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.