The harmonisation of standards and terminology in the international jewellery, gemstone and precious metals industries represents a fundamental mission of the World Jewellery Confederation. In a business sector, where there is almost no single item produced that does not include elements that were either mined, processed or manufactured in multiple countries, common frames of reference are essential for accurate communication and transparent supply chains.
Full and accurate product disclosure is a requisite for consumer confidence, which the Confederation is a committed to protect and promote. From the perspective of jewellery buyers, the industry’s responsibility is clear. They have to be have to be informed exactly what they are purchasing. Treated and synthetic materials, for example, are not inherently immoral, nor are they illegal. They can be legitimately handled and sold as long as the consumer understands exactly what they are.
To provide our industry with the tools it requires, the Confederation developed its Blue Books series. These are today the most universally recognized and accepted sets of jewellery and gemstone standards. Essentially, it is the Blue Books that serve as the industry’s common language.
The process of developing the Blue Books is remarkable, and is a testament to the dedication, professionalism, expertise and voluntary spirit of Confederation members. Each Blue Book standard represents a consensus derived from the broad expertise on the subject within the commission compiling the document, and also from individuals outside the commissions who have expressed an interest in participating in their development. They are living documents, for they are always subject to review.
The importance of the Blue Books on the world stage was amplified over the years by the fact that, in the greater jewellery sector, there were almost no standards approved by the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO.
The first three publications were printed with different coloured covers – blue for the Gemstone Book, grey for the Diamond Book, and green for the Pearl Book, although over time that came to all be referred as Blue Books. In 2007, the Precious Metals book was launched, in 2010 the CIBJO Gemmological Laboratory Book was released, in 2015 the CIBJO Coral Book was added, and it was followed in 2019 by the Responsible Sourcing Blue Book.
In October 2004, Rudi Biehler, a long-time CIBJO officer from Germany, appealed to a district court in Munich to issue a restraining order against the German distributor of synthetic diamonds, from using the term “cultured diamonds” when marketing its products to the public. The court granted the injunction, agreeing that the word “cultured” was misleading. In reaching its decision, the judges relied on the terminology and definitions contained in the Diamond Blue Book. In so doing, the court set precedent in the European Union.
While it continues to update and fine-tune its Blue Books, the Confederation has worked hard to promote the development of ISO standards for the industry. The first breakthrough was achieved in July 2015, when ISO published International Standard 18323, entitled “Jewellery — Consumer confidence in the diamond industry.” It specified a set of permitted descriptors for the diamond industry that are meant to be unequivocally understood by consumers. Cited as the primary sources in the ISO International Standard’s bibliography were the Confederation’s Diamond Blue Book; the IDC Rules; and PAS 1048, which is based on the Diamond Blue Book and relates to terminology and classification of grading polished diamonds, which were developed by the Confederation with the support of the German Standards Institute (DIN).
A second milestone was registered in September 2020, when ISO published International Standard 24016, specifying the terminology, classification and the methods to be used for the grading and description of single unmounted polished diamonds over 0.25 carats in weight. Here, too, the Confederation had granted ISO permission to use PAS 1048, as a basis for drafting the new ISO standard.
In both 2015 and 2020 CIBJO officials served as conveners of the ISO working groups that oversaw the projects.
In 2017, the Confederation, the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA) reached agreement, by which the nomenclature used by the International Diamond Council (IDC), which is a body controlled by WFDB and IDMA, would be harmonised with that of Diamond Blue Book. As a result, the Diamond Blue Book now functions as the single official reference book for nomenclature in the entire diamond and jewellery industry.
Acceptance of Blue Book rules is standard practice among Confederation members, and they have been incorporated into law in a number of countries around the world.
The Confederation has also produced a number of guidance documents, all of which are made available at no cost online. Among these materials are the “CIBJO’s Do’s & Don’ts,” which is is a simplified guide to assist those selling diamonds, coloured gemstones, corals, pearls and any related artificial products; the “CIBJO Guide for Classifying Natural Pearls and Cultured Pearls;” the “Laboratory-Grown Diamond Guidance,” which provides includes a set of operating standards and principles for the laboratory-grown diamond sector that are designed to enhance consumer confidence; and the “Retailer’s Reference Guide,” an in-store resource for sales staff in retail jewellery outlets.