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Hallmarking Two-tone metal

I’ve just begun making pieces of sterling silver with 14K gold. How
do I stamp them? Do they get .925 or 14K? What if I have fine and
sterling silver in a piece. What about married metal of sterling and
nickel? I’m so confused!

Thanks for your help.
Tammy Kirks
Red Bee Designs

Stamp them with both, 14k STERLING. That would also be true of an
eighteen karat gold ring with a platinum head. Proper stamping would
ne 18k PLAT

In the USA you can only stamp them if the stamp is on the metal it
is identifying. Sterling on the sterling and 14k on the 14K anything
else is not allowed and even this is debatable. The Guides for the
jewelry industry published by the FTC just do not address items made
from multiple precious metals.

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

Hi Tammy,

Best practise is to mark it with both 925 and 14K.

Alain

Hello Tammy,

Marking mixed metals is a problem. In the UK and Europe, where the
rules are very strict you can only apply marks of the “lesser” of the
materials. So silver and gold gets marked silver. Under their
hallmarking system the craftsman has no choice because the quality
marks are done by a third party at the Assay Office and the craftsman
is only allowed to mark very small objects independently.

In the US there are some who would argue that the same standards
apply, but others take the practical approach that the material
should be marked in a way that honestly discloses what the quality is
in a way that cannot be misunderstood as an attempt to defraud. So if
an object is 14K and sterling that both marks can be applied in a way
that makes sense, meaning you don’t do it in a way that hides the
sterling mark so that someone might assume that it is two tone gold.

I do a lot of married metals and mokume work in silver and copper
alloys. I don’t use any material quality marks on these but describe
them in writing on the care card. I also make some pieces that are
assemblages of silver, gold and sometimes platinum. These I mark.
When I can I mark 14K on the gold parts and sterling on the silver
parts, but if it won’t fit I just put the marks side by side where
they will fit.

The situations you specifically ask about are all things I do
regularly. This is what I do:

    I've just begun making pieces of sterling silver with 14K gold.
How do I stamp them? Do they get .925 or 14K? 

Both.

What if I have fine and sterling silver in a piece. 

Sterling. Using both marks would be confusing because the difference
is not visually apparent. Also the addition of some fine silver is
not going to affect the intrinsic value of the piece that much.

What about married metal of sterling and nickel? 

I don’t mark these at all because I don’t have a nickel-silver punch.
If I did I would use both and try to mark in a place where each mark
is on the metal it describes but near enough to each other that the
observer would see both at the same time.

I'm so confused! 

I am sure there are some who do not approve of my marking policy, but
I think that as long as we keep it honest and don’t try to fool
anybody into thinking they are getting something they are not, we can
sleep OK.

I used to see someone at shows who made copper and silver pieces that
were mostly copper. She marked them sterling, figuring that anyone
could tell that the copper part was not silver. She didn’t have a
copper punch. This was not right. I told her so and she thought I was
being awfully picky. If she had both marks that would be OK with me.
She had no intention to defraud, but copper is not sterling. A mixed
metal piece should only be marked with the stamp of one material when
the additional material is smaller detail and of a more valuable
quality, like a gold detail on a predominantly silver piece, marked
as silver.

Stephen Walker
http://www.celtarts.com

    Stamp them with both, 14k STERLING. That would also be true of
an eighteen karat gold ring with a platinum head. Proper stamping
would ne 18k  PLAT 

This is incorrect. Go to the FTC website and read the guides
http://ftc.gov/bcp/guides/jewel-gd.htm.

Jim
Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

Hopefully this question will not encourage people to think in the
direction of deception, or get sloppy with marking their goods…

Has anyone personally known ANY small studio silversmith, goldsmith,
metalsmith, etc. who has been investigated for failure to place a
hallmark (in the proper place, or at all) or an incorrect (in any of
the myriad ways) karat stamp?

In my 38 years I have NEVER seen the government bother with any but
large domestic companies - and usually for the purposely fraudulent
selling of work that did not contain the percentage of metal
indicated by the karat stamp. I’m fairly sure that customs has
caught some of that happening in imported goods too?

I have seen a couple of small studio copyright infringers closed
down… but that’s it. That was done by court order, enforced by
the sheriffs department.

Nobody that I know has ever been prosecuted for forgetting to
hallmark a piece or their placement of karat stamps.

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA, USA
209-477-0550
instructor@jewelryartschool.com

   Stamp them with both, 14k STERLING. That would also be true of

an eighteen karat gold ring with a platinum head. Proper stamping
would ne 18k PLAT

   This is incorrect. Go to the FTC website and read the guides
http://ftc.gov/bcp/guides/jewel-gd.htm. 

I’m puzzled with that Jim.

I’m not good at reading legal slang, but according to the guidelines
you should stamp with both (atleast as how I read it). This is in
full compliance with countries who have a mandantory hallmarking
system.

Phrases like Plat. Sterling 14K etc are fully recognized by the FTC.

Alain

This is incorrect. Go to the FTC website and read the guides    
http://ftc.gov/bcp/guides/jewel-gd.htm. 

Technically this is correct, however I have a friend who exhibits all
over the world, has pieces in the Smithsonian permanent collection
and a London museum, and he uses a sterling base and does 24kt
doublee, or granulates with 18 kt ,or uses 18 kt twisted wire. He
marks it on the back, on the sterling with any and all karats of what
the metals are, with his hallmark, the series number, and has been
doing this for at least 40 years.

He sells at Mobilia and Aaron Faber galleries for many years.

These pieces are not advertised or sold in a way to mislead anyone as
to what they are made of.

the Only requirement I have ever heard is to list the materials
according to the amount used in each tone, most first and so on

Ringman

    Technically this is correct, however I have a friend who
exhibits all over the world, has pieces in the Smithsonian
permanent collection and a London museum, and he uses a sterling
base and does 24kt doublee, or granulates with 18 kt ,or uses 18 kt
twisted wire. 

I have seen Tiffany pieces that are improperly marked, it is not
uncommon here in the US to see this because the FTC doesn’t put much
effort into enforcement of this. They are more concerned with truly
fraudulent behavior. The FTC is probably not going to come after you
if you disclose all the materials on the back of the item. But it is
not correct or in accordance with the Stamping act and it
technically illegal.

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

I'm not good at reading legal slang, but according to the guidelines
you should stamp with both (atleast as how I read it). This is in
full compliance with countries who have a mandantory hallmarking
system.
Phrases like Plat. Sterling 14K etc are fully recognized by the FTC.

Alain,

The basis for all quality marking systems is that in theory you
should be able to melt the piece down and it will assay out to the
marked quality or better.

So for example if you make a ring that is half platinum and half 18k
yellow gold and were to melt it down and assay it it would comply
with neither the requirements for 18k gold or platinum. Therefore it
is an improper application of a quality mark. Even if you were only
to mark it with the “lesser” mark say in the previous case only the
18k mark you are still asserting by putting that stamp on it that
the item complies with the standards for 18k gold which require the
item to be 75% gold and it is not so it is still an improper
application of the mark because you know it is not in compliance
with the 18k standard.

The way I read the FTC guide is that if you place a quality mark
stamp on the section of the item that it pertains to you are ok as
long as the other sections(s) are stamped as with their appropriate
quality marks.

From - 23.9 Additional guidance for the use of quality marks.

  (1) 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. 

Otherwise the guide states:

  (2) If a quality mark is applicable to only part of an
  industry product, but not another part which is of similar
  surface appearance, each quality mark should be closely
  accompanied by an identification of the part or parts to which
  the mark is applicable

So if it is a platinum head on a 18k yellow ring it is probably ok
just to stamp as 18k and platinum on the inside of the shank but it
would be more correct to indicate which parts are what metal however
if it is 18k white and platinum you need to stamp on the piece that
only the head is platinum and that the shank is 18k gold.

I have spoken with Dr Christopher Corti of the World Gold Council
and Cecilia Gardener of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee on this
subject and both of them have confirmed my interpretation of the
quality marking dilemma. I would love to be able to stamp my mokume
rings but have been advised that I cannot legally do it. These are
legal technicalities and often ignored here in the US by both the
FTC and jewelry manufacturers but that does not change the fact that
that is how the law is written. In other countries this can be a
much more serious matter many have much more strict laws about
quality marks.

Regards,

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

Has anyone personally known ANY small studio silversmith,
goldsmith, metalsmith, etc. who has been investigated for failure
to place a hallmark (in  the proper place, or at all) or an
incorrect (in any of the myriad ways) karat stamp? 

Brian, I haven’t ever heard of it either, and that’s in about 35
years.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
@Daniel_R_Spirer
www.spirerjewelers.com

    Has anyone personally known ANY small studio silversmith,
goldsmith, metalsmith, etc. who has been investigated for failure to
place a hallmark (in  the proper place, or at all) or an incorrect
(in any of the myriad ways) karat stamp? 

I don’t think this counts as having personally known someone, but it
is as close as I have ever heard:

About 10 years ago a jeweler at an art fair was telling all the
jewelers that they should be very careful because he had heard that
in California the jewelers at an art fair were subject to a “raid” of
sorts. The supposed official were confiscating their jewelry because,
he said, that they did not have properly registered trade marks
backing up the quality marks.

The more I thought about this the more it seemed very unlikely. The
reasons are:

  1. It seems more like a con game to steal jewelry by
  impersonation than anything any law inforcement agency would
  do. 

  2. If it really happened the trade media would be covering it,
  either as a rip-off alert or as the real thing. 

  3. "Someone I know told me about..." is the the stuff of urban
  legend. 

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 rules about
"gold-filled" describes mixed materials in a very specific way.
Perhaps some other term should be used that is a broader indication
that several materials are involved.

Stephen Walker

    the Only requirement I have ever heard is to list the
materials according to the amount used in each tone, most first and
so on 

This question about marking has so many old wives tales/ legends
about it. It is very simple , go to the FTC website and read the
guides for the jewelry industry. It is not that long and not that
difficult to understand. It has nothing in it about order of marking
according to quantity.

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

    Has anyone personally known ANY small studio silversmith,

goldsmith, metalsmith, etc. who has been investigated for failure
to place a hallmark (in the proper place, or at all) or an
incorrect (in any of the myriad ways) karat stamp?

Brian, I haven't ever heard of it either, and that's in about 35
years.

The reality of it is the FTC’s job is consumer protection. They are
very unlikely to come after you if you make a good faith effort to
inform your customer as to what is in the work you make. It is
however somewhat like jaywalking, the police are not going to mount
a manhunt to track you down for it but, if you do it right in front
of an officer don’t be surprised if you get a ticket.

If you start selling under karated goods do not be surprised if they
come knocking on your door but using two quality stamps on a piece
of work that is made from the appropriate materials well they have
other things to do of much greater importance than to slap your hand
about it.

I really don’t care how people want to mark their work but, the
question keeps coming up and the correct way to mark it for the US
market is published in the FTC guides. And that is the answer that
was given to the the original poster. The amount of hearsay and just
plain incorrect about this topic always amazes me.

Regards,

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

I am new to the discussion, however, have been reading it for some
time. Regarding marking two-tone metals, reading the official
guidelines does not seem clarify it for me either. I was always told
that if two “levels” of metal are soldered together, for example
fine silver and sterling, then the piece must be hallmarked with the
lesser level of precious metal, i.e., sterling. If, however, the
pieces are joined with a cold connection, then you would list both.

The confusion would come, however, when you have a piece that is
primarily sterling silver, and has an additional decorative area of
18k gold soldered on, for instance, or keum boo of 24k foil, which
would be obvious to the eye, and confusing to the buyer if it was
only marked sterling. I would appreciate any other clarification on
this.

Linda Gebert
@Linda_L_Gebert

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
was.

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

Since I often tie rings with two, or sometimes three, different
alloys of gold, or different precious metals, I don’t stamp them
with everything that’s there, even if I had room somewhere to put the
stamp. I take a good clear photograph of the ring, describe it in
detail, including the metals used, and include it with the shipment
to the buyer.

If someone has their ring and the unique identifying document that I
send (signed and dated by me), then they shouldn’t have much trouble
proving to a third party what it is, or at least passing the problem
along to me. I hope that it would satisfy any legal questions, but
I’m more interested in satisfying my customers – haven’t heard any
complaints, so far.

Loren
http://www.golden-knots.com/

Here in the UK the rule has been that metals are only hallmarked to
the value of the lower grade metal unless the higher grade metal part
is easily and completely detachable. While I appreciate that
hallmarking regulations in the US are not as rigorous as in the UK, I
would have thought that common sense would suggest that, unless the
two metals are in almost equal proportions, the standard of the
larger proportion should take precedence. For example, would you
advertise a silver ring with a couple of inlaid gold stars on the
table as a ‘silver ring with gold decoration’ or a ‘gold ring with a
silver shank’?? Unless the standard mark is put onto the actual metal
that it refers to (such as the gold stars in the above example) it
could easily be construed as misleading. For example, in this ring,
would both gold and silver marks on this ring shank mean that the
shank was gold and silver plated or that it was made of a combination
of silver and white gold or maybe its a white gold ring with silver
stars which have been oxidised to a nice golden hue???

Best Wishes
Ian
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK