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Exporting sterling silver to the US


#1

Hi folks,

As an aside from the thread to do with the FTC guidelines, I have a
question which probably someone from the UK may be able to answer.

As previously mentioned, I plan to sell pieces via Etsy. Although a
worldwide marketplace, it is primarily populated by American
artisans/ craftspeople and so I would imagine that the majority of my
customers will be American. I will be registering with one of the
assay offices in the UK shortly so that I can sell sterling silver
pieces over 7.78g legally. When exporting to the United States of
America, do my pieces have to comply with UK legislation, US
legislation or both? I have been wittering on about complying with
the FTC guidelines in the states and thinking I’d need to hallmark to
sell within the UK (over 7.78g) but it recently occurred to me that
maybe I need to obtain a UK hallmark prior to exporting to the States
too.

Any insight into this subject will be gratefully received. Thank
you.

Helen Hill


#2

Helen,

if you aren’t an incorporated business, you do not need to even
consider the FTC or UK assay office as you are technically a
hobbyist selling crafts on etsy…that may put what you are doing in
perspective. If you are a jewelery store owner -conducting
face-to-face business or e-commerce (which implies a wholesale
pricing list and mail order regulations, and registration with the
OFT and HMRC and are exporting for trade then an entirely different
set of regualtions applies…but if I am correct you began this a
little over a year ago and are still technically a novice or hobbyist
as you probably aren’t derriving more than 2000. 00UGBP/ 2500. 00US
in a given fiscal quarter yet). After filing as hobby income for a
year or two if it truly turns out to be profitable, desirable and the
quality of workmanship is without reproach then you are in business,
and should be incorporated and filing self-employment taxes quarterly
not necesary to file in the US if registered, in the business. You
should contact HMRC’s advice team to see if you even have to declare
your imports and exports as a sole trader- which implies you are
already a legally structured small business. You can exist as a
hobbyist and send your crafts to the US market as " samples", in
discovering if it will become a viable, desireable business worth all
the legal structuring necessary to do correctly which means acquiring
appropriate insurances and many other legalities of being a jewellery
business whether on line or face-to-face, that don’t seem applicable
yet. Once ready which means after a period of trial, and recorded
sales, proper business structure andlegalities, insurance and meeting
trade standards as applies to your specific district, then become a
business!

I highly recommend your checking with the Ian Wallace firm for lower
cost insurance for craftspeople whether or not you have legally
incorporated. Many times people not dependant on the income from
their newly found hobby rush into making it a business without
discovering the desireablilty, developing a quality of workmanship,
and gaining or creating a market for a unique product. If you really
want to deal with customs which, as I understand the law, is not
necessary as a crafter/hobbyist and not a member of the WCG, or any
other guild or hallmarked agency that you are personally operating
under it is one more thing a bit too soon in the process. If you
have gone ahead and registered a hallmark with HMRG, or the CTSA and
through etsy you gain a following/market and rack up many sales in
your discovery process (check out Business link and the Trading
Standards offices for advise) only UK legislation is relevant as
long as you are complying with HMRC and are an ensured entity. In
that case even shipping insurance becomes free to you through the RP!
So you may want to read Emma Ralph’s discussion of becoming a
business before rushing into incorporation, hallmarking work, etc,
(www.ejrbeads.co.uk\sellingjewellery.htm) if you are sending a
necklace or two in a three month period anywhere through etsy,
eBayUK, or any other e-commerce site- which as I understand the laws
of both Us and UK, you may pay a per month fee to an e-commerce
hosting site for a full scale legal storefront…At this point in
your explorations of jewelry making that may be a lower cost and more
reasonable way to go about it until you are making unique in demand
art jewelry that rationalises the expenxe and legalities of being a
jeweller as defined by HMRC, et al.

RER


#3

Thanks RER,

Yes you are correct in thinking that at the moment I am running it
as a hobby and selling the odd piece. Thanks for your reassurance.
What you say is exactly what I have been wondering about, ie. that I
am allowed to run it as a hobby whilst still selling to at least
cover my costs and make a little money.

I’ve been making jewellery for eight months and whilst I’ve learned
an enormous amount and accomplished a great deal, I’m not implying
that I’m ready to embark on some multi-national business venture.
However, I DO have to register with the Assay office to sell any
piece of jewellery in the UK that exceeds the weight limit (7.78g for
silver) - the law is very plain on that score - whether I’m a
hobbyist or not. I was merely wondering whether a silver piece over
7.78g sold to someone in another country would need to be hallmarked.
The fact that I am running it just as a hobby doesn’t really answer
that question unfortunately.

In any case I have also been thinking of approaching some gift shops
to see whether they would be interested in carrying my jewellery. A
few years ago a friend introduced me to a shop in our town which
sells sterling silver and gemstone jewellery. It soon became a
favourite store and I spent lots of money there (as did my husband
for my birthday and Christmases). However, when I started to research
the prospect of making silver jewellery myself, we started to look
much more closely at the workmanship of the jewellery we’d bought
from the store and other silver jewellery I already owned. The
particular shop in question is a very popular shop and yet it became
apparent that actually the jewellery is not very well made and in
fact a couple of things have fallen apart at the solder joints. I
test every solder joint I make for strength and if there’s any give
whatsoever, I take it apart and do it again until it is rock solid
and I use hard solder for 90% of joints, only resorting to medium as
the last joint in a multi-solder piece. I don’t want my pieces
falling apart a few months down the line. The standard of my
jewellery at the present time is higher than that sold in the store
I’m talking about, so I’m not worried that my work is sub-standard in
any way and people are asking me to make pieces for them and are very
happy with the result.

Also a friend proudly showed me a silver and CZ pendant and earring
set she bought for her niece who’d had a baby. It was a pretty set,
but the only thing that jumped out of the box at me was an enormous
amount of firescale! It was glaringly obvious to me - great big
purple/red patches - but she didn’t even notice it. I didn’t mention
it as I didn’t want to disappoint her and chances are her niece
probably wouldn’t notice it either. I would never sell a piece of
silver jewellery with firescale on it and yet plenty of people are
doing exactly that.

I think maybe the most sensible approach would be that if I make a
piece above the weight limit, to get it hallmarked anyway, whether
it is to be sold in the US or the UK. That would cover all bases.

However, it is great to know that I don’t have to worry about a lot
of the heavy stuff one has to do to run a business, just yet, until
I’ve tested the market. It’s one of those catch 22 situations, you
can’t test the market without being in the market, and you can’t
necessarily be in the market without a certain amount of experience.

Helen
UK


#4

Hi Helen,

The US laws are that you don’t have to stamp your jewelry with a
metal fineness stamp at all. But if you do, you must also stamp it
with your trademark. You don’t really have to register it anywhere,
just have a stamp made up with your initials, or whatever you want.
Most small independent stores here don’t bother registering theirs,
either. I do think your customers will want you to stamp your
jewelry with “sterling” or “925”, so you should probably get that
custom stamp made too.

Lauren


#5
The US laws are that you don't have to stamp your jewelry with a
metal fineness stamp at all. But if you do, you must also stamp it
with your trademark. You don't really have to register it
anywhere, just have a stamp made up with your initials, or whatever
you want. 

If you read the FTC requirements below it says you must mark it with
your (registered) trademark or name not initials or “whatever you
want”

Note 2 to A7 23.9: Disclosure of identity of manufacturers,
processors, or distributors. The National Stamping Act provides
that any person, firm, corporation, or association, being a
manufacturer or dealer subject to section 294 of the Act, who
applies or causes to be applied a quality mark, or imports any
article bearing a quality mark "which indicates or purports to
indicate that such article is made in whole or in part of gold
or silver or of an alloy of either metal" shall apply to the
article the trademark or name of such person. 15 U.S.C. 297. 

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#6

Thanks for the advice Lauren.

Over here, if it’s under the hallmarking weight limit, we’re allowed
to stamp 925 for sterling and I do so, so thanks for letting me know
how it is over there. I’d not thought of that. If something is under
the weight limit, I’m not sure whether I would be allowed to have a
maker’s mark and stamp with it and the fineness stamp. That one’s a
bit of a grey area for me. Over the weight limit and it must be
hallmarked if it is to be sold. The hallmark consists of three marks

  • the Assay office mark, the sponsor’s mark (that would be my mark
    which either I can stamp before sending it, or the Assay office can
    stamp on my behalf) and the fineness mark.

So getting anything hallmarked that I wish to send over may be the
way to go as it would cover our laws and yours.

Many thanks
Helen
UK


#7

Hi James,

If you read the FTC requirements below it says you must mark it
with your (registered) trademark or name not initials or "whatever
you want. 

From the US Patent Office:

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a
combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that
identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one
party from those of others.

So your trademark can be anything you want. It can be your name,
your initials, a symbol, animal head or anything that someone else
doesn’t already use.

From the US Patent Office again:

Is registration of my mark required? 

No. You can establish rights in a mark based on legitimate use
of the mark. However, owning a federal trademark registration on
the Principal Register provides several advantages, e.g., 

a.. constructive notice to the public of the registrant's claim
of ownership of the mark; 

b.. a legal presumption of the registrant's ownership of the
mark and the registrant's exclusive right to use the mark
nationwide on or in connection with the goods and/or services
listed in the registration; 

c.. the ability to bring an action concerning the mark in
federal court; 

d.. the use of the U.S registration as a basis to obtain
registration in foreign countries; and 

e.. the ability to file the U.S. registration with the U.S.
Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign
goods.

So you do NOT have to register your trademark. There is nothing in
the FTC regs that I could find that says your trademark has to be
registered.

Lauren


#8
So you do NOT have to register your trademark. There is nothing in
the FTC regs that I could find that says your trademark has to be
registered. 

But if you do not register it, how do you know that someone else is
not already using the same mark?

When I registered my mark, I decided to not go through the costly
lawyer’s search process to determine whether my mark was actually new
and not a close copy of someone else’s. So I invented a very original
mark, a combination of my initials MB with a woman’s symbol, the
circle with a + sign at the bottom of it. I got away with it, and my
mark was approved with only the registration fee, and not the search.

M’lou Brubaker


#9
If you read the FTC requirements below it says you must mark it
with your (registered) trademark or name not initials or "whatever
you want. 

It looks like you are correct. I was relying on what I was told by
the head of the JVC a few years ago when discussing marking of
jewelry. She told me it had to be a registered trademark. She is a
lawyer that deals directly with the FTC on these issues so I took her
word as the gospel on this.

I think the problem may be if it is not registered you will not know
that it is not in use and second you will have to prove that it is
your trademark if there ever is a legal action. Neither of these will
be an issue with a registered trademark. So like a copyright you
really don’t have to register it but your legal standing and
protection are reduced if you don’t.

Jim

James Binnion
@James_Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


360-756-6550


#10

Dear Helen,

The hallmarking law in the UK says that any silver item over 7 grams
has to be hallmarked if you are a professional or amateur maker.

The law makes no differentiation between either. It is at the point
of sale that items need to be hallmarked.

I have exported to the US and the UK hallmark has always been
sufficient. Each hallmark is unique as the makers mark has to be
registered with the Assay Office of your choice. Check out their
website for more

The UK hallmarking system is one of the best in the world and taken
as a sign of quality by many importing countries.

I must say that the US system does seem a little arbitrary and open
to abuse.

Richard
www.richard-whitehouse.co.uk


#11
But if you do not register it, how do you know that someone else
is not already using the same mark? 

You don’t know even if you do register it. What you do know is that
no one else has registered it.

When I registered my mark, I decided to not go through the costly
lawyer's search process to determine whether my mark was actually
new and not a close copy of someone else's. So I invented a very
original mark, a combination of my initials MB with a woman's
symbol, the circle with a + sign at the bottom of it. I got away
with it, and my mark was approved with only the registration fee,
and not the search. 

I wonder if there’s any guarantee? I’m suspicious that the Trademark
Office counts on you to do due diligence. I doubt that they do a
search themselves.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ


#12

Hi Richard,

The hallmarking law in the UK says that any silver item over 7
grams has to be hallmarked if you are a professional or amateur
maker. 

Yes I’m aware of the UK hallmarking laws and I’ve quoted them in
virtually every post I’ve made on the subject. And to be more
specific, it’s 7.78g and it’s not every silver item over that
weight, it’s every silver item over that weight which is to be sold.

I have exported to the US and the UK hallmark has always been
sufficient 

When I didn’t receive any answers that truly answered my question, I
came to the conclusion that me getting a UK hallmark put on it
before shipping it would cover all bases so I plan to do that.

The UK hallmarking system is one of the best in the world and
taken as a sign of quality by many importing countries. 

I agree with you on that score and was most disappointed when a chap
on another forum attacked our hallmarking system recently, calling
our government agencies thieves and liars! The person in question
thinks their claim of the number of articles hallmarked each year is
physically impossible and that they must only test a sample piece
out of every batch. I’m looking forward to registering and sending my
first batch of work in to be hallmarked.

I must say that the US system does seem a little arbitrary and
open to abuse. 

I agree with that also.

Helen
UK


#13
I wonder if there's any guarantee? I'm suspicious that the
Trademark Office counts on you to do due diligence. I doubt that
they do a search themselves. 

Well, they said that they did do a search, and that is why there is
a threat that you will not be granted rights to the mark. They’d keep
your fee, though, even if they found out that your mark could not be
registered! The fee is to pay for their search. That’s what I
understood at the time, anyhow.

M’lou


#14

Hello Helen,

I stand corrected on the exact detail of the hallmarking law. I know
that the Assay Office does hallmark large numbers of items. From the
Goldsmiths review 2006/7, the number of silver items hallmarked was
1,493,008. Gold items hallmarked were 19,931,826 and Platinum was
1,068,763. Making a grand total of 22,493,597!

These are figure from the Assay Office London which does not take
account of work submitted to other UK Assay Offices.

I know that the EU tried to remove the date letter from UK
hallmarks. Even though it is no longer a legal requirement, everybody
still seems to use it by default.

Have you tried the new Brillante silver from Cooksons? Good luck with
your export drive.

Richard Whitehouse
www.richard-whitehouse.co.uk


#15

Dear M’lou,

Well, they said that they did do a search, and that is why there
is a threat that you will not be granted rights to the mark. 

Now if you were a UK jewellery there would not be any problem with
searches as all UK hallmarks are unique!

Richard Whitehouse
www.richard-whitehouse.co.uk