National Gold and Silver Marking Act

On October 1, 1981, revised Section 295 of Volume 15 of the United States Code, the law governing requirements for gold and silver marking, , which is commonly known as the National Gold and Silver Marking Act, went into effect. Originally enacted in 1906, this law never required one to indicate quality. However, if quality was affirmatively disclosed, it had to be accurate within one half Karat (without solder) or one Karat (with solder, article assayed in its entirely) from the disclosed mark. Criminal sanctions could be imposed for violations.

In 1961, this Act was amended to require the additional disclosures of the name or registered trademark of the firm responsible for the quality guaranty. This law was amended in 1970 to provide for civil penalties via private legal action.

Now, the fineness tolerances for gold articles are considerably tightened. Signed into law in 1976 and effective on October 1, 1981, Section 295 was revised to further regulate precious metal standards by more stringently specifying the proportion of gold with and without solder, making gold as good as gold.

Since October 1 has passed, the following stricter requirements apply. In the case of gold or any of its alloys imported, exported, or transported through interstate commerce, actual fineness shall not be less by more than 3/1000ths parts (without solder) or 7/1000ths parts (with solder taken into account).

While the law requires that gold and silver carrying a quality mark also carry the registered trademark of the person or organization responsible for the guarantee of quality, there is no United States law requiring that gold or silver be quality marked in the first place. If a quality mark appears, so must the trademark. Whereas a quality mark alone is meaningless, the appearance of a trademark serves to assign the responsibility for fraudulent quality marks.

A quality mark represents the stated standard. The presence of the manufacture’s trademark is an important assurance that the ration of gold to alloy as represented by a stamp on the article is accurate, thus making it conform with the law. On the pragmatic level, such a measure is valuable primarily to distributors and retailers who can hold the manufacturer responsible in case a quality mark is found to be an exaggeration, thereby relieving themselves from responsibility in the chain of distribution. If, however, a quality mark is unaccompanied by a manufacturer’s trademark, it is the distributor and/or retailer who will be held accountable for having passed fraudulently marked goods onto the public.

A trademark is an assurance of quality. It is a permanent record of origin and an assumption of responsibility. It is clearly for the benefit of both distributors and retailers to make certain that each and every gold and silver item purchased is inscribed with a quality mark and is inscribed with a trademark, in accordance with the law. IMPORTANT: The application of this mark is required to be identical to the means used in applying the quality mark, and must be at least as large as and positioned as close as possible to the quality mark.

Requiring that manufacturers remain wholly accountable for the quality of their gold and silver items, this law offers distributors and retailers a degree of assurance in the value of their products. Since tolerance standards are much higher than before, there may be a particular urge on the part of some members of our industry to bypass the requirements of signature presence on their gold and silver goods. Anyone who wants to keep his own standards high should remain alert, demanding that others do not try to side-step the law.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Guides for the Jewelry Industry contain additional prohibitions of which industry members should be aware. JVC members have copies of the National Gold and Silver Marking Act, as well as our recommendations for revision of the current Guides, which we submitted on January 8, 1981. Reference to these Guides and the Stamping Act is advised for full understanding of the law.

Jewelers Vigilance Committee
25 West 45th Street, Suite 400
New York, NY 10036
(800) JOIN JVC
(212) 997-2002
(212) 532-2217 fax

Copyright 1989 J.V.C., Inc.