The Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) today reported that Inside Edition, a national ½ hour news magazine show, is profiling the gold jewelry world in an upcoming show to be broadcast today (Jan. 22).
Inside Edition came to the JVC with many questions about the industry and to use their Precious Metals Testing laboratory to assay items they had purchased from various retailers in New York City and Houston, says JVC executive director and legal counsel Cecilia L. Gardner. Their results will be aired during the show.
“We were gratified that Inside Edition cared enough about the accuracy of their story to do very complete research,” Gardner says. “Because of our equipment and legal expertise, we were asked test the items Inside Edition investigators purchased to see if they were indeed as marked. In some cases, there was underkarating.”
Underkarating refers to the situation when a gold item is represented or marked with a quality mark (10K, 14K, 18K, etc.) yet doesn’t live up to those markings when assayed. The JVC Precious Metals Testing facility uses a non-destructive x-ray assay to determine karatage of jewelry made from precious metals.
Inside Edition researched the gold-buying market around the city of New York and limited buying in Houston. Using a hidden camera, they shopped in various locations including chain stores, mall kiosks, flea-market booths, jewelry exchanges, and free-standing jewelry stores. The total scope was all types of stores selling jewelry in a variety of price ranges.
They brought the gold they purchased from all these sources to the JVC for testing. They found that gold purchased from chain stores, and well-known jewelry stores to be as marked. However, some of the flea-market booths, mall kiosks, and jewelry exchanges were selling underkarated gold. These underkarated items were lower priced goods. The shopping was recorded on hidden camera and then the Inside Edition crew returned to the place of purchase after the items were tested for karatage. Their results of these visits will be aired during the show.
The show’s producer, Larry Posner, was appreciative of finding the JVC. “The JVC’s expertise in both the legalities of the jewelry industry and their Precious Metals Testing facility were very valuable,” he said, referring to the segment. “This was a problem for some consumers and with JVC’s support, we helped bring it to the public’s attention.”
JVC offers karatage tips
The JVC says that retailers and manufacturers have a legal obligation to their customers to inform them of the karatage of products they sell. If an item is not stamped, they still must disclose the karatage and are responsible for knowing what is it.
The following is a list of frequently asked questions concerning Underkarating:
Q – Do all pieces of precious metal need to be marked with a karat stamp and a trademark?
A – No, the National Gold & Stamping Act says you may stock and sell items that are not quality marked. However, as part of the sales process, you must disclose to your customer (in some way: in-case signage, tag, sales receipt, etc.) what the karatage is.
If the pieces are quality marked, then a federally registered manufacturer’s trademark must be in close proximity to the quality mark on the piece of jewelry.
Q – How do I know the markings on the jewelry I sell are correct?
A – Many firms use JVC’s Precious Metals Testing Facility to quality control the precious metals they purchase via x-ray assay. Or, items may be tested by other methods (for example: fire assay).
Remember to purchase from suppliers you trust who stand behind what they sell. Ask your suppliers to have their own independent assays done routinely as a part of their sales contract with you as a retailer. A retail store should build into their quality assurance program the regular checking of precious metal quality.
Q – Is there a minimum karatage of gold that I can legally sell in my store?
A – In the U.S. the lowest karatage of gold that can legally be sold is 10 karat (in newly manufacturer pieces). In other countries, the standards vary.
Q – Does the metal content need to be exactly as stamped on the piece?
A – The FTC Guidelines allow for certain tolerances on gold and silver items, but the variance is quite narrow. The standard for platinum allows for no tolerances; pieces must be exactly as marked. Contact the JVC with questions.
Q – What should my customer do if they feel they have been a victim of underkarating?
A – Any consumer (as well as the trade) may contact the JVC for advice or other agencies such as a local Better Business Bureau or a Department of Consumer Affairs may be helpful.
Q – As a buyer, what should I do if I suspect I have been a victim of underkarating?
A – Please contact the JVC with your questions. The JVC handles over 400 cases a year for both the trade and consumers on a variety of subjects – underkarating is one of them.
Q – Where can I get a complete copy of the FTC Guides?
A – You may visit the FTC website at www.ftc.gov or contact the JVC for further information