Hallmarking of Gold
Why you must look for it
Gold is a precious metal held dear across the world. It is a wonderful ornament to wear as well as a hedge against inflation and falling markets. Gold can also be liquidated easily. However, it is relatively easy for the customer to be a victim of irregular metal quality. A buyer, for instance, will be told that he has bought gold of 22 carats. When he goes to sell or exchange it, he discovers that the gold is actually only of 18 carats. This is why it is important to grasp the relevance of hallmarking. A hallmark indicates that the gold in the jewellery adheres to international standards of purity. The percentage of purity is all that matters since the price that you pay hinges on it.
Among unscrupulous manufacturers and suppliers, there has been a tendency to deceive the common consumer by supplying gold of lower cartage than declared. The convenience of gold alloying with less precious metals – silver or base metals like copper and nickel – has made the process easier for jewellers and the cumulative value of such forgery is estimated to run into thousands of crores of rupees in India. It is easy to perpetrate because with gold a considerable amount of alloy can be introduced without changing the colour. Unless alloyed with a comparatively small proportion of some other metal, pure gold is too soft to withstand wear as an article for use or adornment.
This lacuna has demanded that some system of control be in place if frauds on the public are to be prevented. In England the formal assaying of gold started in 1478, when it was made compulsory for jewellers to get their gold wares assayed. The measures adopted then for assaying the jewellery and gold articles and marking the purity over them gave rise to hallmarking.
BIS Hallmarking Scheme
In India, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the accreditation agency that certifies and hallmarks gold jewellery and other precious metals. The hallmarking scheme is voluntary in nature and serves to:
jewellery with lesser purity than declared;
Standardization on gold basically starts with grading of gold depending upon its purity. So, the value of gold can be fixed according to its grade. The standards lay down the fineness in terms of numbers by weight of gold in thousand parts by weight of the alloy.
Purity is also expressed in terms of carats. For instance, 24 carat, or 24k, indicates the purest form of gold – that is, the gold content is 100 per cent. However, pure gold is too soft to use it as jewellery. So it is alloyed with a mixture of metals like silver, copper, nickel and zinc to give it strength and durability. In percentage terms, 18k would mean 75 per cent purity (denoted by 750) and 22k would mean 91.6 per cent (denoted by 916) purity.
As per the scheme, the BIS license is granted to a jewellery/jewellery manufacturer (as per IS 1417) and recognition is granted to an assaying and hallmarking centre on the basis of compliance with IS 15820:2009 and IS 1418: 2009. Licensed jewellers can get their jewellery/artefacts hallmarked from any BIS-recognized assaying and hallmarking centre on payment of Rs 25 per article. The hallmarking centre tests the article for the declared fineness (purity) by the jeweller. No negative tolerance is permitted on fineness. As per the standard, gold alloys including solders for manufacturing jewellery/artefacts have to be free from cadmium, iridium and ruthenium. If the fineness is found as per declaration, the jewellery is hallmarked with the help of a laser machine.
What Makes the Hallmark?
Before purchasing gold ornaments, one must check the following components of hallmark through a magnifying glass (magnification 10X) available with the jeweller: a) BIS logo b) Purity grade/Fineness c) Assay centre’s mark d) Jeweller’s mark e) Year of marking denoted by a letter symbol (‘A’ denotes the year 2000, ‘B’ 2001, ‘C’ 2002, and so on)
Since launch of the scheme, over 10,000 gold jewellers have taken license from BIS and so far about 500 lakh jewellery articles have been hallmarked. The list of BIS licensee jewellers and recognized hallmarking centres is on the BIS website (www.bis. org.in). In case the purity of hallmarked jewellery is found to be less than that declared by the jeweller, a customer may file a complaint in any BIS office in India.