I was going to pass on posting to this thread for the fifth time in
two years, but it seems to escape many of Orchid’s readers. Perhaps
I can clarify.
But getting back to the marking of mixed materials. The law
was not written to address this. If it was, then the examples in
the FTC guidlines would clearly tell us what we should do. Since
they do not, it seems very reasonable to use multiple marks.
The law most certainly was written to address this. The Metals
Stamping Act, United States Code, Title 15 - Commerce and Trade,
Chapter 8 Falsely Stamped Gold or Silver or Goods Manufactured,
Sections 291 through 300 cover this. Section 295 (indeed, all
sections) mention with a great deal of legalese that you cannot
quality mark a piece of gold with a higher quality than that of
which it can be assayed. It speaks to the fact that the part to be
assayed must be the entire quantity of gold, including any alloy,
solder, etc. Not only does this count for a stamp on the metal, it
also includes any tag, card or label affixed to the article, or even
in the box, wrapper, etc., provided for it. Section 296 is a carbon
copy of Section 295, substituting the word “silver” for “gold.”
To supplement the Metals Stamping Act, the FTC Jewelry Guides take
into account mixed metals. Under Section 23.9 (a)(1) it is written:
"If a quality mark on an industry product is applicable to
only part of the product, the part of the product to which it
is applicable (or inapplicable) should be disclosed when,
absent such disclosure, the location of the mark misrepresents
the product or part's true composition."
So, if you have created a piece with different metals, let’s say 14k
yellow gold and sterling silver and you stamp it 14k, it may
certainly be assumed that, absent disclosure, a consumer may assume
that the piece may be constructed of both 14k yellow and white gold.
That, dear Orchid, is what the FTC Guides mean by "the location of
the mark misrepresents the product or part’s true composition."
Also, if you marry 18k white gold to 900/100 platinum and stamp it
900/100 Plat, you’ve committed the same crime.
The guides use the word “disclose” which may be interpreted as you
like. As long as you stamp the platinum/white gold piece ON the
platinum part, the Guides seem to say that it is okay for you to
simply tell the consumer that the rest of the piece is gold. Or put
a tag, card, or even mark the box that contains the piece. That’s
disclosure, but it isn’t one I’d recommend simply for the fact that
if you’re going to make a permanent mark of any kind, you should
make full disclosure with another quality mark on the lesser metal.
Somehow, it seems unethical to mark only the higher value metal.
To be honest, I am fully in line with Jim Binnion’s view that
mixed/married/mokume’d metals should not be stamped. Even when your
first-line customer is apprised of the exact components of your
creation, you need to face the fact that someday, they may no longer
be as besotted with it as they are on that first day of ownership.
When jewelry items pass on to other owners, they will be the ones
who will feel the misrepresentation that the FTC Guides wrote about.
So here’s another scenario:
You marry some metals into a piece and stamp it with a quality mark
and your hallmark, registered trademark or name (you are doing this,
right? if you don’t accompany a quality mark with your name,
trademark, etc., you’re already breaking the law). After a few
years, the original owner decides (s)he must liquidate some assets
for one reason or another and decides to sell that piece to an
interested buyer. (S)He digs it out of the bottom of the jewelry box
and sees the 900/100 Plat stamp and sells it for metal value by
weight as platinum, since (s)he isn’t as familiar with it as once
You can see where I’m going with this, I’m sure. After testing, it
turns out that a significant portion of the piece is mere gold, yet
the piece is stamped platinum. The new owner contacts the FTC, who
then looks up your makers mark, hallmark, name, etc., and brings an
action against you, the maker. Sure you never sold it as all
platinum, but the piece was misrepresented in the end.
Okay, I realize that the scenario is a bit of a stretch, but the end
choice is up to you. If you really want to stamp it, you’re best off
stamping each metal with its’ own quality mark. And if you stamp
quality, also stamp your name or trademark. You’ll probably never be
sued or suffer an FTC action if you don’t, but more remote things
have happened. In the end, I agree with Jim - don’t stamp it at all.
Attach a tag, card, etc. with a description of each component.
Include a flowery, sickly-sweet artists’ statement. People who like
that kind of fluff will save the box, card and statement for as long
as they own the piece and will pass it on to the next person.
James in SoFl