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Using bi-metal


#1

Hi all,

Does anyone use 18k bi-metal from Hauser and Miller? If so, how do
you stamp it? is it okay to stamp the silver side with sterling and
18k stamps side by side? Or does the gold side, which is usually the
front of the piece in my work, have to be stamped?

Karin Worden


#2
  Does anyone use 18k bi-metal from Hauser and Miller? If so, how
do you stamp it? 

Hi Karin, You cannot stamp it on either side as silver OR gold!
For quality-stamping purposes, bimetal is the same as gold fill and
must be stamped as such (the back side is fine).

Beth


#3
For quality-stamping purposes, bimetal is the same as gold fill
and must be stamped as such (the >back side is fine). 

This doesn’t make sense to me. Gold fill is on base metal. With
bimetal, there is no brass, only silver and gold. Vermeil, as far as
I know, is not stamped as gold fill–is it? In any case, logically,
my fused gold-to-silver pieces would then also have to be stamped
gold fill. As long as there is no hidden base metal, it is accurate
(even if not legal) to stamp bimetal for its gold and its silver
content. The purpose of the law is to force disclosure of what is
actually there, and stamping with both metals does that. Are we sure
about this? --Noel


#4

Hi Noel,

  This doesn't make sense to me. Gold fill is on base metal. With
bimetal, there is no brass, only silver and gold. 

Gold fill is defined by specific percentages of gold to whatever
other metal is present; it doesn’t have to be brass although, since
it customarily is, we tend to make that assumption. The stamp for
gold fill is expressed as a percentage such as 14/20GF. I wish I
could remember the correct expression for 22k/silver bimetal, aka
gold fill, but it escapes me (weight and/or volume are involved and I
can’t remember how it works). A call to Reactive Metals about this
would probably clear it up.

Vermeil, as far as I know, is not stamped as gold fill--is it? 

No, because it isn’t. In the old days, vermeil used to denote a
particular percentage of gold to silver which I believe was higher
than with gold fill. Nowadays, the term is loosely used to describe
any coating of silver with gold and it’s usually more akin to gold
plate than gold fill.

In any case, logically, my fused gold-to-silver pieces would then
also have to be stamped gold fill. 

Not unless the gold completely masks the silver and in the proper
percentages. If you’re talking about keum boo or some other kind of
overlay design, it’s a different situation.

As long as there is no hidden base metal, it is accurate (even if
not legal) to stamp bimetal for its gold and its silver content. 

Well now…if you’re talking about accuracy rather than legality,
you can stamp it as you see fit. I too used to stamp my bimetal
pieces both 22k and SS, but I also knew it wasn’t legal.

The purpose of the law is to force disclosure of what is actually
there, and stamping with both metals does that. 

Not if the piece is 95% silver and 5% gold, it doesn’t!

Are we sure about this? 

Reasonably so :-).

Beth


#5

Noel

Beth is right you cannot stamp your work with both 18k and sterling

stamps. You can only use one stamp on a piece of work ( you should
read the definitions at the FTC website to understand what is
actually required) . When you stamp the work with a quality stamp
18K for example, you are stating that if you were to melt the piece
down and take a sample it would assay out to 18K. Therefore you can
not stamp both 18k and sterling as the work cannot assay out as
either one. If your work has 18k overlay and you only used the
sterling stamp you would still be stamping it illegally as it would
not be sterling because there would be less than 92.5% silver in the
whole piece. It doesn’t matter that there is actually a more
precious metal in the piece it only matters that the quantity of
silver in the assay is incorrect.

The laws are not written to encompass designer jewelry that

utilizes more than one precious metal alloy in a piece but you are
still expected to follow the regulations listed in the FTC
guidelines if you are stamping your work. If you want you can read
more about them at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/jewel-gd.htm

Jim


#6

Here in the UK, a piece made of “bi-metal”, so long as it consisted
of gold (of at least 9ct) fused onto silver (of at least sterling
i.e. 925), and no other metals, would be treated by the Assay Office
as sterling silver, and would be stamped as such. Hallmarking laws
here are very strictly enforced. Stamping laws around the world
vary a great deal, and it often surprises me that jewellers seem to
be ignorant (no offence intended) of those applicable in their own
area. –

Kevin (NW England, UK)


#7
   	Beth is right you cannot stamp your work with both 18k and
sterling stamps. You can only use one stamp on a piece of work (
you should read the definitions at the FTC website to understand
what is actually required) . When you stamp the work with a quality
stamp 18K for example, you are stating that if you were to melt the
piece down and take a sample it would assay out to 18K. Therefore
you can not stamp both 18k and sterling as the work cannot assay
out as either one. If your work has 18k overlay and you only used
the sterling stamp you would still be stamping it illegally as it
would not be sterling because there would be less than 92.5% silver
in the whole piece. It doesn't matter that there is actually a more
precious metal in the piece it only matters that the quantity of
silver in the assay is incorrect. 
   	The laws are not written to encompass designer jewelry that
utilizes more than one precious metal alloy in a piece but you are
still expected to follow the regulations listed in the FTC
guidelines if you are stamping your work. If you want you can read
more about them at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/jewel-gd.htm 
While the above may be true legally, there are matal artists that

stamp their pieces with the metals that are used in the piece. I do
not think there is ambiguity when a piece is mainly sterling and
there is 18kt granulation as in the work of Harold O’Connor, he
stamps with each karat of metals used. The person buying this type
of work is sophisticated enough to realize they are not buying
something that is being represented as 18kt or 24kt by weight.

 I would think that the law applies to what the  purchaser believes

they are buying, if there was misrepresentation as to what they
actually received in relationship to what they thought they were
getting.

I cannot believe that someone who buys a piece at a gallery that is

marked sterling and 18kt is going to sue for misrepresentation. The
other part of the legal issue would be determining what the financial
damage is to the person who would try to make a claim. I would think
that if an artist can show a history of sales that would show that
their work is not based on the relationship of the materials used,
that would be a factor in a legal decision. The intention of why it
was stamped the way it was, misrepresentation or would
seem to matter.

There is also the issue of how metals are marked in other countries,

if an artist in the U.S. shows work in a country that has difference
parameters, and you want to meet their criteria, how do you satisfy
both criteria if they are different.

Richard in Denver


#8
I cannot believe that someone who buys a piece at a gallery that
is marked sterling and 18kt is going to sue for misrepresentation. 

You’re probably right that they wouldn’t. That doesn’t change the
fact that they could and that, from a legal standpoint, they would be
in the right. That’s the point that Jim and I are trying to make.

I use 14k, 18k, and 22k in almost all my pieces and stamp them with
all three karatages. That, too, is incorrect. Only the 14k stamp is
proper in this situation, but I do it anyway for the same reasons
that you stamp your pieces 18k and SS. In other words, I’m aware
that what I’m doing is not, strictly speaking, legal but, considering
the market that buys my one-of-a-kind work, I’m willing to take the
chance that my customer understands and won’t consider this practice
a misrepresentation. It’s an acceptable risk to me.

Beth


#9

Richard,

I understand where you are coming from but the problem is it will

only take one dissatisfied customer to ruin your business if they
sue you over something like this. One of the reasons I am so
interested in this is that virtually none of my work can be stamped
legally in any country. I have spent quite a bit of time on this
trying to figure out how to represent my work in a way that will
tell what it is but not run afoul of the authorities.

I know many artists stamp their work with the various metals in the

piece but it is like driving 75 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. If you are the
one given the ticket, saying that there were lots of other people
doing 75 will normally not keep you from paying the fine. Even if
you win the court case you will be out huge sums of money and time.

As far as to what the law applies to I would suggest you read the

guidelines on the FTC web site they are pretty clear. I think these
guidelines were written to allow someone who is not a lawyer to read
them and have a chance of understanding them. The way I read it is
not what the purchaser believes but what you are representing your
work to be that is the issue. I think it would be highly unlikely
for the government to go after you on this but I don’t think it is
far fetched at all that a dissatisfied customer could try to sue you
using this as the basis of the suit.

Trying to make work for sale in other countries is a significant

problem. There is no standardized quality marking system so if you
are making work for resale in another country you must be familiar
with the laws of that country and make the work accordingly. As an
example in the UK the maker does not mark the work with a quality
mark, it is marked by the government after a assay is done on the
work. So if you ship work to the UK for resale with a quality mark
you put on it you are on shaky ground.

I am going to get down off my soap box now. Every so often this

issue comes up and I cant resist adding my two cents worth to the
conversation.

Jim

James Binnion Metal Arts


#10
 	I understand where you are coming from but the problem is it
will only take one dissatisfied customer to ruin your business if
they sue you over something like this. One of the reasons I am so
interested in this is that virtually none of my work can be
stamped legally in any country. 

Jim, I wonder if you could use a “non-karat” stamp, something not
specified in the 46TC guidlines, but which would convey the right
idea. I’m thinking of a stamp that might read “mixed precious and
base metal mokume” would do it. for ones without copper layers, omit
the word “base”… Pricey to get set to do this, of course, as you’d
need to shell out some bucks to get those roller stamps made. But
it’s a thought. What I’m thinking is simply that the law doesn’t
require a karat stamp, nor regulate other stamps that aren’t karat or
specific qualities. The word “gold” is regulated, I think, but I
don’t think “precious” is. And you can of course also use a “hang
tag” approach to more completely describe the included metals and the
technique, so long as the stores selling your rings keep the hang
tags with the rings…

By the way, a seperate question: Have you got any specific
recommended method for those of us who occasionally have to work on
your rings, to give them the most appropriate finished look after
being worked on? i’m thinking of after sizing them, when stores
don’t want to take the time to send them back to you (if they do???)
but instead bring them to us (I think there are several of the local
stores we do custom work for who occasionally bring us your rings.
maybe just one, but I think there are a couple… ). I usually just
pickle them for a while after lightly buffing them, which dulls down
the copper layers again. Occasionally I need to give them a light
etch, if the texture has been compromised. Don’t worry, They look
nice when we’re done. but I’m wondering if you’ve got a more
specific recommendation. Several times a year we get one in needing
a bit of a stretch or to be shrunk a tad, or as in the most recent,
to have a bezel and diamond added, etc.

Oh, and one other suggestion… You may wish to consider having a
stamp made for your signature. Or alternatively, modifying an inside
ring engraving machine to sign and date them. The reason I mention
this is just that, after working on them, it’s a bit tricky for our
polisher to refinish them without buffing out your signature, as it’s
only scribed in. Deeper would solve that problem. At one point I
made, some engraved brass dies with very small numbers, and a
handwritten style signature, and glued these down onto a spare font
disk for my inside ring engraving machine. The numbers are used to
date the pieces, and the signature signs them. Looks better than a
stamp, yet is deep enough to withstand polishing. In fact, engraved
small like this, you almost have to buff it a bit to get the lines
fine enough for the numbers to be readable, yet then they last well.

Peter Rowe


#11

Jim , I understand fully and completely where you are coming from. I
would suggest that each artist find for themselves how much risk they
are willing to assume, and mark accordingly. There are people who
have been marking their pieces for 20 or 30 years and have not had
any problem.

 When you talk about someone having their business ruined, that

might be a possibility, but does anyone know anyone who has ever had
a problem? If not, that could be a reasonable and practical
consideration in making a decision.

 Some people interpret literally, and some understand that there is

a discrepancy between the legality and the praciticality of the law.

The laws are to protect a person from misrepresentation or fraud.

If a person marks their piece with multiple karatages, can it be
proven that the intent was to defraud or misrepresent? Is the FTC
going to come around and ramdonly test your product, or are we
waiting for an unhappy customer?

 Marking a piece with multiple stamps actually benefits the

customer if a repair needs to be done in the future by someone other
than the person who made the piece.

	I would think that if  an artist needed to  cover themselves, they

could provide a letter with each piece that would be a disclaimer,
“This piece is marked with the karatage of the metals used and does
not conform to the FTC code. This piece is purchased with the
knowledge that it is stamped indicating the use of these materials,
not by the legal percentage of each metal in relationship to the
total weight of this piece.” Have them sign it. A sterling day in
24kt Denver, Richard Hart Richard in 24kt Denver


#12

Hi - (Sorry to be a little wordy here.) Thanks for all the input on
this subject . . . it used to be clear as mud . . . now there is a
semblance of clarity - at least, it is clearer to me in where the
risk lies - in the results of our choices of how to stamp the work.
The laws are made to protect the consumer from fraud. We are
certainly not trying to create fraud - but the opposite - to create
clarity. Obviously, impossible - and too many stamp markings to put
on one piece.

In most cases now, I have opted to just stamp the piece solely with
my stamp and to not stamp the multiple metals used. What bothers me
is that down the line, someone (most likely, a family member who
inherits the piece) will pick up the jewelry and wonder what it is
made of. I feel that the stamping clarifies that question and would
save time in analyzing the piece. I specifically disclose the metals
and techniques used in written form along with the piece when it is
sold - but surely those things are disposed of before long.

To me, it seems that the laws might need to be revised to
accommodate a way for us to stamp our multi-metal/precious metal
pieces. In the grocery store, the ingredients are listed in the
order of quantity used - from most to least - on the package. It
seems that perhaps there could be a similar simplified implementation
of the order of stamping on our work. It is often very obvious with
the color differences in the metals. Perhaps there could even be an
added letter after the metal to designate that is plays a minor part
in the piece - for example - 22kb for a 22k bezel.

Customers (and recipients of the jewelry down the line) especially
want to know the metal that is used for the earwires. Btw - pardon
my ignorance here, but, is there a shortened stamp coding to used for
fine silver? And also, if sterling or nickel silver pin findings are
used - is it still allowed to stamp the piece fine silver (or
sterling silver - even if a nickel silver pin stem is used)? As I
have understood it, the findings are considered separate entities,
aren’t they? It is a convenience when purchasing earposts that are
commercially made, that they are marked with 14k etc.

I wonder if there is a legal source for our industry that might be
able to help with revising the regulations of this “gray” area - with
the popularity of multiple precious metals being used together today?
I’m sure glad, though, that in America, we are not required to go
through the rigidity of the stamping laws in England. As I
understand it, what is clear in America is that if we don’t stamp the
work with any metal content - then, there is no legal issue.

Cynthia


#13

Hi Cynthia,

  The laws are made to protect the consumer from fraud. 

And the laws are made with mass producers in mind, not with those of
us who specialize in one-of-a-kind/limited production pieces. I
can’t agree that the laws should be modified to allow us to list all
the ingredients in our work. That would be so terribly unwieldy.
Simpler is better, not that I have a good alternative to propose.
The kind of jewelry that many of us create just falls through the
cracks, since the laws weren’t made to account for it in the first
place. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exempt us from them if a
disgruntled customer wants to get nasty.

Btw - pardon my ignorance here, but, is there a shortened stamp
coding to used for fine silver? 

.999, I believe.

And also, if sterling or nickel silver pin findings are used - is
it still allowed to stamp the piece fine silver (or sterling silver
- even if a nickel silver pin stem is used)?  As I have understood
it, the findings are considered separate entities, aren't they? 

It depends. I’m pretty sure this is how it works (and I’m sure
someone will correct me if I’m wrong :-). Since a pin stem is not
soldered to the body of the piece, it is a separate entity, and its
metal content does not have to be reflected by the stamp on the back
of the item. The joint and catch, however are soldered to the
piece, so they become a part of it. If they’re stamped 14K (or
sterling) like commercial earring posts are, then you’re okay. If
they’re nickel soldered to sterling, for instance, but aren’t stamped
so, then you have a problem if the piece, when melted down and
assayed, doesn’t fall within the legal tolerances for sterling. And
likewise for sterling findings soldered to fine silver.

As I understand it, what is clear in America is that if we don't
stamp the work with any metal content - then, there is no legal
issue. 

That’s true.

Beth


#14

Hi Jim,

Not knowing the legality in the US I could be wrong. You could maybe
make your own stamps. Something like MK1, MK2 etc with an explanation
attached of your codings. MK1 being a silver copper Mokume and so
on. Not so much on percentage of each alloy used but just the types.
Maybe you could lobby the Government to form a federation for mixed
metals, where members have to stick to strict rules to use the
federation’s stamp. This would have to be based on types of metal
used rather than percentages used ie:- 18ct/ copper. I can see this
would be fraught with difficulties but it is just a seed of a
thought.

Chris


#15

Hi, all-

When I sell one of my pieces, I give the buyer a little document
entitled " about your pendant" or some such- the document describes
the stones used, and their places of origin (if known,) along with
an explanation of both the materials and the processes used in
creating the piece. Just karat stamping a piece which incorporates
mixed metals presents a two-fold problem- first, it is potentially
misleading to an uninformed customer. Second, karat-stamping does not
communicate to the customer the value of something like kum-boo or
mokume-gane- such pieces will be more highly valued if the customer
understands the process, the labor, the skill, and even the history
behind these techniques.

Of course, the really big issue here is that stamping a mixed metal
piece with the karat of each component tends to go against federal
law-- and although that may not be rigorously enforced at present,
none of us knows what tomorrow will bring.

Lee Einer
http://members.cox.net/appealsman/