BIS declines plea on mandatory hallmarks for silver articles

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has declined to proceed with mandatory hallmarking of silver artifacts made of alloys with lower than specified purity.

Responding to a request from the India Bullion and Jewellers Association (Ibja), the BIS in a letter dated March 23 said, “a BIS is operating a hallmarking scheme for silver jewellers/artifacts as per Indian standard, which is currently voluntary. The request of Ibja to regulate silver (including silver bar, furniture, idols, jewellery and coins) of only specified purity to be allowed to be sold in the market and with test reports from hallmarking centres cannot be considered presently, as the hallmarking scheme for silver is voluntary.”

H S Pasricha, the head (hallmarking) at BIS, did not specify a reason for rejecting the industry’s demand for making hallmarking of silver articles mandatory. BIS had made hallmarking of 22 carat, 18 ct and 14 ct of gold jewellery mandatory from January 1, 2017. This gave jewellers hope to seek similar action on silver jewellery.

India imports 6,000-7,000 tonnes of silver annually. But, manufacturers of silver jewellery and artifacts are, according to trade sources, duping customers by mixing cheap alloys with silver and selling these as pure metal, especially in articles made from silver. There are complaints of even coins and bars sold as pure ones but with a high level of mixing. It is found when customers go for resale and find it's only 50-60 per cent.

BIS, under the Union ministry of consumer affairs, had in its earlier revision in November 2016 identified fine silver with purity of 999.9, 995 and 999 (all for 24 carat), and alloy for jewellery and artifacts between purity levels of 800 and 990 (between 19 and 23 carat). But, the hallmarking was made voluntary. This means silver jewellers and artifact manufacturers are under no obligation to hallmark all items from a specified centre.

“It has come to our notice that there is a wide purity of fine silver/silver coins, jewellery, furniture, utensils, idols, etc, made in our country. There are no guidelines or regulations for the same. Most of the silver coins made in India have only 40-60 per cent purity. Most of the silver jewellery has 70-80 per cent purity. Silver furniture and idols have purity of 20-60 per cent only,” Ibja said in a letter to the BIS in January.

“Hallmarking of silver jewellery should be made mandatory. But jewellers should be given 12 months to equip all plants and machinery for hallmarking, with no excuse thereafter. Since the hallmarking fee is only Rs 25 an ornament, consumers would not mind paying such a nominal extra charge for owing a reliable silver item,” said Rahul Mehta, managing director, Silver Emporium, a city based silver jewellery and artifacts manufacturer and exporter.

Of the 7,000 tonnes of silver used in a year, 25-30 per cent goes for industrial consumption. The rest is for individual consumers. Considering 20 per cent impurity in silver worth Rs 20,000 crore purchased by individuals, that is cheating of Rs 4,000 crore a year from customers annually, Ibja national president Mukesh Mehta said in a letter addressed to Ram Vilas Paswan, Union minister of consumer affairs.

As on January 25, for hallmarking of silver jewellery/artifacts, 1,410 jewellers had taken a licence and 37 assaying and hallmarking centres taken recognition from BIS. 

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