Brief Summary of the FTC Guidelines

As an eBay jewelry seller you need to understand your limits when describing an item in your auction listing. Following are the guidelines in a nutshell (for the complete publication, visit

■ Misuse of terms. It's easy to get carried away when you're describing a gemstone or piece of jewelry. In your eyes, the piece is a miracle of beauty. But you must choose your words wisely. In the jewelry business, you have to mean exactly what you say. Table 11.1 sorts out the major no-nos of labeling jewelry.

Table 11.1 Using Jewelry Terms

You Are Prohibited from Using the Term... Unless the Item...

Table 11.1 Using Jewelry Terms

Brilliant-cut diamond

Is a round diamond with at least 32 facets above the girdle

and at least 24 facets below the girdle

Cultured pearl

Was cultured in salt or fresh water through the insertion of

a bead into a mollusk


Is a natural mineral consisting mostly of pure carbon, with

a hardness of 10, a specific gravity of 3.52, and a refractive

index of 2.42

Faux pearl

Is also called "artificial" or "imitation" in the description

Flawless or perfect

Truly has no blemishes, inclusions, inferior colors, or other


Gemstone (and names

Is a gemstone that developed in nature, unless the

of specific gemstones)

immediately preceded by a term such as "lab-created,"

"laboratory-grown," "synthetic," or "imitation"

Gold (without a karatage)

Is solid 24-karat gold

Gold (with karatage)

Is a gold alloy with at least 10-karat gold in fineness

Hand-made or hand-polished

Was manufactured or polished using only manual

processes and no machinery

Pearl, natural pearl,

Was created by a mollusk under "abnormal physiological

or natura pearl

conditions" and not interference from humans


Is at least 950/1000th pure platinum

Precious or semiprecious

Was created in nature under natural conditions

Real, natural, or genuine

Was created in nature under natural conditions

Silver or sterling silver

Is at least 925/1000th pure silver

South Sea pearl

Originated from mollusks in the waters of the South Sea

islands, Australia, or Southeast Asia

eBay for Sellers

Some sellers might find these rules confining when trying to create their enticing auction headlines. It's tempting, for example, to describe that piece of costume jewelry with the deeply red rhinestones as an "exquisite ruby red bracelet." But according to the FTC guidelines, this is illegal because it is misleading. Your item description will need to be something more along the lines of "imitation ruby bracelet" or "deep red rhinestone bracelet."

■ Disclosure of treatments. This is the part of the FTC guidelines that's harder to understand and interpret. And not just for beginners: not unlike how judges try to uphold the original intentions of lawmakers for a government's judicial system, industry leaders have been debating for years on the best way to read and implement the guidelines. The problem is that nobody wants to put himself at risk, but at the same time, overdisclosing can be bad for business, because jewelers who talk about every standard treatment are probably shedding negative light unnecessarily on the goods they're selling. A good rule of thumb is that you're required to disclose treatments if they might be reversible, if they require special care, or if they significantly reduce the value of the gemstone. Based on these guidelines, you should disclose the following treatments to your bidders:

■ Clarity enhancement that might require special care (such as fracture filling)

■ Dyeing or bleaching

This gets tricky if, as a seller, you're not aware that the gemstone has been enhanced. The person who sold it to you possibly didn't know or didn't tell you. Try to ask as many questions as possible about gemstone enhancements before you purchase from your source. Again, you needn't worry about standard enhancements such as heat treatments or irradiation, but clarity enhancement, dyeing, bleaching, or any other enhancement that suggests a stone is of lower value than it looks should be noted.

If you're relatively new to jewelry selling or aren't familiar with gemstone treatments, visit the American Gem Trade Association Web site at consumer/gemstones/enhancements.htm to read about common treatments.

Creating Compelling—and Legally Correct—Product Descriptions

■ How to disclose. Many sellers worry that discussing gemstone treatments in their auction descriptions might turn buyers off.

This is where education, a different perspective, and a little creativity come in handy. The AGTA Web site can give you a few ideas on how to explain enhancements so that buyers understand they are common and safe. Approach them in your description positively, as a way of providing the world beautiful gemstones at affordable prices. Here's an example of how you might bring up heat treatment for a clarity-enhanced diamond:

The center stone in this lovely ring is a 2.30-carat, clarity-enhanced diamond, with a naturally beautiful E color. So that you can buy the most beautiful diamond at the best possible price, the diamond has undergone a technological process called fracture-filling, which hides the minor inclusions that occur naturally in some diamonds, thereby upgrading the clarity grade by a few levels. This safe enhancement creates a bright, clean, gorgeous diamond that you'll treasure forever!

Although disclosure can seem somewhat disruptive, you can also view it as a small part of the gemstone's story—its journey from the earth to your buyer's mailbox.

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