The sale in Australia of artificially treated gemstones without disclosure

Including Reaction and Clarification (below)

Jenny and I have been dogmatically promoting the benefits of honesty, integrity and authenticity within the gemstone and jewellery industry and the benefits of genuine, natural sapphire and we have always condemned the practice of unscrupulous people who sell artificially treated or chemically modified gemstones without any clear and understandable form of disclosure.

 We had long thought that we were the 'odd ones out' as we appeared to be conducting our campaign in the face of an industry whose reputation was being tarnished by people who were openly deceiving their customers and who appeared to place no credence in the principles of honesty and integrity but were tied solely to the principle of making money by any means!

We have been very pleased and surprised at the way attitudes have changed recently.  Responsible people within the gemstone and jewellery industry who are prepared to speak out are now openly talking about the problems resulting from  deceitful advertising and disclosure practices- and are determined to take whatever action is necessary to root these evils out of our industry.

 Our own Queensland Sapphire Producers Association (of which Jenny is President) made a submission to the Australian Prime Minister and to the Queensland Premier late last year on this issue (click here to read submission)  and we later found out that many other industry organisations had also independently done the same.

Government Directive

As a result of these submissions, the Government directed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to draw up a revised set of Guidelines for the Gemstone and Jewellery Industries to clearly define the responsibility of all participants, from the miners right through to the final sale to the consumer, for Truth in Advertising and for Full and Open Disclosure of any Treatments used  -  and to make the industry participants aware of the penalties for breaching these requirements.

The ACCC has received numerous submissions and anticipates having a Draft Code available for release within a few weeks.

Our Concerns
It is of great concern to us that, during our Exhibitions at Fairs and Shows this year, many jewellers have told us that they have either quit their membership of the Jewellers Association of Australia, or have simply not renewed their membership when it became due.

 These people, and there really were lots of them, gave  their prime reason for quitting the JAA as being their concern that they perceived that the JAA was now dominated by interests representing the major Chain Store Jewellers.  We were told repeatedly that they felt that the JAA did not any more represent the interests of the smaller and mid-size Australian manufacturing jeweller.

 It was even pointed out to us on a number of occasions that , since the chain store jewellers sourced the great bulk of their stocks as ready-made product from Asia, these people felt that the smaller Australian manufacturing jewellers were actually regarded as "the opposition"!

We hope that the Code soon to be introduced  by the ACCC will redress this situation and will go a long way to preserving the integrity of our jewellery industry and protecting the livelihoods of our many good tradesmen.  

Queensland Gemfields
In our own area on the Central Queensland Gemfields, it is so important for not only the gemstone to be authenticated, but also the place of manufacture.  We have many visitors who come here to one of the world's greatest sources of sapphires in the expectation that they are able to buy something that is genuine, natural and LOCAL.

We understand from the ACCC that the laws requiring disclosure of place of manufacture are largely in the province of the State Governments ,so if you agree with our push for total honesty in the system, please lobby your local member of Parliament.

Overseas requirements on Disclosure
The AGTA (American Gem Traders Association) has included in its 2004/05 AGTA "Source Directory" a section right at the front of the book which deals with 'Enhancement Definitions and Glossary for Natural Gemstones" and "Definition of Symbols for Specific Forms of Enhancement" and "Information Requirements for Man-Made Materials that Resemble Natural Gemstones"       -      and they enforce these requirements!

New rules introduced by the Japan Jewellery Association and the Association of Gemmological Laboratories Japan require laboratories, wholesalers and retailers alike to disclose all treatments much more specifically than ever before.

The Australian Jewellery Industry
I hope that I live to see the day when our own JAA is controlled by like minded people who enforce similar rules on our Australian industry.  I also believe that, as the 'peak body' for the industry, the JAA has a responsibility to conduct  consumer awareness campaigns to familiarise the public so that they are not easy prey for the deceptive practices of the unscrupulous bastards in our industry, and I personally have a hatred of the radiation enhanced gemstones which are released on an unsuspecting public with no proper testing and no form of disclosure.   How many cases of breast cancer have been initiated or promoted by irradiated blue topaz which is still in an emissive state when it is sold to the consumer???

We openly admit to having a vested interest in the introduction of clear disclosure laws . Australian gemstone miners have suffered greatly in the last few years because of the flood of chemically modified, radiation enhanced and artificially treated gemstones which have been sold both within Australia and elsewhere without any form of disclosure.                

World markets are now placing a very high premium on all gemstones which can be authenticated as 'genuine and natural', and for which the point of origin is known. All Australian gemstone miners  are in a position to be able to authenticate the source and nature of all their material.

We at Coolamon Mining have always issued  Certificates of Authenticity which give the details of where a stone was mined and whether it had a simple, standard heat  treatment or not.   We have never, do not, and will never, get involved in any form of chemical modification, beryllium treatment, or  other 'artificial' enhancements of any kind, and we believe that the sale of such material without full and clear disclosure should be made an offence punishable by hanging!

The stringent application of disclosure rules by other countries such as USA and Japan brings with it a short term problem until our own Australian laws are clearly re-defined.   We may only have a small population, but we are seen as an affluent country by many of the unscrupulous dealers - so we are a target for their attempts to get rid of as much of their adulterated product as they can before the disclosure laws catch up with them.

Reaction and Clarification of the Above report.

I was contacted today by Mr. Brian Seiver, Chair of Directors of the Jewellery Association of Australia, who expressed great concern at my criticism of the direction of the JAA.

Brian pointed out to me that the JAA were the instigators of the review being carried out by the ACCC, primarily over concerns about unethical advertising within the industry, and that the JAA management had been very active in bringing about the changes necessary to restore honesty and integrity in the Australian gemstone and jewellery industry.

He also stated, and I wholeheartedly agree with him, that it serves no useful purpose for the different players in the Industry to be at odds with each other, as the restoration of confidence both within and without the Industry can only occur if we all work closely together.

I know that I am not known for subtlety, and I tell things as I see them - but I did not intentionally set out to antagonise any one section of the industry and if I have offended anyone, I apologise.

However, I do not back off one bit in my opposition to the improper advertising and disclosure practices of many participants in our Industry, and I am very pleased that Brian Seiver has "put me straight" that the JAA also has a definite policy of opposition to these practices.

Brian quoted the JAA management as having " 100% support for the total disclosure of all treatment on all gemstones" , which will mean that people purchasing at JAA sponsored Jewellery Fairs and from JAA members can do so with the total confidence of JAA backing. This is good news for the Industry and, with such strong backing from the JAA, I am very hopeful that these provisions will be cemented in the ACC Code.

I was also contacted by
Annette Gardner from the ACCC as she wanted to make sure that it was clear that the ACCC's position was to react to Industry submissions to develop a Code based on the existing Laws of the Land - but it was not the ACCC's position to develop new laws.

My explanation to myself is that the ACCC is an interpreter of the Laws, but that the Laws themselves are made by Governments. It is therefore most important that all sections of the Industry work together to lobby the State and Federal Governments for the introduction of clear Laws to protect consumers against any form of deception in the Jewellery Industry - whether this deception be by false advertising, mis-identification of product, lack of clear disclosure of treatments or failure to disclose point of manufacture where that could be a source of confusion to the purchaser.

I attach Annette Gardner's e-mail below to eliminate any confusion over the role of the ACCC.

I also thank the dozens of readers of our Report who have e-mailed or telephoned their support. It is not possible for me to respond to everyone in person, but I urge you all to be most active and vocal in your clubs associations and guilds - and to speak out to each other and to the authorities to ensure that we rid ourselves of the malpractices of the past!

I hope that we all can prosper - and can hold our heads high and be proud to be a member of an Industry which respects honesty and integrity and counts authenticity as one of its great virtues.

Regards, Jim Elliot. Coolamon Mining Pty. Ltd.

Dear Jim,

Thank you for copying me on the email.

I am concerned that the email states that the Guideline for advertising in the jewellery industry (Guideline) being produced by the ACCC is a mandatory Code of Conduct and that the Guideline had been initiated by a request made by the Government to the ACCC.

In fact, the development of the Guideline was initiated by a request from members of the jewellery industry. Members of the jewellery industry approached Commission staff and requested that the Commission express its views in relation to two-price advertising under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Act), as it applies to members of the industry. The ACCC then approached other sections of the industry to identify additional areas of interest and concern to the industry, to be incorporated in the Guideline.

The Guideline is aimed at providing members of the jewellery and gemstone industry with information that will assist in developing strategies to improve compliance with the Act. It is not a Code of Conduct but is for general guidance only. It should not be relied upon as a statement of the law relating to the Act.

The Act contains provisions prohibiting misleading and deceptive conduct and false representations in relation to the origin of goods. State and territory fair trading acts generally mirror the obligations set out in the consumer protection provisions of the Act, including the provisions relating to country of origin claims under the Act.

It is correct that the ACCC has received numerous submissions to the first draft of the Guideline and anticipates that a reviewed draft should be distributed within the next two months.

I trust that this clarifies the situation. It would be appreciated if you could correct the impression given to other recipients of the email.

Yours sincerely,

Annette Gardner
Senior Project Officer
Policy and Liaison Branch
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Phone: (02) 9230-9120

genuine sapphire - made by nature


An Information Resource on the Australian Sapphire Industry