It appears I spoke too soon in lauding Harper’s Bazaar magazine for not describing bracelets by Balenciaga as being made of “gold and silver.” Working my way through the September 2009 issue, I found that a bylined article entitled “Secrets of Effortless Style” does indeed describe the bracelets as “gold and silver,” and goes on to hold them out as an example of autumn’s “must-have hardware.”
Federal law governing the jewelry industry prohibits the use of the word “gold,” without qualification, to describe jewelry that is not composed throughout of fine (24 karat) gold, and specifically to use that word to describe a product that is only surface-plated. Misuse of the term by someone within the industry may be considered unfair or deceptive.
I am not suggesting that Balenciaga is at fault here. While the Balenciaga web site does not presently include for sale any of the bracelets featured in either Harper’s Bazaar or Elle magazine, the site describes similar jewelry with similar price points as composed of “gold-plated sterling silver.” I think one can fairly conclude from the prices disclosed in Elle magazine that the subject bracelets are similarly composed of gold-plated sterling silver. Certainly, in any case, a solid gold bracelet could not realistically be priced identically to one crafted of sterling silver.
Where, then, does the concept come from, as appearing repeatedly in premiere American fashion magazines, that these relatively inexpensive Balenciaga bracelets are composed of “gold and silver”? Is this description coming from materials provided by the designer’s public relations people? Or are magazine editors and writers making assumptions based upon the color of metal?