A Cornwall jeweller on the wrong end of an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) case says it respects the ruling but believes the episode highlights shortcomings in the advice retailers are given to market different types of diamonds.
Truro-based Kinetique, trading as Ethica Diamonds, was judged by ASA to have breached advertising codes by failing to make it clear that diamond products on its websites were laboratory-made or artificial – even though it claims that it has never had a single customer raise any concerns.
It has been ordered to ensure that when describing synthetic or simulant products in future, the term ‘diamond’ must always be accompanied by an identifier that makes the nature of the product clear.
Ethica director, Elaine Reffell, who runs the business with her daughter Emily, told Professional Jeweller that the company had never attempted to disguise the fact that it specialises in laboratory-grown diamonds – with its website prominently featuring the strapline, ‘Kind, not mined’.
She said: “Throughout our website we talk about the merits of lab-grown diamonds. In our 11 years of trading, not a single customer has questioned whether we sell natural diamonds.
“In our minds, ‘kind, not mined’ implies that the products we sell are lab-grown, since they are not mined, but the ASA ruled that this is not clear enough. We have never wanted to pass off our lab diamonds as natural, as we are proud to sell lab-grown diamonds as we believe they are the more ethical choice.”
During the case, The National Association of Jewellers’ ‘Diamond Terminology Guideline’ was referenced by the ASA.
The guideline, which has the status of Assured Advice from Trading Standards, distinguishes between diamonds created by nature, laboratory-grown products with the same physical characteristics as a natural diamond, and imitation diamonds, which have the appearance of a diamond without having its chemical composition.
Ethica argued that the guidance is outdated and represented the views of the natural diamonds industry. It said it did not accurately guide retailers selling anything other than a natural diamond.
Ms Reffell said: “We do respect the ASA’s ruling and have made sure that on our website, we will be clear to always use an identifier ‘lab’ or similar, when referring to the diamonds that we sell. However, we do not believe that the NAJ’s guidance is fair or correct, since a diamond is a diamond, no matter how it is formed.”
ASA’s investigation took place after fellow Cornwall jeweller Diotima & Co – which understood that Kinetique’s diamonds were made of substitute materials and were not laboratory-grown diamonds – challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Ms Reffell said: “The ASA approached us in December 2020 and were happy to deal with the case informally. The ASA understood that the NAJ guidance [on diamond terminology, which was used for reference by the ASA in the case] was released in February 2020, and before this time, there was no guidance for retailers in this new market on how to describe alternative products in the UK.
“When the ASA closed the file, Jason [Foreman, owner of Diotima and Ms Reffell’s ex-husband and former business partner] was not happy and continued to complain, because he claimed that we hadn’t made the changes required.
“However, he was referring to content that had been cached by Google, as it takes a while for Google to change the SEO on web pages. The ASA explained to us that they had no choice but to reopen the case, and would not be able to resolve it informally due to Jason’s repeated complaint.”
Professional Jeweller reached out to Mr Foreman and Diotima & Co for comment on the issue.
Mr Foreman responded: “Our mission is to change people’s minds on diamonds, whether mined or lab-grown, so that they can make considered decisions on their jewellery choices.
“In doing so, practicing the utmost integrity and transparency is paramount to what we do in order to empower customers with the knowledge on luxury diamond alternatives, that we believe are the most ethical decision.
“The recent pioneering ASA ruling sets a new benchmark for the jewellery industry that we are proud to uphold and take forward in a new era for the industry as a whole.
“We wish only the best success to our competitors and encourage them to endorse the same standards that Diotima & Co do in making the business of diamond alternatives clearer and fairer for all.”
ASA’s ruling on the case can be read in its entirety here.
Read more about the initial ruling below: