Stamping Out Deception

May 1998

Precious Metals:News

Stamping Out Deception

Hawaii's proposed amendment to its state stamping act reinforces FTC platinum guidelines

After it was benched for the wartime effort in the 1940s, platinum was forgotten several times over as federal legislators amended the National Gold and Silver Stamping Act.

Now Hawaii, known for its fierce state stamping laws, is considering a bill that – if passed – would include platinum guidelines in its own Gold and Silver Stamping Act. At Professional Jeweler'spress time, the bill had passed Hawaii's State Senate and was moving to the House of Representatives, where it was expected to pass.

The amendment to the act would deem any misrepresentation of a metal's makeup an "unfair or deceptive trade practice." This would include using the lone word or abbreviation of "platinum" to describe an item that is fewer than 950 parts per thousand platinum; using "platinum" without qualifying numbers for items made of fewer than 950 parts pure platinum ("850Plat.," for instance) and calling any item "platinum" that is made up of fewer than 500 parts pure platinum. The bill also would require manufacturers to stamp their registered trademarks on pieces or packaging to accompany platinum marks.

The platinum section of the bill does lack what supporters consider the "teeth" of the Gold and Silver Stamping Act that Hawaii passed just last year: the stipulation that law enforcement officials can seize mismarked jewelry as contraband.

"Because there's no national platinum law, there's no federal law that makes the jewelry seizable," says Brenda Reichel, owner of retail store Carats & Karats in Honolulu and a major supporter of the bill. "What we need is a platinum stamping act."

Until that day, Hawaii's law as proposed would reinforce the Federal Trade Commission guidelines, allowing local government to obtain injunctions and allowing consumers to take legal action against violators (see the "Managing Legal" section for more details).

A Problem Less Visible
Reichel cooperated with state Sen. Rod Tam to include platinum in the new Stamping Act. As an appraiser and consumer advocate, she says she often comes face to face with underkarating and mismarked jewelry. "I just talked to a woman who bought a ring with a white gold head and yellow gold solder, but it was sold as platinum," she says. "It's a nationwide problem, but a lot of people don't want to talk about it."

Others say the laws are good precautions, but that publicity has made the problem seem more alarming than it really is. "There's a market in Waikiki where vendors are coming and going all the time, but outside of that, no one seems to think there's a big problem," says Lisa White, president of the Hawaii Jewelers Association. "Most of the time when you hear a complaint, it's because a consumer bought a piece on the beach or out of the trunk of a car and paid $50 for it. Then you ask, 'What did you expect?'"

In the meantime, says Reichel, local law enforcement officials are still reluctant to get involved in state Stamping Act disputes. "They say it's not their responsibility to enforce federal law," she says.

by Stacey King

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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