank B. Siegel, president of Hamilton Jewelers, is one of them. "We have devised a disclosure agreement which all of our vendors are required to sign," says Siegel, who has four stores in the Princeton, NJ, and Palm Beach, FL, areas. "It's part of our own quality assurance program."

– by Deborah Yonick

Sample of the wording Hamilton Jewelers, based outside of Princeton, NJ, uses in a disclosure agreement with vendors.

















Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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