The lack of gemstone disclosures is a growing concern in the jewellery industry. Any treatments that affect a gemstone’s value, durability and stability or that create a need for special care require disclosures. A good, plain-language summery of the US Federal Trade Commission’s rules for disclosure can be found on lexology.com
Recently Zales, Macys, and Lord and Taylor made the news for selling undisclosed lead-glass composite rubies. When queried about their lack of disclosure all three retailers place the blame on their supplier. The retailers relied on their suppliers to provide them with the proper information to properly label their products. If the supplier does not disclose, does that relieve the retailer of the responsibility? Can they claim lack of knowledge to cover themselves?
Everyone wants to pass the buck and blame someone else but the responsibility falls squarely on your own shoulders. It does not matter whether you are a wholesaler, manufacturer or retailer, when you pass that product on to your customer YOU are the one responsible for full disclosure. As a retailer you might feel that you can pass that responsibility up the supply stream but your customer will take you to court. They won’t sue your supplier, they will sue you. Sure you can go after your supplier later for not disclosing to you but you’ve already lost time, money, and reputation that may never be recovered.Educating yourself on the laws of your jurisdiction and taking courses in gemmology are two important ways to protect yourself. Stay up to date on new treatments so that you at least know what is out there. Awareness of new technologies is the first step to preventing problems.
Demand full written product information from your suppliers. Don’t accept a blanket statement of “treated.” Request the specifics of the treatments so you can properly inform your customer of what they are buying and how to care for the product. Don’t be afraid to send samples to a lab for verification. Talk to your insurance agent about Errors and Omission coverage, just in case.
Most importantly, be sure to disclose in writing everything you know about a gemstone to your customer. Demonstrate your knowledge and professionalism by have a discussion with them about any treatments or special care that applies to their purchase. Never forget that a big part of your job is to be an advocate for your customer’s best interests.
Everyone in the jewellery business needs to continually strive for full disclosures at every step of the way from the mine to the finger. Consumer trust in the industry is shaky at best. Let’s work hard to strengthen our relationship with our customers by giving them the knowledge and truth they need to make an informed decision. You owe it to them and they will appreciate your honesty.