Bernie Madoff's platinum ring Before paying hard-earned cash for platinum jewelry this holiday season, look for the stamp to make sure you're getting what you pay for, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission says.

The FTC announced changes to its jewelry guides to make sure jewelers don't pass off platinum-alloy jewelry -- pieces that contain non-precious metals like copper -- as higher-priced, more pure platinum.Jewelers now must disclose an item's full composition. A ring made of platinum and copper, for example, wouldn't have the same durability and could scratch more easily than a pure platinum ring. On the flip side, though, a platinum-and-copper ring would be more affordable.

With the price of platinum at around $1,700 an ounce, a lot is at stake for a jeweler's bottom line. Consumers could be snookered into buying jewelry that has less status-symbol platinum than it should. The trade group Platinum Guild International says a platinum ring can yield four times the profit margin than a similar ring made of white gold.

The FTC recommends to look for the following when shopping:
  • If an item is marked "platinum," that means it must be made of at least 95% pure platinum.
  • A piece marked "850Plat." or "900Pt" means it is made of either 85% or 90% platinum. These are the stamps you will most likely see on platinum jewelry sold in the United States, according to the FTC.
  • Jewelry marked with any number under 850 means the piece is a combination of platinum and other metals. The jeweler must tell you what other metals the piece contains and what percentage of the jewelry is comprised of those metals.
  • If you don't see a mark or label with the platinum percentage, you can assume the jewelry doesn't have what it takes to be called platinum, regardless of what a salesperson tells you.
  • Ask if the jewelry is hypoallergenic, durable, lustrous, dense, scratch- and tarnish-resistant -- all attributes of traditional platinum jewelry. Platinum alloys may not have the same attributes and jewelers are now supposed to disclose content.
Consumer Ally's Linda Doell is an Accredited Jewelry Professional through the Gemological Institute of America.

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