While buying gold jewellery, it’s advisable to check the hallmark to ensure you get what you are paying for and its purity is as promised by the jeweller. Hallmark is basically a certification of purity given by assaying and hallmarking centres (AHCs) accredited by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). With the government planning to make hallmarking of gold jewellery mandatory from next year, this will become easier for you.
But can you be 100% sure of not being cheated while buying hallmarked jewellery? Not really. You need to be wary of fake hallmarking. “Absolute integrity of the hallmarking process and mass consumer awareness underpin the success of mandatory hallmarking. There should be little scope for irregular practices such as what is termed loosely in industry circles as ‘dubba hallmarking’, where certification is done without due sampling or verification, or ‘fake hallmarking’, where pieces are marked without actually hallmarking,” said Somasundaram P.R., managing director, India, World Gold Council. “There is also a possibility that a jeweller can put the sign of hallmarking on its own by buying the machine,” he added.
There are BIS regulations that define the processes that need to be carried out by the hallmarking centres to ensure hallmarking is done properly but enforcement of such regulations needs to be strengthened, said experts. “Hallmarking is a mark of trust. We need to have a very good inspection methodology to ensure that the hallmarking centres follow the practice rigorously,” said Somasundaram.
However, you can run certain checks to find out the genuineness of the hallmark. Here’s what you can check, apart from the four basic signs of hallmarking—the BIS mark denoted by a triangle, the caratage (22K915) showing the purity, the mark of the jeweller and that of the AHC.
Jeweller’s BIS licence
It’s always advisable to buy from a jeweller registered with BIS. Close to 30,000 jewellers across India are registered with BIS. You will find the list on BIS website. You can also ask the jeweller to show its BIS licence; jewellers are required to prominently display this licence in their sales outlet. Remember that the address of the shop and the address mentioned in the licence should be the same.
The bill break-up
You should also check your bill properly. The regulations require the jeweller to mention the hallmarking charges separately in the bill. The AHC charges a fees of ₹35 per piece to the jeweller for each piece of jewellery tested.
“The bill or invoice of sale of hallmarked precious metal articles shall indicate separately the description of each article, net weight of the precious metal, purity in carat and fineness, and hallmarking charges,” according to BIS regulations.
Also, a jeweller registered with BIS can sell the jewellery of another BIS-licensed jeweller, provided there is proof of such purchases. The bill should also have this detail. “Even a non-certified jeweller can sell the hallmarked jewellery from a certified jeweller but needs to keep the record (bills and invoices) of such purchases,” said James Jose, former secretary, Indian Association of Hallmarking Centres.
A jeweller is required to maintain all the records related to invoices of hallmarking charges paid, sale and purchase of hallmarked items for a period of five years or till the jewellery is sold, whichever is later, according to BIS regulations.
Details of AHCs
You can check the details of AHCs from the BIS list. There are 877 certified AHCs recognized by BIS, as of 31 October 2019. The licence is issued for a period of three years and has to be renewed thereafter. You can also verify the mark of the AHC from the list available.
The list also shows the name of AHCs whose licence has been cancelled or suspended. BIS conducts periodic inspection of AHCs and can suspend and cancel the certification of those that violate the regulations. “BIS conducts two types of inspections. They can either take a sample from a jewellery shop and test it for purity or they can make a surprise visit to the hallmarking centre to check for malpractices. In case the centre fails the test of hallmarking, the AHC can be suspended. Suspension is generally for three months in case of market sample failure and violations happening inside hallmarking centres,” said Jose. There is also a list of major offences, including unfair practices such as hallmarking for non-certified jewellers, marking of articles with incomplete hallmark or hallmarking articles without carrying out testing. “In these cases, the licence of the particular centre is cancelled; the process is called derecognition,” said Jose.
Get it tested on your own
You can get your jewellery tested from any of the BIS-recognized AHCs. The centres undertake the testing of jewellery of common consumers on priority on a chargeable basis. After testing, the AHC will issue a report giving proper identifications as marked on the jewellery. If the jewellery is found to be of lesser purity, then the AHC which did the initial certification will have to refund the consumer’s fees.
You can also approach your jeweller with the report as the jeweller is responsible for the purity and fineness of the jewellery. The jeweller is also liable to compensate the customer in such cases.
Gold jewellery purchases are usually high-value transactions, so make sure you don’t end up being a victim of fraud.