I am gathering information and opinions of the Federal Trade Commission guidelines regarding the definition of the word pearl and the use of the word pearl. I personally feel that the information within the guidelines is outdated and in need of an update.
Take for example § 23.18, sections (a) and (b)
I believe (a) and (b) need to be combined and rewritten.(a) Pearl: A calcareous concretion consisting essentially of alternating concentric layers of carbonate of lime and organic material formed within the body of certain mollusks, the result of an abnormal secretory process caused by an irritation of the mantle of the mollusk following the intrusion of some foreign body inside the shell of the mollusk, or due to some abnormal physiological condition in the mollusk, neither of which has in any way been caused or induced by humans.
(b) Cultured Pearl: The composite product created when a nucleus (usually a sphere of calcareous mollusk shell) planted by humans inside the shell or in the mantle of a mollusk is coated with nacre by the mollusk.
1. In (a), as defined, a cultured pearl is not a pearl.
2. In (a), it describes the process of intrusion of a foreign body into the mantle of a mollusk as the cause of natural pearl formation. This would read to most as following the dispelled myth that a grain of sand forms a natural pearl. It also neglects all mention of parasitic invasion of the shell, or simple damage (not irritation) to the mantle tissue dislodging epithelial cells, which in turn grow a natural pearl.
3. In (b), it incorrectly describes the process of culturing pearls. The description attempts to reflect marine cultured pearl production, but makes mention of mantle insertion of a bead and not the gonad, while also leaving out the most important aspect of cultured pearl production - the insertion of donor mantle tissue.
4. Taking into account both (a) and (b), according to the FTC, a non-beaded cultured freshwater pearl is neither a pearl nor a freshwater pearl. If taking the guidelines in the literal sense, the way it is written, anyone selling a calcareous concretion from a freshwater bivalve is in violation of this guideline if calling them freshwater pearls or even cultured freshwater pearls.
Another portion that I feel needs to be updated is § 23.19, section (b)
This guideline was originally put into place to protect the natural pearl industry, and industry that is now nearly a mere bi-product of the fishing industry. It also puts nearly every pearl dealer in the United States in violation with FTC guidelines. It makes every pearl advertisement in magazines, both trade and consumer, as well as every story written about pearls in violation, because it clearly states that a cultured pearl is not a pearl.(b) It is unfair or deceptive to use the word "pearl" to describe, identify, or refer to a cultured pearl unless it is immediately preceded, with equal conspicuousness, by the word "cultured" or "cultivated," or by some other word or phrase of like meaning, so as to indicate definitely and clearly that the product is not a pearl.
In my opinion, the problem today is not the confusion whether something described as a "pearl" is a natural pearl. The confusion and the fraud begins when someone describes a cultured pearl as a natural. It would make a lot more sense for the guideline to be reversed and stipulate that all natural pearls should be referred to as such, and make it a violation to describe anything cultured or dyed as natural or natural color.
Feel free to comment with thoughts and opinions, and/or to pick apart any additional guidelines you may feel are in need of an update here: