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Akron’s Sterling Jewelers Inc. sues rival Zale over diamond advertising

By Katie Byard
Beacon Journal business writer

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Sterling Jewelers Inc., one of Akron’s largest private employers, is suing rival Zale Corp., alleging the company is using false and misleading advertising.

Sterling, operator of Kay Jewelers and other stores nationwide, says in its lawsuit that Zale, based in Irving, Texas, is falsely claiming in advertisements that its Celebration Fire diamond is “the most brilliant diamond in the world.”

Sterling argues in the lawsuit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, that “Fire diamonds are not the most brilliant in the world and the research claimed to prove Fire diamonds are the most brilliant in the world does not and cannot so prove.”

The lawsuit comes as Sterling, Zale and other jewelry retailers woo shoppers during the all-important holiday shopping season.

Sterling notes in a court filing that the holiday season of November and December is the “highest-volume time of the year,” and is requesting a preliminary injunction that would halt the advertising.

In its request for the injunction, Sterling asks that the court order Zale to “take immediate steps to remove and destroy” the ads.

Sterling says Zale promotes the Fire diamond “as the most brilliant diamond in the world” on its website, its Facebook page, on Twitter and in stores. The company also says Zale makes a similar claim in its catalog.

Zale spokeswoman Roxane Barry said Tuesday, “Our advertising was based on testing by an independent laboratory, and our ads make that fact clear. We believe the lawsuit is without merit.”

Sterling says in the lawsuit that the “independent laboratory testing,” cited by Zale in some promotional materials, falls short. It notes that the testing was limited, involving only diamonds from select leading national jewelry chains.

“Zale’s claim that it has proven its Fire diamonds to be more brilliant than any other cut of diamond in the world can be true only if its Fire diamonds have been tested against every other cut of diamond in the world,” Sterling said.

Sterling spokesman David Bouffard said in an email it is “important to note that the brilliance of a diamond is a recognized property within the global jewelry industry and among jewelry consumers.”

He went on to say that the brilliance of a diamond “is not a statement of subjective opinion but is capable of being systematically, reliably and scientifically measured.”

Sterling says it is entitled to recover damages from Zale, though it said it “is at present unable to ascertain the full extent of the monetary damages.”

Bouffard declined to comment on the lawsuit itself.

Sterling employs about 2,000 in the Akron area. It operates more than 1,300 stores under brands that include Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry. Sterling, which has its headquarters on Ghent Road in Akron, is the U.S. unit of Signet Jewelers Ltd. (NYSE: SIG). Zale Corp. has more than 1,700 stores.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.



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