Gold is too soft to withstand wear and tear. Jewellery manufacturers mostly use alloy gold with some other metal. Alloying gold makes buyers vulnerable to excessive adulteration. Detection of adulteration in gold is difficult without performing technical tests. The complex nature of Indian jewellery, mostly made of high-caratage gold and containing numerous soldered joints of much lower caratage, makes determining purity even more difficult.
In addition, 24-carat plating of articles of low caratage is also common. Despite being well-informed about such fraudulent practices, ordinary consumers find themselves compelled to endure repeated deception at the hands of unscrupulous traders.
In response to the need for consumer protection, the Indian government recognised the importance of standardising gold products and introducing gold hallmarking. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) was entrusted with implementing the Hallmarking Scheme in India in 2000. The objective was to safeguard consumers against fraudulent practices, enhance export competitiveness, and position India as a prominent global market for gold jewellery.
By establishing BIS as the sole agency for operating the Hallmarking Scheme, the government aimed to ensure transparency and reliability in the gold industry to benefit consumers. Finally, in a significant move, the Government of India enforced the mandatory hallmarking of gold and silver jewellery items starting June 2021.
What is Hallmarking?
Hallmarking is the process of accurately determining and officially recording the proportionate content of precious metal in valuable metal articles. Hallmarks are official marks used in many countries as a reliable guarantee of the purity or fineness of precious metal articles. The primary objectives of the Hallmarking Scheme are to protect the public from adulteration and to ensure manufacturers maintain the legal standards of fineness.
In India, the Hallmarking Scheme currently encompasses two precious metals: gold and silver, ensuring that consumers have full confidence in the authenticity and quality of the gold and silver articles they purchase.
The Hallmarking Process
Per the recent guidelines issued by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, hallmarking of jewellery happens in mostly three different categories: 14 carats, 18 carats, and 22 carats.
Gold hallmarking consists of three key steps: homogeneity testing, purity testing, and marking of individual items.
Homogeneity testing has samples taken from the items to ensure they comply with necessary regulatory standards.
Purity testing is a more intricate process. Initially, the testing bodies select the items that require examination and conduct preliminary tests on their surfaces. Subsequently, those doing these tests take smaller samples from each item for detailed testing to determine their purity.
Finally, the centres perform rigorous assays to assess the metal’s finesse.
The entire process typically takes around five to six hours before the gold is ready to be hallmarked. Once the testing authorities are satisfied with the results, they apply hallmarks through hand/press or laser marking.
The Hallmark on Gold Jewellery consists of four distinct marks. These are:
- The BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) mark
- The purity indicated in the carat
- The name of the assaying centre
- The jeweller’s identification mark.
These marks collectively assure and authenticate the gold’s purity and origin.
BIS-licensed jewellers are required to pay hallmarking charges for gold jewellery/artefacts at BIS-recognised Assaying and Hallmarking Centres. The charges include Rs 35 per article and a minimum fee of Rs 200 for a consignment (Additional charges such as Service Tax and other applicable levies will be extra).
While Hallmarking may add to the cost of your jewellery purchase, it offers peace of mind as you can rest assured that your jewellery meets quality standards and is genuine. Also, investing a nominal amount of Rs 35 on Hallmarking for a significant gold purchase worth thousands or lakhs is a small price to pay for the assurance of quality and authenticity.
Word of Advice
If you own un-hallmarked gold jewellery, you must take proactive steps to get it hallmarked. Consider getting your jewellery hallmarked by a BIS-registered jeweller or testing it at a BIS-recognised Assaying & Hallmarking Centre. This move assumes greater significance when you intend to sell gold for cash. By having your jewellery hallmarked, you ensure its authenticity and enhance its market value, giving you peace of mind and better opportunities when it comes to selling your gold.