This topic may sound dry and dull but it is relevant to anyone shopping for jewelry, gemstones or precious metals. We have seen recent listings (on a variety of auction sites) which misrepresent metals and gemstones. For example:
- One troy ounce German silver: this can be misleading as German silver contains zero Silver – see details in our blog post about various representations of silver: https://dragondreamsjewelry.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/know-your-silver/
- 925 silver: then the listing states “no Sterling Silver content” in fine print
- Peridot quartz: this was describing green colored stones but what exactly, one would have to guess since peridot and quartz are distinct gemstones
What’s a consumer to do? First, educate yourself. Do some research about the item you are buying – or seek assistance from someone who does. Know the characteristics of the gemstone or metal as well as market prices. If an item is selling for well below market price, that may be a warning sign. Second, work with a reputable seller you can trust. Positive feedback on an auction site or other website is no guarantee that a seller is trustworthy – far too many people purchase items from unscrupulous individuals without verifying their purchase. If you cannot trust the seller, be sure you can get a full refund should the item not be as claimed. Third, verify items you purchase. Inspect the item or possibly have an expert evaluate it.
If you find a disreputable seller, know that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is out there to help consumers. It is required by FTC rules that sellers disclose any and all treatments to gemstones, that is, the seller is responsible for informing the consumer. The FTC also outlines rules for clearly identifying metals and metal content so that the consumer is able to understand exactly what is being purchased. Details of the rules are on the FTC site here: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/jewel-gd.shtm
Some sellers make mistakes and will correct the mistake once it has been brought to their attention. However, sellers who repeatedly and intentionally misrepresent their products should be reported to the FTC.