Acronyms and abbreviations are all part of life in the jewellery sector, but there are occasions when failing to use the right terminology can lead to confusion for everyone, not least the consumer.
This is something that the leading lights of the global diamond sector recognise only too well — and two years ago they decided to do something about it.
Eight diamond industry organisations, including the Natural Diamond Council, the Responsible Jewellery Council and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses to name just a few, joined forces as part of a collaborative effort with local organisations such as the National Association of Jewellers (NAJ) in the UK to create the Diamond Terminology Guideline.
The globally-recognised document on diamond nomenclature serves as a reference point for the jewellery trade when referring to diamonds and synthetic diamonds, and is built on two internationally-accepted standards: the ISO 18323 Standard and the CIBJO Diamond Blue Book.
Taking up no more than a single page, the Guideline is designed to encourage full, fair and effective use of clear and accessible terminology for diamonds, laboratory-grown diamonds and imitation diamonds by all sector bodies, organisations and traders.
Lisa Levinson, head of marketing and communications for the UK at the Natural Diamond Council (NDC), says the collective involvement of major parties from different areas of the diamond supply chain demonstrates an acknowledgement from within the industry that it was time to establish “one language and one terminology” to make things easier for consumers.
She summarises what the Guideline states: “A diamond is always a ‘natural diamond’, and then a synthetic diamond needs to have the prefix of ‘synthetic diamonds’, ‘laboratory-grown diamonds’ or ‘laboratory-created diamonds’.
“Something completely different, such as a cubic zirconia or colourless sapphire should be referred to as a ‘diamond simulant’ or ‘imitation diamond’. It is all about making sure that people know what they are buying and they can trust what they are buying is correct.
“There has been a history of terminology confusion where diamonds and synthetic diamonds get mixed up in consumers’ minds. It makes it really hard for consumers to know what they are purchasing. There has been everything from vegan diamonds to cultured diamonds and when we did some research into this we found that consumers had no idea that these weren’t natural diamonds.
“For us, if you buy a natural diamond, you buy a natural diamond; if you buy a synthetic diamond, you buy a synthetic diamond. Consumers always have the right to choose, but it’s about making sure they know what they are choosing.”
The NDC comprises a selection of the world’s largest diamond mining businesses, including Alrosa, De Beers, Dominion Diamonds, Lucara Diamond, Petra Diamonds, Murowa Diamonds and Rio Tinto. It was formerly known as the ‘Diamond Producers Association’ until June this year, when it relaunched with a new consumer-facing identity.
The Diamond Terminology Guideline is hugely important to the organisation, and it remains particularly buoyed by the progress that has taken place in the UK, thanks largely to the work of the NAJ. It has successfully raised the document to the status of ‘Primary Authority Advice’, which is assured and recognised by Trading Standards in the UK market.
We have seen other global markets suffer from a lack of agreed-upon terms to describe natural diamonds, laboratory-grown diamonds and diamond stimulants”
The NAJ utilised its existing Primary Authority Partnership with Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards to receive the ‘Assured Advice’ status and strengthen the Diamond Terminology Guideline. The result is an agreed-upon document that is aligned with wider consumer protection protocol and legislation, explains NAJ chair, Gary Wroe.
“We are building up an enforcement structure in the UK market that is not only recognised by trade bodies and Trading Standards, but leading diamond industry groups worldwide. This is a positive step in streamlining terminology that will further strengthen consumer confidence in NAJ retailers and protect those operating honestly,” he explains.
The Assured Advice is designed to benefit consumers and protect NAJ members, rather than prosecute those who do not follow the rules.
Businesses ignoring the Guideline could be deemed to be in breach of consumer protection laws if a customer feels they have been mis-sold or misguided. The document could also be a useful tool in a court of law.
Those complying with the Trading Standards Assured Advice can be confident that other trading standards and consumer protection bodies will uphold and recognise the Diamond Terminology Guidelines as accurate, therefore protecting them against the risk of enforcement action.
This method of strengthening the Diamond Terminology Guideline is relatively unique to the UK market, emphasising why it has been looked upon favourably by the international diamond organisations.
Wroe adds: “We have seen other global markets suffer from a lack of agreed-upon terms to describe natural diamonds, laboratory-grown diamonds and diamond simulants.
“Rather than waiting for this to happen in the UK, we decided to act swiftly and efficiently by working with Trading Standards. They immediately took our goals seriously and we can now move forward with clear and more enforceable terminology.”
NDC’s Levinson agrees that following the Assured Advice gives retailers some clear protection. “The UK has taken a big step forward. It is very positive, of course, for the 10 million people working in the natural diamond industry across the world, and it’s very positive for British consumers because it prevents confusion.
“The fact that it has been driven by the NAJ and Trading Standards carries a lot of weight. In some countries the situation is different. And when consumers don’t know what they are buying, the risk is that they don’t buy anything at all. That ruins confidence and hurts retailers.
“As a consumer, when you feel empowered with knowledge or information, it makes the decision easier. Jewellery can be a big purchase, an emotional purchase; the last thing you want is for a consumer to feel like they don’t know what they are buying.”
Responsible jewellers have an innate wish to do the right thing and to make things easier for consumers”
The NDC is now trying to make as many jewellers in the UK aware of the Guideline as possible and coordinate efforts with jewellery associations across international markets to reinforce the message.
Levinson believes retailers welcome the support that such a framework offers.
“I think they understand that they need to take it seriously because it protects them and it also protects their consumers’ faith and belief in them. I think responsible jewellers have an innate wish to do the right thing and to make things easier for consumers.
“If you take natural diamonds and laboratory-created diamonds, they are two different products They both have value, but very different value and very different unique selling points. Our job at the NDC is to share what makes natural diamonds special and it is the synthetic diamond manufacturer’s job to share what they do, but the important thing is that we are transparent and open about it.”
Levinson suggests the UK could be held up as a benchmark for the way the Guideline is implemented globally. “The UK has taken a strong stance on this, which is very positive for the whole industry. It is fantastic to see what has been accomplished with it becoming Assured Advice. It is a really positive development and it is going to move forward in a way that will benefit everyone.”
Diamond Terminology Guideline
This Diamond Terminology Guideline serves as a reference document for the diamond and jewellery trade when referring to diamonds and synthetic diamonds. It is built on two internationally accepted standards: the ISO 18323 Standard (Jewellery — Consumer confidence in the diamond industry) and the CIBJO Diamond Blue Book.
• A diamond is a mineral created by nature; a “diamond” always means a natural diamond.
• A synthetic diamond is an artificial product that has essentially the same physical characteristics as a diamond.
• An imitation diamond, also named a diamond simulant, is an artificial product that imitates the appearance of diamonds without having their chemical composition, physical properties or structure.
• A gemstone is a mineral of natural origin that is used in jewellery for reasons of combined beauty, rareness and intrinsic value.
• When referring to synthetic diamonds:
Use one of the following authorised qualifiers when referring to synthetic diamonds: “synthetic”, “laboratory-grown” or “laboratory-created”.
Do not use abbreviations such as “lab-grown” and “lab-created”.
Do not use the following terms: “cultured diamonds” and “cultivated diamonds” as “cultured” and “cultivated” refer exclusively to organic/biogenic products.
Do not use the following terms: “real”, “genuine”, “precious”, “authentic” and “natural” as those apply exclusively to natural minerals and gemstones.
• A diamond is natural by definition. Therefore, use the word “diamond” without a qualifier when referring to a diamond. If differentiation from synthetic diamonds is required, use the term “natural diamonds” as term of equivalent meaning.
• Do not use the following confusing expressions: “natural treated diamonds” and “treated natural diamonds”. Instead, simply use “treated diamonds”.