There were murmurings of this change on the official forums a few days back, and now Senior PvP Designer Brian Holinka has confirmed via Twitter that there is truth in the rumors.
@oliviadgrace Yes 5.4 Elite gear will require rating and be purely visual. Still discussing what rating.- Holinka (@holinka) June 5, 2013
So it seems that PvP's elite gear has almost come full circle. If you remember, back in the heady days of late Cataclysm, early Mists, Elite gear had a rating requirement of 2200. T2 gear, as it used to be called, also offered higher item level weapons, but was removed to smooth out the rating curve, as there was something of a hurdle at 2200, where all the players above you had T2 weapons, with higher item levels and stats, and you didn't. So the rating requirement was removed, and a conquest point earning requirement was added to be allowed to purchase the elite gear.
This didn't really give mid-rated players much to shoot for, once they were fully geared, which, particularly now in patch 5.3, isn't a difficult prospect at all. So, in patch 5.4, as part of an effort to add more incentives, rating-based elite gear will return. However, we've not quite gone back to where we started, as the elite gear will be purely cosmetic, with no higher item level and no improved stats. Holinka also confirms, via Twitter, that this will apply for weapons, too.