Under U.S. law, items stamped as karat gold (for example, 14K) or sterling silver must include the manufacturer's trademark or hallmark. While this is an old law, many jewelry manufacturers are only now beginning to include their trademarks. (See the portion of the US Code that describes the unlawful practice (and penalties) of falsely stamping gold, silver, and other goods.)
It is reasonable, when you purchase an item costing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to want to know who made it — as you would expect to know the manufacturer of a car or camera you were buying, or even a toaster! The law requiring trademarks was passed to protect consumers from disreputable manufacturers who would produce jewelry of lesser karatage than it is stamped. When such underkarating occurs, the trademark helps trace the offending item to its source.
Because of the small size of jewelry, the manufacturer’s trademark will appear as a symbol, probably indecipherable by you. Ask the seller for the name of the manufacturer, and be sure the name appears on the appraisal and detailed sales receipt.
U.S. law does not currently cover platinum, but this is being changed. Laws in Europe and Canada already include platinum.
Shopping Considerations and Caveats
- If a manufacturer’s trademark does not appear on gold or silver jewelry, you would be wise to question the validity of the quality mark.
When pricing gold or silver jewelry, ask the jeweler for the manufacturer
and style number, so you can compare prices from various retailers. If the
seller refuses to tell you, don’t buy it. He is withholding this information
to prevent you from comparison shopping!