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Pure Platinum? Pure Drivel! What to Look for When Buying Platinum

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Purchasing platinum jewelry can be an investment that lasts a lifetime. This luxurious metal is known for its luster and durability. In recent years, manufacturers have begun to blend base metals into platinum jewelry to help keep the jewelry more affordable for consumers. Platinum jewelry has always been blended with other materials, but these recent pieces contain higher levels of metals like copper or cobalt than traditional platinum pieces used to contain. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently released some guidelines that require jewelry shops to mark the exact platinum content in each piece so that the customer is always aware of the purity of the jewelry.

Platinum Additives Keep Prices Down

Manufacturers continued to reduce the amount of pure platinum in their jewelry in order to reduce the cost for the consumer. In many cases, though, the jewelry was simply marketed as platinum without any indication of the content. Pieces that contained 60% platinum and 35% cobalt were sold alongside pieces that contained as much as 75% platinum. Advertising was not very clear about the differences between the pieces. Since jewelry with higher platinum content wears differently than jewelry with lower platinum content, consumers were not aware of the platinum content until the piece started to wear after they had owned it for a few months or years.

New Marketing Guidelines

With the wide variation of additives in platinum jewelry, it became necessary for the FTC to step in and create stricter guidelines. Without proper marketing, consumers could be unaware that the jewelry they were purchasing contained very little platinum. In December of 2010, the FTC released two brochures regarding platinum content. One of the brochures is a handbook for platinum jewelry consumers. The other is a detailed guide for retailers. The advertising guide provides specific terminology and marketing rules that the jewelers are supposed to follow so that the platinum content of their jewelry is easy to understand by the average consumer. The consumer guide provides information about what the terminology means and how it is applied to different platinum-based jewelry pieces.

Recognizing Markings on the Jewelry

When you look at a piece of platinum jewelry, there will probably be several different markings to decipher. The marking that indicates the amount of platinum contained in the piece will sometimes be spelled out as "platinum." It is sometimes abbreviated as "plat." or "pl." An item that is marked platinum without any numbers must contain at least 95% platinum. This is as close to pure platinum as you can get with a piece of jewelry. Other pieces will have numbers with the letters. 850pl indicates a piece has 85% platinum content. 900pl would mean 90% platinum.

When a piece has less than 85% platinum content, it must indicate what the other metals in the piece are. If they are other precious metals, they will be stamped on the piece beside the platinum rating. "800 pt. 200 rd" would indicate the piece has 80% platinum and 20% palladium.

Pieces that contain base metals may not be marked individually. If a piece is made from 15-50% base metals but contains up to 50% pure platinum, it can still be marked platinum. The advertiser must spell out the exact metal content in any advertising without abbreviations, however. A piece that contains 75% platinum and 25% copper would be clearly marked with the percentages and metal names.

Talk to Your Jeweler

Your jeweler is your best resource when you are shopping for platinum jewelry. He or she will be able to decipher any unfamiliar markings for you so that you are fully aware of what you are buying. Jewelry that contains a higher percentage of platinum will be more expensive than jewelry with platinum that contains base metals. The pure platinum pieces will have different properties, however. Your jeweler will show you the differences in luster, density, scratch resistance, tarnish resistance, and allergic properties. You should also ask whether a piece can be resized and how long it retains its precious metal over time. Some pieces tend to lose their metals if they are worn daily for years. Your jeweler will also explain how to care for the piece so that it will be beautiful for a longer period of time.

This is the best time of year to buy jewelry with the holiday sales over and the long jewelry-buying drought until February. Just be sure you get your money's worth. It's not a deal if you buy  the wrong thing! 

Jessica Bosari is an Internet copywriter and blogger for various publications and her own blog. You can read more of Jessica's work here. If you have any comments or questions about SavingTools or about saving money, leave your comments in the form below or email Thanks!


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