FTC: Be Careful When Buying Platinum Jewelry

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If one of your last minute holiday gifts involves platinum jewelry, be aware that no platinum is 100% pure, and a lot of it may have less platinum in it than you think.

The FTC recently issued new guidelines to retailers selling platinum jewelry and a warning for those buying it: When you see the words “pure platinum” be wary and also be aware of what those words mean.

Following is part of the press release from the FTC that describes new rules for those marketing platinum jewelry :

The new Platinum Section states that marketers of platinum/base metal alloys should: 1) disclose the product’s full composition, by name and not abbreviation, and the percentage of each metal it contains – for example, 75% Platinum, 25% Copper or 60% Platinum, 35% Cobalt, 5% Rhodium; and 2) disclose that the product may not have the same attributes or properties as traditional platinum products, which are comprised of at least 85 percent pure platinum.

The FTC also issued a consumer alert called Going Platinum: What to Look for When Buying Platinum Jewelry. From that alert:

No platinum jewelry is 100 percent pure platinum. Traditionally, platinum jewelry contained 85 to 95 percent pure platinum alloyed with other precious metals. In recent years, some platinum pieces have been alloyed with a larger percentage of non-precious base metals (like copper and cobalt).

Ask your jeweler about the attributes of any piece of platinum jewelry you’re considering buying to give you an idea of the piece’s quality and value for the cost. Find out if the item is hypoallergenic, durable, lustrous, dense, scratch and tarnish resistant, if it can be resized or repaired and if it retains the precious metal over time. Marketers should tell you if a platinum/base metal alloy item does not have these attributes.

Marketers describe or mark platinum in terms of the percentage of pure platinum in the piece. An item should be at least 50 percent pure platinum (or 500 “parts per thousand” platinum) to bear any kind of marking indicating its platinum content. It also will have other metals – either the precious platinum group metals that include iridium, palladium, ruthenium, rhodium and osmium – or non-precious base metals like copper and cobalt.

There’s a lot more in their consumer advisory, so if you’re in the market for platinum this holiday season, read it! And also check out our two recent stories, 5 Tips for Buying Jewelry and A Man’s Guide to Buying Diamonds in 5 Simple Steps.

Stacy Johnson

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