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 – 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
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.