“Candidly, I don’t think there has ever been a more important year to have been a JVC member than in 2020,” Tiffany Stevens, Esq., president, CEO and general counsel of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) shared in the group’s first online membership meeting in January.
Stevens’ report not only highlighted how JVC rose to the challenge of COVID for its members and the industry at large, but how important it is for the trade to support its ongoing work, as the source of legal education and compliance guidance to the trade for over 100 years.
She shares her assessment of the past year and what lies ahead for the group in a Q&A with us:
Last year was challenging for everyone and every industry. What was the impact of COVID-19 on the jewelry trade and how has it fared?
TS: Collectively, we experienced 10 years of change in 10 months. While we may have lived quietly in quarantine, professionally we all jumped on a bullet train of change, crisis management, liability avoidance, contract renegotiation, supply chain disruption, retail implosion, digital transformation and non-stop creative problem solving – what I like to call the Accelerator Effect kicked in.
We need to recognize what we have accomplished, improved, and learned. As an industry, we’ve come back, by and large, stronger and wiser. We are more agile and aware, undoubtedly more digital, and also more unified as a community. 2020 showed us that when we come together anything is possible. Our strength is in our community. JVC understands that uniquely well, as we are the only jewelry industry organization that represents everyone.
Could you describe the work the organization has done as an industry resource to meet the challenges the pandemic presented?
TS: I am proud of how JVC met the moment, starting with the launch of our online COVID Resource Center in March. Our team of lawyers and knowledge workers shifted into overdrive and were mission focused to create a self-serve solution on jvclegal.org with urgently needed resources for the industry.
Everything we did was geared to help the industry take action to avoid unnecessary legal liability and regulatory penalties; access loan relief or forgiveness; protect online financial and customer data; and come through the crisis with reputation and resources intact. We know the information hit the mark because our website traffic more than tripled every month since March, and these pages remain our most visited.
In addition to our focus on community, and despite all of the COVID curveballs, we stayed aligned with our strategic priorities of communication and collaboration. We upgraded JVC’s digital channels, added to our member-only online resources, and doubled our social media reach and engagement. We also collaborated with members who sponsored important tools, like Jewelers Mutual to create the JewelPAC Anti-Money Laundering (AML) program, and The Smithee Group to make our Understanding the FTC Jewelry Guidelines free to download for everyone.
Could you elaborate on these resources and other tools JVC provides?
TS: The JewelPAC AML program is going to be an important tool for jewelers in 2021. Almost all jewelry businesses in the United States must comply with Anti-Money Laundering laws and regulations from the PATRIOT Act and Bank Secrecy Act. JewelPAC is designed to help those in the industry create and implement a comprehensive anti-money laundering program. With the new administration, we’re seeing evidence of financial enforcement, so it’s critical that jewelers have their AML program in place. JewelPAC allows businesses to test their AML, turbo tax style, and generate a hard copy. JVC is launching this spring consulting services that will provide strategic assistance to businesses in need of renovating their AML program.
Also important, jewelers need to make sure their advertising is correct and on point, and that they’re operating online in a way that protects them the most. Changes in 2018 to the FTC advertising guidelines, for which JVC was closely involved, are hyper specific. The Guides explain to businesses how to avoid making deceptive claims about precious metal, pewter, diamond, gemstone, and pearl products, and when they should make disclosures to avoid unfair or deceptive trade practices. There also is new guidance on green products, online influencers, and data privacy. JVC addresses what jewelers need to know in our Understanding the FTC Guidelines.
Other resources available include the Jewelers Employment Manual, Supply-Chain Assurance Kit, Guide to Intellectual Property Law, Essential Guide to Quality Assurance, and Guide to Selling Jewelry in the 21st Century.
JVC is no stranger to helping the jewelry industry navigate through crises since 1917. Could you share all the things JVC does and what it means to everyone in the supply chain?
TS: JVC deals with all manner of legal issues that apply to jewelry, including anti-money laundering, intellectual property, advertising and marketing, international trade, the Kimberly Process, employment issues, responsible sourcing, mining, lab grown, UNDG, Wildlife Trade (coral, ivory, leathers), Made in the USA, and Dodd Frank. We work with small businesses, government in the US and worldwide, NGOs, and large brands and companies. Product neutral, JVC works to help all in the trade.
Whether you are a retailer, manufacturer, miner, service provider, designer, recent graduate or corporate CEO, working with gold, silver or platinum, diamonds or colored gems, from tiaras to toe rings – JVC is looking out for your interests. It’s right there in our name. Vigilant means always watching. Vigilance is care and protection in action.
Our work is half education, half advocacy. Wherever discussions are happening, decisions are being made, or laws and regulations drafted, we make sure your interests are represented. Government relations – with the FTC, SEC, Treasury and State Department, in particular – is an area we’ve made significant progress in, helping to shape policy that directly and indirectly impacts the industry. And, when it comes to safeguarding our jewelers’ reputations with consumers, JVC stepped in as a mediator between the industry and public, resolving over 400 disputes nationwide last year.
What’s ahead for JVC?
TS: We haven’t expanded our membership in a long time, and we invite more members to join us so we can grow our staff and benefits. Supporting JVC supports our presence at national and international forums and industry-improving conversations with governmental and NGOs responsible for setting rules and standards for the jewelry business.
Member benefits include free education on the complex laws that apply to the manufacturing, advertising and sale of jewelry; up-to-the-minute information about changes to national and local laws that apply to the trade; and access to JVC’s team to answer questions about how these laws apply to their business practices. In Q3 of 2020 we launched a quarterly compliance call for members only that provides a high-level briefing of what they need to keep their eye on in their own businesses.
We are making membership even more meaningful, with access to a databank of common legal forms jewelers might need, diversity training, and law firm finder with a cohort of seven firms with expertise in jewelry relevance. We provide hyper-specific jewelry knowledge that can help jewelers protect their business. No one else does what we do. But we need member support to do it.