Press Release: AGTA Issues Recommendations on Green Guides to the FTC

(Dallas – May 2, 2023) – The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) has compiled a list of recommendations for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on the use of terms in jewelry that it feels require clarification for the benefit of consumers. AGTA unveiled a new committee in January with a goal of standardizing terms surrounding sustainability and ethics, and developing recommendations for proposed revisions to the Green Guides was among its first tasks.

“I congratulate AGTA’s Industry Terms Committee under the leadership of President Kim Collins for their dedication and efforts drafting AGTA’s comments,” says John W. Ford, CEO. AGTA submitted its comments directly to the FTC while also sharing our positions with the industry through the JVC.”

Committee members include Jaimeen Shah, Prima Gems USA; Bruce Bridges, Bridges Tsavorite; Becky Scheffler, Rio Grande; John Bradshaw, John J. Bradshaw; Ron Rahmanan, Sara Gem Corp.; Jeffrey Bilgore, Jeffrey Bilgore LLC; Ray Zajicek, Equatorian Imports; Jenna White, researcher and PhD student, Colorado School of Mines; and Vincent Pardieu, field gemologist. (Pardieu is not an AGTA member, but he is a world-renowned gemological expert with a firm grasp of world cultures from his extensive travels to mines.) AGTA CEO John W. Ford Sr. and Kimberly Collins, AGTA Board President and Owner of Kimberly Collins Colored Gems, offered input and guidance as needed.

Key recommendations to the FTC are as follows:

  • Use the generally accepted definition of “sustainable” as developed by the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission in 1987: “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
  • Define the terms “ethical,” “responsible,” and “conflict-free” for the benefit of the consumer and for the integrity of the supply chain.
  • Issue guidance to prevent companies from making unsubstantiated environmental claims.
  • Ban the use of the term “recycled” from being applied to all gem materials as well as gold, platinum, palladium, and silver, and outline the use of the term “recovered from electronic or e-waste” for recovered metals exclusively.
  • Do not permit the use of the terms “never-mined” or “mining-free” regarding gemstones and precious metals.
  • Use the term “carbon neutral” with substantiation and do not permit the use of “carbon free” as the former more accurately reflects the carbon offsets being used by some companies.

“Truth and transparency drive our association, protect the end consumer from deception, and are of the utmost importance to AGTA,” says Collins, noting that the committee spent months reflecting on proper language and guidance that would best serve the industry. “AGTA is now more openly driving directional conversations about the terms narrative because it’s been having these conversations for 40-plus years. AGTA members are the most qualified to define this linguistic landscape.”

The committee issued these recommendations based on of a lack of existing legal definitions, which has created an environment ripe for greenwashing. Of particular concern is the overuse of terms like “ethical” and “responsible,” which “intentionally connote both environmental and social benefits without providing any specifics,” according to the committee.

The term “recycled” is problematic as it is often used to describe previously owned or estate stones, which are simply being reused.

“There is no evidence that Diamonds or colored stones are being thrown into landfills in an amount that is meaningful,” write the committee. “There is no evidence that colored stones, result in environmental damage when landfilled.”

Additionally, the term “recycled” as it pertains to noble metals is leading to instances of upcharging consumers for gold already in the supply chain—and without any additional environmental benefits—and greenwashing of gold from illicit sources. “The core issue is that recycled gold is not traceable,” says the committee.

And though many in the industry interpret “sustainable” to mean only from renewable sources—which would exclude all colored stones, Diamonds, and precious metals—the Brundtland Commission definition allows for the inclusion of non-renewables. This would also “prevent lab-grown gems from claiming that they are the only ‘sustainable’ option,” a statement many know is fraught with its own unique issues.

Finally, recommendations were also issued on use of the phrases “locally sourced” and “certificates.” The former implies a lower carbon footprint but does not guarantee that gemstones have not left the U.S. for cutting or processing, while the latter is a confusing term wrongly repeated by many in the industry with regard to lab reports. Gemstone reports from labs can be mistakenly called certificates when they are in fact a mix of gemstone facts and some lab opinions. “They should not be presented as ‘certificates’ since subjective opinions are included and the information on the reports is not guaranteed,” says the committee.

For more information, reach out to AGTA at [email protected].

The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) is a not‐for‐profit association serving the colored gemstone and cultured Pearl industry since 1981. Headquartered in Dallas, members are trade professionals based in the U.S. and Canada, and AGTA is widely regarded as “The Authority in Color.” AGTA’s activities include organizing educational programs, trade shows, and printed materials and maintaining strong relationships with government officials and other jewelry trade groups. AGTA is committed to upholding the highest ethical standards and practices.