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Mutual mass destruction will not serve anybody’s purposes

03 june 2019

ronnie_vanderlinden_xx.jpgThe recent moves by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), including its letters urging some companies to abide to the revised edition of FTC Jewelry Guides and the explanations from FTC attorney Robert Frisby posted on the FTC website were widely perceived as a game changer in promoting lab-grown and natural diamond goods in the market.

Ronnie VanderLinden, President of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), gave his take on the situation in advertising in an interview with Rough & Polished.

The recent letters sent by the Federal Trade Commission to eight companies urging them to abandon deceptive wording in their ads promoting lab-grown diamonds look like a crackdown after a period of uncensorious attitude, don’t you find?

It’s a warning not quite a “crackdown” that some of their marketing of Laboratory Grown Diamonds violated the revised FTC Jewelry Guides. Failure to change their advertising will most likely lead to a “crackdown”.

The revised edition of Jewelry Guides published by the FTC last July was initially interpreted by some market stakeholders as an indulgence for lab-grown diamonds loosening the reins in advertising. What do you think led them think this way?

“Some” did not fully understand the revisions, or did, and chose to ignore them. Plenty of USA Associations including DMIA, JVC, JA, etc. had sent messages to their respective membership explaining the changes. The JVC did an exceptional job of reviewing and explaining the changes to the industry. To be clear, the FTC Guides have been revised but the laws governing the FTC Guides have not.

The FTC warned in its letters against “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” claims. In your view, what would be the right way to substantiate such claims in advertising?

The companies must be sure they can substantiate any “eco-friendly claims” and “sustainable” with “hard evidence that would satisfy all reasonable interpretations of these claims”. The FTC has guidelines for eco-friendly claims which pertain to a much broader range of industries.

The terms “laboratory-grown” or “laboratory-created” seem to be outdated and lagging behind the industry producing such diamonds, as they are mostly being churned out not by laboratories, but by big factories using heavy industrial machinery, like cubic presses. What is you take?

I’ll leave the terminology debate to the FTC.

Don’t you feel that such a description is also deceptive in a way with regard to consumers and should be changed for something closer to reality?

What we would like and what the agencies of governments (in this case the FTC) decide are not always the same.

Lately, it is often said that diamond manufacturers are more and more inclined to use small-size synthetic diamonds due to their cost efficiency to replace natural diamonds, thus turning them into a catalyst able to efface the existing boundaries between them. Do you think it is a possible scenario?

I believe product differentiation will remain the responsibility of the sellers of their respective products. Whatever unfolds, full and clear disclosure is mandatory.

What is your opinion of the turf war currently going on between the proponents of lab-grown and natural diamonds? Will there be an end to it some day and who will be the winner?

Is there a turf war? Mutual mass destruction will not serve anybody’s purposes.

Vladimir Malakhov, Rough&Polished