An India woman’s wardrobe is not complete without a few pieces of gold jewellery. More than the emotional connect, gold has always been an attractive asset for uncertain times. However, more often than not, people are in for a rude shock at the time of selling the asset – the 22-carat gold jewellery you paid for may turn out to be 18 carat, or may even prove to be junk. Such cases of fleecing have long been prevalent in India. Therefore, with the intention to protect customers, the central government introduced a hallmarking system to certify the purity of gold.
A hallmark consists of five components – the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) logo, fineness or caratage number, the logo of the BIS-recognised Assay and Hallmarking Centre that certified the quality, identification mark of the BIS-certified jeweller, and the year of manufacturing. So, the next time you buy gold jewellery, check these five things to ensure quality.
According to the BIS Act, a hallmarking agency evaluates each and every piece of gold jewellery submitted by the jeweller to authenticate if the metal content conforms to the national and international standards of purity. Harshad Ajmera of JJ Hallmarking Centre says BIS certification is provided only after a series of tests. However, having a BIS mark does not mean that the jewellery is of 22 carat. There are several other caratage for which the BIS mark is provided.
It has been observed that ornaments not bearing the BIS hallmark are sold at cheaper rates. Most individuals lap up this price discrepancy and opt for the cheaper option without understanding that there is no guarantee for what they are paying for. On the other hand, there have been instances in the past, especially in South India, where the hallmarking system was found to be misused by jewellery manufacturers in connivance with authorised assaying centres. Nevertheless, following regular inspections by BIS, such malpractices have reduced.
Purity of gold is designated through carat or finesse. In any hallmarked jewellery, the purity of gold is explicitly mentioned besides the BIS mark. Therefore, it is imperative to check the number on the jewellery (see Pure Numbers).
The next in line is the hallmarking centre’s logo. Each hallmarking centre is designated with a unique logo that is embossed on every piece of jewellery checked and verified for purity. This is to ensure that the product can be traced back to the centre in case of any discrepancy. At present, there are nearly 350 hallmarking centres and the details of all centres are available on the BIS website.
Next comes the year in which the jewellery was hallmarked. The year, in this case, is marked in the form of an alphabet. The series started in 2000, or A. N indicates 2011, P indicates 2012, etc.
The last in the series of signs and symbols is the jeweller’s or manufacturer’s symbol. Every jeweller certified by the BIS has a logo of his own and is embossed on the ornaments. Says Prithviraj Kothari, Director of Indian Bullion and Jewellers Association (IBJA): “Each of the above mentioned five elements should be present on each and every piece of hallmarked jewellery. Meanwhile, be aware that these are present in very tiny forms.” As a result, one would need a magnifier in most instances to see the markings. “When it comes to buying coins for investment, make sure they are in tamperproof packing with the finesse mentioned on the coin,” he adds.
Last but not the least is to remember to ask for a valid cash memo or invoice with details of every charge levied for the jewellery you buy. Remember, in instances where a complaint has to be raised, a valid bill is necessary. Without that piece of document, authorities will not entertain the complaint. Hence, no matter how trusted a jewellery brand or a jeweller maybe, always insist on a valid bill.