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ABI's Platinum/Sterling Alloy

I have had 4 commissions where I have used the 3.5%
platinum/sterling alloy from ABI. I wanted to give ABI some praise
for this alloy, I have enjoyed using it very much. The four pieces I
have made were all cast rings two plain textured band rings, one
band ring with flush mounted stones all around the band and one with
a 22K gold bezel set with turquoise (Landers).

This alloy is whiter than sterling and was pure joy to set the flush
mounted stones in. The contrast in color between the high karat gold
and the alloy was magnificent. ABI gave me tips for casting, that I
couldn’t burn the alloy so go hot, I am torch melting, and to cast at
a higher flask temp than regular sterling. I cast at 1050 flask temp
in a centrifugal caster.

The one criticism I have with ABI on this alloy is the lack of name
to give this alloy. I stumble through an explanation to my clients
about this material and even had them some of them look at the ABI
website because I just had so little in the way of marketing material
to use. I talked to ABI about this at the '05 Tucson gem show but
them don’t seem to have done anything about it.

This is not a material I would consider using in my production line
for a couple of reasons, primarily the cost of the alloy which by
percent sits right between karat gold and sterling silver. I was able
to sell it by saying it is a very white metal and special because of
the platinum in the alloy. This set it apart from “regular” sterling,
making it more special than “regular” sterling in the client’s minds,
and like platinum , not something that everyone will have. The second
problem I have using this material in pieces I was not selling
personally is that due to lack of a name I would have a hell of a
time explaining to anyone what the hell this material is and why they
should pay ten times the cost of regular sterling for it. I feel with
a name from ABI it could be successfully marketed more generally.

The other problem I had is with identifying the alloy on the inside
of the rings. If I used what ABI told me to use I would have had no
room left for my own hallmark let alone any engraving the client
wanted to do, the two bands I made were wedding rings. I simply
marked it as .925 which is at least the absolute truth. My clients
have been satisfied with this marking.

So to conclude the only problems I have with this are in the realm of
marketing, the is the area which I see as a stumbling block for me as
a small producer of custom jewelry and a wholesale production line. I
love working with it and will continue to strongly offer it to
clients who want something special, something new and unusual and
something I really enjoy using. I have some casting grain left over
from the commissions and plan to cast an ingot and mill it to sheet.
I’ll let you know what I do with it, I can’t wait to do this but I
don’t have a project in mind. If I were to make myself something
these days I would use this alloy, I would personally love to wear
it.

Sam Patania, Tucson
www.patanias.com

Hi Sam,

The one criticism I have with ABI on this alloy is the lack of
name to give this alloy.

I might be mistaken, but just recently I saw an ad in some magazine
that called it ‘Platafina’ (sp?).

Dave

   The other problem I had is with identifying the alloy on the
inside of the rings. If I used what ABI told me to use I would have
had no room left for my own hallmark let alone any engraving 

I tried ABI’s 5% Platinum/Sterling alloy to make a sample ring for
myself thinking that if I liked it I could use it in my castings
instead of regular sterling since they say it is highly
tarnish-resistant and my caster doesn’t use Argentium Silver at this
time. I do like the color and I wrote to ABI’s website to ask them
how this alloy should be identified to customers and how to quality
stamp it. I have not received any reply. So Sam, what did they tell
you to use?

And, if anyone from ABI follows this forum, maybe you could fill us
in on any plans you may have for marketing these alloys more
broadly? I agree with Sam that it is a cool material and would appeal
to customers who want that white metal look without the tarnish of
silver and the cost of platinum. But if we’re going to convince
customers to buy jewelry made from it, we need a clear and simple
way to describe it and explain why it costs more than regular
sterling silver.

Thanks - - Nan

Thanks, Sam for writing about your experiences with ABI’s Platinum
Sterling. You have reiterated many things that most all have found
about working with this metal. That it is truly a joy…one of the
best alloys to ever hit the jewelers bench…or the caster’s shop.

I want to address a couple of points you raised. Because of the
antiquated FTC regulations concerning the marking and the stamping of
platinum related goods, we have had to suggest to our customers
certain unorthodoxed ways to get around these regulations legally.
(See any recent publications in jewelry about the controversy
surrounding these regulations–AJM, JCK, etc.)

They depict the fight between those of us in the industry that stand
for FULL DISCLOSURE of any and all products on the market and the
hallmarking thereof, and those who desire to PROTECT their “turf”,
heretofore unchallenged. That would be the Platinum Guild
International, who originally lobbied for these regulations on the
basis of protecting the “platinum genre”.

Those regs were instituted at a time when there were no other
platinum type metals to challenge the market. Now, there are
two…our Platinum Sterling and the new 585 Platinum metal. (We
urge those out there with a strong opinion to contact MJSA (Rich
Youmans or Tina Wojtkielo, editor at the magazine) or the FTC to
voice their opinion. In my personal view…it is a simple case of
full and accurate disclosure VS. simple protectionism of one
industry group and their “turf”.)

In all the literatutre I have seen that has been sent out by the
Platinum Guild as to their reasoning and lobbying on this
issue…the one reason most prominent above others they use is that
of creating “confusion” in the public as to platinum related
products. I hope that the Platinum Guild and their supporters do not
fall into using the age old excuse of calling the American buying
public “confused” or stupid. That mistake has been made by many in
the past…and they are now no longer around as viable, believable
groups. The American people are not stupid, nor do they need
Platinum Guild’s nanny-like protection. The Platinum Guild needs to
realize it is not the “big bully on the block” anymore, and that
it’s pressure tactics are deemed pathetic, insipid and offensive to
many independant-minded small and medium sized jewelers throughout
the world. (Again…I urge all who are interested to contact MJSA
or the FTC to voice their opinions…)

To address your specific question, Sam…the people who are using
Platinum Sterling out there are stamping their pieces p/ss or p/925.
Simple and effective in differentiating Platinum Sterling and any
other sterling. I have contacted the lawyers at the JVC and
informed them of this mark and told them that “P” on the elemental
chart stands for “phophorus”…thus no violation of any FTC regs
on using the name or symbols for platinum. (Hmmmmm…Phosphorus
Sterling. Interesting alloy…!!!) But this is yet another
example of the ridiculousness of this issue and to the extremes the
"pressure groups" have taken it to.

As far as the branding of the name, that is a matter of opinion. We
are the makers of it and had every right to brand it. But we left
that up to the manufacturers. I see both sides of the issue. One of
the manufacturers who has branded it is Roberto Martinez, Inc. of
San Clemente, California. He has branded it Platifina, and his
marketing of it has been extensive. He can be contacted at (949)
498-5222 or see the site at www.platifina.com or
www.robertomartinezinc.com

There have been successful shows of Platinum Sterling on HSN and no
less than 4 manufacturers here in Bangkok are producing it, as well
as many jewelers and manufacutrers all over the world.

One your last point, Sam…I invented the metal to compete with
the “high end”…not the low end. Most who use it, rightfully
compare it to white gold, not sterling. When one compares it to
white gold…the price is cheap. When one compares it to regular
sterling…you are in trouble. And as you have found out, Sam…it
is brighter and whiter than most all white golds and actually looks
better than it when mounted with really fine stones. And now with
platinum spot over $900 per ounce, it will now compete successfully
with platinum jewelry itself…which should give The Platinum Guild
more fits and states of depression. (My heart weeps…!!)

Thanks again Sam, for the kind words. And hope your compatriots will
try it and see for themselves what a truly outstanding alloy is all
about. See it at http://www.abipreciousmetals.com

Marc “Doc” Robinson
Managing Director
ABI Asia, Ltd
Bangkok/Bali
@Marc_Robinson2

In US the only legal marking for it is simply sterling or 925. You
cannot put any reference to platinum on jewelry that contains less
than 50 % platinum (and even then the balance must be platinum group
metals with each ones percentage identified like 550Pt.350Pd.50Ir )
so at 5% there is not enough platinum in the alloy to mark it on
the item. So this makes it difficult to differentiate it from any
other sterling alloy. Until the US law is changed to allow for this
kind of mixing of metals it is going to be very difficult to promote
this type of alloy.

Jim

So, as long as we stamp a piece made with this alloy as 'sterling'
or '925' we're legal

but would it be ok if we then, in addition, supplied the customer
with a card which explained what the alloy actually is and what’s
so great about it?

Or does that break the law?

  • Nan

Marc makes some great points here, like how the FTC guidelines leave
newer materials out in the cold. Apart from Marcs new sterling, the
best example is Mokume Gane. Full disclosure is best. Ways to
accommodate more for the consumer are clearly called for.
I note that the rules for palladium do establish the proper
abbreviation and forbid misleading What the rules do not
cover is a minimum content for palladiums use on its own.
Fundamentally it makes sense to me to allow stamping of the accurate
content of any precious metal contained in an item. Imagine a
four-sheet Mokume item, each equal in weight with each precious
metal. It would be clear to most people to see a stamp that says Pt
250, Pd 250, Au 250 and AG 250 means that each metal is 25% by
weight. How is it that this level of accurate would be
held illegal? Nothing deceiving just the content accurately stamped.

I do not see how the Platinum Guild is protecting “turf” however.
After all they do not produce jewelry at all. Only a loss of consumer
confidence in platinum jewelry can hurt them and their constituency.
This is a legitimate concern given a public unexposed to "karatized"
platinum. Its one thing to support a more valuable version of a
precious metal like platinum enhanced sterling silver, and quite
another to support a cheaper version of a classic and beloved
metal-platinum. Apart from money I see no advantage to 585 platinum
at all. Wait until you see or hear how 585 platinum alloyed with base
metals can go wrong.

Modern metallurgy and marketing will combine to confound the FTC
guidelines for the foreseeable future unless these regulations are
adjusted to allow further development of precious alloys.

Sincerely
Daniel Ballard
www.pmwest.us
800-999-7528

So, as long as we stamp a piece made with this alloy as 

‘sterling’ or ‘925’ we’re legal

but would it be ok if we then, in addition, supplied the customer
with a card which explained what the alloy actually is and what's
so great about it? 

That is a good question and the only people who could tell you for
sure would be the FTC as it is not really addressed in the Guides
as I read them. You can write them for an opinion but you probably
need a lawyer to draft the letter in a form that they will reply
to.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

   but would it be ok if we then, in addition, supplied the
customer with a card which explained what the alloy actually is and
what's so great about it? 

Nan,

I don’t see how this would be breaking the law, which has to do with
stamping precious metals. You are doing your customer a service by
providing the additional, accurate, about the alloy.

Joel Schwalb
@Joel_Schwalb
www.schwalbstudio.com

but would it be ok if we then, in addition, supplied the customer
with a card which explained what the alloy actually is and what's
so great about it? 

The FTC Guides don’t address this issue directly, but the Metals
Stamping Act does. It actually mentions disclosure on any stamp,
card, tag, box, etc., that is used to identify the item. I’m not a
lawyer, but I’m confident you would have no problem including a card
with a description, as long as you observe the Argentium Silver
trademark and copyright wishes. By US and most international laws
(including the Stamping Act and the FTC Guides), any silver alloy
that is 925/1,000 fine silver may be marked “.925” or “sterling,” no
matter what the other constituent(s) is/are.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFl

  So, as long as we stamp a piece made with this alloy as
'sterling' or '925' we're legal 

Certainly true.

but would it be ok if we then, in addition, supplied the customer
with a card which explained what the alloy actually is and what’s so
great about it?

     That is a good question and the only people who could tell
you for sure would be the FTC as it is not really addressed in the
Guides as I read them. You can write them for an opinion but you
probably need a lawyer to draft the letter in a form that they
will reply to. 

It would seem to me that ABI would have a great interest in
resolving this issue. When you introduce a new product you have to
tell your customers how to use it. How to mark it is part of how to
use it. What is the point of having a premium product if you can’t
designate it in some way? ABI should be working on this if they have
not already done so.

Stephen Walker

    I don't see how this would be breaking the law, which has to
do  with stamping precious metals. You are doing your customer a
service by providing the additional, accurate, about
the alloy. 

The law covers not only what you stamp on the article but also how
it is marketed. Any descriptive terms used to define, describe or
advertise the article is covered by the law.

Jim

Full disclosure and ways to accommodate more for the
consumer have been in place ever since the National Stamping Act was
passed. The FTC Guides are still only guides, but the Act is law.
Thing is, platinum wasn’t so popular when the Act was passed, so it
has been neglected of late concerning several areas. Does anyone
want to change/affect the FTC’s Guides pertaining to "karated"
platinum? Now is the time to tell them. Stick with me here, you’ll
be glad you did…

The FTC is right now calling for public opinion on a new rule
concerning marking the so-called karat platinum products that
certain manufacturers have been alloying. By gum, they’re even
asking if it should be marked at all! The public is being asked to
comment on seven specific questions, the first of which is: "Should
the platinum section of the Jewelry Guides be amended to address
with particularity products that contain 500-850 ppt pure platinum
and no other PGM (platinum group metals)? Heck, if everybody
answered no to that question, the other six would be unnecessary.
The other six questions are relevant to karated platinum as well as
other long un-addressed platinum issues, such as the use of the
words “platinum plate” et al.

To read the proposed new rule and comment on it, go to
www.regulations.gov. In the requester box at the bottom right of the
page labeled “Keyword,” type the word “platinum,” and that will take
you to the page where you can read it. In it, you will find
instructions on how to read and comment on the regulation. If a
person really wants to affect it, now’s their chance. Comments are
due by September 28, 2005.

There are two other ways to weigh in. One is to write the FTC in
reference to “Jewelry Guides, Matter No. G711001” with that number
on both the text and the envelope. Send it to: "Federal Trade
Commission/Office of the Secretary, Room 135-H (Annex Y), 600
Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. You can submit an
electronic comment at http://secure.commentworks.com/ftc-jewelry.
The Jewelers Vigilance Committee is also collecting comments to pass
on to the FTC. Eventually, all comments will be available to the
public at www.ftc.gov.

And as far as the (relatively) new silver alloys that use platinum
and PGMs as their 0.075 ppt, they’re already covered…925 ppt
silver is sterling and may be stamped as such, no matter which metal
group you alloy it with. It doesn’t need its’ own category because
it already has one. The Stamping Act allows for full disclosure on a
box, bag, tag, package or card that fully describes the goods
offered. Maybe the companies who are making and selling these alloys
could offer up a comprehensive description that is useful to end
buyers.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFl

Stephen, this is what I’m talking about:

It would seem to me that ABI would have a great interest in
resolving this issue. When you introduce a new product you have to
tell your customers how to use it. How to mark it is part of how
to use it. What is the point of having a premium product if you
can't designate it in some way? ABI should be working on this if
they have not already done so. 

I would much easier to sell this product if it were named and
marketed by ABI under that name.

Sam Patania, Tucson
www.patanias.com

I would like to see the details of any case in which a store or
jewelry maker/refiner got into trouble for disclosing accurate
about the item in a brochure or verbally…

I’m no lawyer, but I certainly would not want to be one arguing
against accurate disclosure to anyone, let alone a civil jury!

I have heard of a survey that will come out on the FTC regulations
and platinum issues. I imagine we should each take the time to fill
it out. I do know the FTC has at least one person talking to
refiners and gathering on trade practices. I spoke to the
JVC about 950 pd and it appears existing statutes cover any deception
of content and how to abbreviate correctly for PD. What is not
covered is a minimum content.

Perhaps with Mokume, Pt enhanced “you name it” and the new 950 Pd
stuff… It’s time to update the regulations. This time “It takes an
act of congress” is not a cliche

Daniel Ballard
www.pmwest.us
800-999-7528

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm confident you would have no problem
including a  card with a description, as long as you observe the
Argentium Silver trademark and copyright wishes 

We are talking about ABI’s platinum alloyed sterling not Argentium.
The problem comes in when you use the word “platinum” along with the
word “sterling” They both words have legal definitions when
referring to jewelry that appear to be mutually exclusive and this is
where the question comes in.

Jim

    We are talking about ABI's platinum alloyed sterling not
Argentium. The problem comes in when you use the word "platinum"
along with the word "sterling" They both words have legal
definitions when referring to jewelry that appear to be mutually
exclusive and this is where the question comes in. 

Sorry Jim, I tend to lapse a little with ABI’s product since they
promised to send me a sample to try over a year ago, then never did
send it. I understand that the definitions of these metals have
mutually exclusive differences when marking them, but I can’t see
the problem in describing them on a card or sheet of paper as I
described. The FTC Guides concern themselves with full disclosure
when marking or stamping a jewelry article and I accept that they
are hazy and incomplete concerning quality marking. But my main
point is that the National Stamping Act requires full disclosure in
not only marking the article itself, but in any accompanying
description. The way I read it, the Act provides a way to list all
constituents of a jewelry article in much the same way as packaged
food items are required to list their ingredients.

We in the US should adopt a similar system to England’s. It would
cut out a lot of confusion. Still, the National Stamping Act and the
FTC Guides are all we have right now, and I stand by my post in that
arguing about it here won’t be nearly as effective as commenting on
the proposed new FTC rule about marking “karated” platinum. I
realize that ABI’s product isn’t addressed in it, but it won’t all
happen at once. The reason that the FTC is entertaining comments on
"karated" platinum is because the manufacturers of it have bugged
them silly about it. Until ABI does something similar, it’s product
will never even enjoy serious discussion. Judging from their
apathetic attitude, that time is not near.

The FTC Guides do not require the marking of metal, only that if you
do, you must be accurate and you must add your name or hallmark. If
one works with ABI’s material, one need not mark it, but may list
it’s contents and description on an accompanying document. If anyone
can prove otherwise (without phrases like “appears to be” or “it
seems to me”), I beg your input as I would love to better understand
the somewhat interpretable legalese of the Guides and the Act.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFl

We are talking about ABI's platinum alloyed sterling not Argentium. 

In a way we are talking about both, since Argentium solved the same
problem by giving the alloy a name that works on the consumer level.

    The problem comes in when you use the word "platinum" along
with the word "sterling" They both words have legal definitions when
referring to jewelry that appear to be mutually exclusive and this
is where the question comes in. 

The alloy needs a new name that is defined by the producer rather
than the government. Call it “ABIUM” (maybe they could do better than
that) If the material can be promoted to the public as a premium
material by a new word, what that word means can be explained and
publicized, but the word itself can be the quality mark, defined and
licenced by ABI. Think how much more of the alloy ABI would sell if
it were not for this problem.

Stephen Walker

The marking of the alloy in a jewlry piece is only one half of the
equation as far as I am concerned. One of the things this thread
points out to me and I hope to ABI is the necessity of naming this
alloy by ABI to avoid all this confusion. Name it with in the
guidlines of th FTC, or change those guidelines, I still have the
problem of describing this metal the ultimate jury, the market. If
the market was aware of this alloy and it’s contents and value that,
it will sell. If a whole bunch of platinum alloys come out all with
their own “karating” markings so be it, none of it will make a
difference if the market has no trust in it. I can’t and won’t spend
any marketing dollars to sell this product to a general market until
it is named, my budget is far too limited. I will introduce it to
clients seeking something I am interested in for my own one of work
and let them decide if they are interested as well. A name and
market awareness will sell this material and I see the clock as
ticking before ABI loses the advantage of being the first with it.
If karated platinum becomes a reality ABI’s advantage is history,
the market will be flooded with too many options. I can see karated
platinum as an easy sell, just as 14 and even, dare I say, 10 karat
sells and their market awareness eclipses so much value of gold.

Sam Patania, Tucson
www.patanias.com

This metal’s issue is very interesting from the standpoint that new
products are being developed for the jewelry marketplace. I’ve never
seen ABI’s product but from what I’ve read it appears to be a
product with potential whatever name its marketed as.

I am well aware of the FTC’s request for comment on new products
wanting to capitalize on Platinum’s well known name (including “.585
platinum”). I think that is part of the problem the FTC and some of
the jewelry industry has with these new products – work on an
established name because much of the buying public already has
knowledge of platinum and the mystic & expense involved with
platinum. With that in mind a lot of the marketing is already done
for these new products wanting to capitalize on the platinum name-
The problem is the public doesn’t investigate or really care about
the new product as much as they will care about the price
(manufacturers may dispute this but in the end that’s a major
objective). The majority of the public will equate a lower price with
traditional platinum standards being sold as overpriced for all
these years. The mass public is very gullible in not understanding
why the price difference. The “.585 platinum” really isn’t .950
platinum – The manufacturers know this, the retailers who want .585
know this – the majority of the public won’t know this or care –
they understand price. Think appraisal or repairs too –

Now from what I’ve read the manufacturers want to have information
with the product. That’s great but really – how many are really
going to read it, understand it –

If new products can capitalize on “platinum’s” reputation how many
people in the retail sector will really take the time to explain the
differences? They need the sale – That’s how business is measured.

Now the real caveat comes in selling these new products as platinum.
The FTC has requested about this subject from the
public. No one has mentioned the laws of the States. Did you know
that 5 States recognize platinum only on traditional standards. It
is against the law in 5 States to sell a product as Platinum unless
it passes the traditional purity tests! How are the manufacturers of
these new products going to market their products in these States
(one is California)? If you are in one of these States, are you
going to sell these new products as platinum if they don’t meet
State regualtion requirements? Can you be fined for selling products
as platinum in these states where the products aren’t recognized?

Tough questions and no easy answers.

Scott Lewis
www.patlewisdesigns.com & many others