NEW YORK (MainStreet) – The Federal Trade Commission has rewritten its guidelines for what jewelry can and cannot sold as “platinum” to ensure that consumers won’t buy platinum/metal alloys products being passed off as the real thing.
According to the FTC, in recent years manufacturers have started adding non-precious metals, such as copper and cobalt, to platinum jewelry. The idea was to make platinum jewelry more affordable for the public, but the practice also made it easier to dupe an unwitting buyer into paying more than the jewelry was worth.
The regulations, updated last week, attempt to eliminate the problem by adjusting how retailers label and describe “platinum/base metal alloys,” that contain between 50% and 85% of the coveted metal. Under the new rules, retailers must disclose this hybrid product’s full composition—by name, not abbreviation—and specify what percentage of each metal it contains.
Retailers must also disclose that the product may not have the same attributes or properties as traditional platinum products, which are comprised of at least 85% pure platinum, unless they have “competent and reliable scientific evidence” that a product is actually the same as the real deal.
The FTC suggests consumers ask their jeweler about the attributes of any piece of platinum jewelry they are considering, so they can assess its quality and value in terms of its cost. Shoppers can also refer to markings engraved on the jewelry to determine what’s in the products on display.
What do you need to know if you’re shopping for platinum jewelry?
- For starters, no platinum jewelry is actually 100% pure platinum. An item tagged as such, however, is made up of at least 95% platinum.
- Any item less than 50% pure platinum should not be marked or labeled as "platinum,” and should not be paid for as if it were. According to Platinum Today, a business unit of the platinum distributor Johnson Matthey, the precious metal is currently valued at $1,708 per ounce.
- Beyond these two extremes, manufacturers describe or mark platinum in terms of the percentage of pure platinum in the piece. “Platinum” is either abbreviated as “Pl.” or “Plat.” So, for example, an item marker 850Plat. means it 85 percent pure platinum, while an item marked 900Pl. is 90% pure platinum.
- Now, marketers must also disclose the full names of the other metals or alloys that are contained in the product. This applies to jewelry that contains the more valuable platinum group metals, the metal’s neighbors on the periodic table, which include palladium, rhodium or iridium, or non-precious base metals like copper or cobalt, which are lower in value.
Platinum isn’t the only type of jewelry that can be overpriced. Find the FTC’s complete guide to buying jewelry and other precious metals online.
Were you planning on some precious jewelry for a holiday gift? You might be safer with one of the products in MainStreet’s roundup of luxury gifts for the holidays.