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Articles from DIAMOND JEWELLERY (845 Articles), DIAMONDS BY TYPE - SYNTHETIC / LAB-CREATED (97 Articles)











Michael Hill’s lab-grown diamond marketing may mislead consumers

Michael Hill’s new collection of lab-created diamond engagement rings could fall foul of industry and government regulations concerning misleading and deceptive advertising.

Following a successful three-month trial of its synthetic diamond range, which began at a Queensland store, Michael Hill International (MHI) launched a collection of lab-grown diamond engagement rings in 23 stores across Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

However, the company’s marketing campaign, website and online store are promoting the engagement rings using terms and descriptions that do not conform to industry standards and, in some cases, could be in contravention of government guidelines designed to protect consumers.

Since the quality of lab-created diamonds has improved and commercial quantities are now available, a number of jewellery industry governing bodies have moved to ensure that consumers are fully aware that the product is not a natural diamond.

Therefore, according to the Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) and CIBJO – the international jewellery confederation – to avoid consumer confusion about a stone’s origin, terms such as ‘real’, ‘genuine’, ‘precious’ and ‘authentic’ should not be used as descriptors for synthetic diamonds.

However, the MHI website makes reference to its synthetic diamonds as “genuine and certified” as well as being “an authentic alternative”.

Daniel Bracken
Daniel Bracken
“Fenix Created Diamonds for Michael Hill are genuine, real diamonds”
Daniel Bracken, Michael Hill

The company’s Facebook page refers to the product as being “real diamonds” and “the real deal”.

In one instance an MHI Facebook post falsely states the diamonds are “not synthetic”.

In a press release announcing the launch of the new engagement collection, CEO Daniel Bracken said, “One of the first brands to launch an alternative to mined diamonds in Australia, Fenix Created Diamonds for Michael Hill are genuine, real diamonds set to provide customers even more choice when selecting the perfect diamond.”

The JAA and CIBJO guidelines confirm that “a diamond is a mineral created by nature; a ‘diamond’ always means a natural diamond.”

Under Australian Consumer Law, it is “unlawful for a business to make false or misleading representations about goods or services when supplying, offering to supply, or promoting those goods or services. For instance, a business must not make false or misleading representations about: the standard, quality, value or grade of goods or services”.

International consensus

Due to the increasing prominence of lab-created diamonds, the powerful US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated its Jewelry Guides in July 2018 to “help prevent deception in jewelry marketing”.

The FTC’s rules are clear: “It is unfair or deceptive to use the word ‘real,’ ‘genuine,’ ‘natural,’ ‘precious,’ ‘semi-precious,’ or similar terms to describe any industry product that is manufactured or produced artificially.”

Further, all three organisations – JAA, CIBJO and the FTC – state that man-made diamonds must be described as ‘synthetic’, ‘lab-grown’ or ‘lab-created’.

MHI is also a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), a not-for-profit organisation that independently audits companies for the responsible handling of diamonds, gold and platinum group metals, against its own rigorous Code of Practices. Its scope includes accurate product disclosure.

The MHI website states: “As a RJC Member, we endeavour to operate our business in accordance with the RJC Code of Practices and to integrate ethical, human rights, social and environmental considerations into our day-to-day operations, business planning activities and decision making processes.”

The RJC’s Code of Practices states: “Members shall not make any untruthful, misleading or deceptive representation, or make any material omission in the selling, advertising or marketing of any gold, silver, jewellery products, diamonds…. Members shall follow internationally accepted standards.”

Under its synthetic diamond and gemstone Code of Practices (COP28.2.d), the RJC notes: “Wholly or partially synthetic diamonds or synthetic coloured gemstones shall be disclosed as ‘laboratory created’, ‘laboratory grown’ and/or ‘synthetic’. The description shall be equally conspicuous as the word ‘diamond’ or the name of the coloured gemstone.”

Background reading: Great Diamond Debate - Natural vs Synthetic

While individual product descriptions on MHI’s websites comply with accepted industry nomenclature (i.e. laboratory-created) each product page refers customers to a 'Knowledge & Advice' page under its 'Education' section, which contains non-compliant terminology and confusing consumer advice.

Lab-created diamond not a synthetic diamond

Shortly after Jeweller contacted an MHI representative to discuss these issues, as well as factually incorrect information, an offending statement – “Fenix does not create diamonds, but rather creates the conditions that allow diamonds to grow just as they do under the Earth’s surface” [emphasis added] – was removed.

Further potentially misleading information was also removed from the website’s Knowledge & Advice page. Notably, the statement, “It’s not a simulant. It’s not synthetic. It’s a real diamond”, no longer appears.

However, while changes were quickly made to the website, the statements still feature prominently in an FAQ 12-page brochure which customers can download for further information. The brochure clearly makes the incorrect claim that Fenix created diamonds are “not synthetic”. See main image above. 

In addition, some of the subsequent changes to the website may cause more confusion. At various times, the products are referred to as both Fenix Diamonds and Fenix Created Diamonds. The logo of synthetic diamond manufacturer, Fenix Diamonds, which originally appeared on the website was also changed to Fenix Created Diamonds, even though the manufacturing company’s correct name is Fenix Diamonds. 

Jeweller consulted an international diamond authority about Michael Hill’s consumer information: “Fenix Diamonds are created using a unique method to recreate Earth’s forces and conditions in state-of-the-art growing facilities. Fenix creates the conditions that allow diamonds to grow just as they do under the Earth’s surface.”

The expert advised that the statement is not correct: “Man-made diamonds are not grown in the same conditions as under the earth. There are two different processes: HPHT [high-pressure high-temperature] and CVD [chemical vapour deposition]. HPHT diamonds are grown in metal catalysts and are often magnetic. CVD stones are grown using microwaves and a methane gas plasma. There are no gas plasmas or microwaves deep in the earth!”

Jeweller contacted MHI for comment and received the following response: “Lab-grown diamonds are all about providing our customers with an informed choice. We are very careful in the way that we market lab-grown diamonds so that customers know what they are, how they are created and how they differ from mined diamonds.”

 

MICHAEL HILL WEBSITE BEFORE CHANGES

Before <i>Jeweller’s</i> contact the website stated that Fenix lab-created diamonds are not synthetic
Before Jeweller’s contact the website stated that Fenix lab-created diamonds are not synthetic
This statement was removed from the website after <i>Jeweller’s</i> contact: “Fenix does not create diamonds, but rather creates the conditions that allow diamonds to grow just as they do under the Earth’s surface.”
This statement was removed from the website after Jeweller’s contact: “Fenix does not create diamonds, but rather creates the conditions that allow diamonds to grow just as they do under the Earth’s surface.”

The 12-page customer brochure still makes the claim that Michael Hill’s Fenix lab-created diamonds are “not synthetic” and uses non-complaint terminology such as ‘real’, ‘genuine’ and ‘authentic’.
The 12-page customer brochure still makes the claim that Michael Hill’s Fenix lab-created diamonds are “not synthetic” and uses non-complaint terminology such as ‘real’, ‘genuine’ and ‘authentic’.

Download Michael Hill FAQ Brochure »

More reading:
Michael Hill launches lab-grown diamond rings
Michael Hill looks for turnaround, introduces lab-grown diamonds
Lab-grown diamond exchange launches in New York

 

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Monday, 16 December, 2019 12:38am
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