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What’s in a name? The use of historical terminology to describe colour

A slippery slope?

Although this stone exhibits some blue flash, diamonds with the phenomenon throughout were once called ‘perfect blue-white,’ a reference to infer they were ‘very fine, the best.’

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—which operates similar to Canada’s Competition Bureau—is an arm of the U.S. government that polices unfair business practices. An old term that still rears its ugly head today is ‘blue-white.’ Also known as ‘perfect blue-white,’ this descriptor traditionally referred to a colourless diamond with strong flashes of blue, a reference to infer ‘very fine, the best.’ The expression was so abused, the FTC banned its use in the late 1930s as deceptive. Consider the following reference to the misuse of this term in Frank B. Wade’s A Text-book of Precious Stones (1918):

The term ‘blue-white’ (a much-abused expression, by the way) should be applied only to diamonds of such a close approach to pure whiteness of body substance, as seen on-edge in the paper that, when faced up and undimmed, they give such a strong play of prismatic blue that any slight trace of yellow in their substance is completely disguised, and the effect upon the eye is notably blue.

Once the public got wind ‘blue-white’ was the best, not surprisingly, there were a lot more ‘blue-white diamonds’ in the market. Lower-colour diamonds with blue florescence were sold as ‘blue-white,’ as the fluorescence masked the diamond’s yellowish appearance. How can history not be repeated?

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