From January 1, only that with gold purity of 22, 18 and 14 carats to be hallmarked

In a major blow to jewellers, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs (MCA) has made hallmarking of gold ornaments mandatory for three categories beginning the New Year.

Effective January 1, jewellers will need to hallmark the 22, 18 and 14 carat jewellery they sell to consumers. At present, gold ornaments with all purity levels between 9 and 24 carat are available for consumers but hallmarking is not compulsory, though organised sector jewellers offer hallmarked gold jewellery in 22 carat and diamond studded jewellery in 18 carat.

Since consumers demand ornaments in other carats too, jewellers make ornaments in as many as seven other carat levels beyond these three categories. However, as per BIS, these ornaments will not be hallmarked, leading to a trust deficit between the jeweller and the customer.

Around a quarter of the stock currently on display in retail shops would be out of the hallmarking net. In case jewellers seek to hallmark such ornaments, they need to scrap ornaments for melting and manufacturing jewellery again which would add cost to produce the same jewellery with changed purity level in order to adhere to the BIS hallmark norm.

"Gold and gold alloys shall be classified in accordance with their fineness in grades of 22, 18 and 14 carat. These classifications are applicable for gold jewellery/artefacts also. The maximum permissible limits of cadmium and each of platinum group metals in gold alloys for manufacturing jewellery/artefacts and gold solders are 0.02% and 0.05%, respectively," said the revised BIS guidelines dispatched to its jeweller members and associations on Thursday.

 

Meanwhile, in the revised guidelines, the BIS introduced a re-testing clause allowing negative tolerance of 2 parts per thousand, which would take care of marginal failures in market samples. Also, jewellery below 2 gm would need to be hallmarked under the new guidelines, which had been kept out in the earlier rules.

Interestingly, around half of high-value ornaments are handcrafted. Apart from that jewellery linked with cultural specifications of customers also involve unique craftsmanship. To make such jewellery, therefore, artisans normally use gold of various fineness by lowering the gold's purity by blending cadmium, ruthenium and iridium according to their requirements to manufacture jewellery. Sometimes, jewellers also use copper for connecting two joints and bringing strength for sustainability of ornaments.

"On several occasions, the fixed purity of gold caratage cannot be maintained. This means such ornaments would not be hallmarked. This means jewellers would continue to claim the purity level of such ornaments of their choice and customers would get cheated. So, the whole purpose of hallmarking gets defeated," said Surendra Mehta, Secretary, India Bullion and Jewellers Association (IBJA).

The IBJA is planning to write a letter to the MCA and BIS seeking relaxation in the revised norms and allowing hallmarking of jewellery with other gold purity levels also.

"Jewellery retailers interested in selling hallmarked jewellery have realised that these are basic purity levels to be considered in future. Hence, jewellers need to turn to these basic varieties of ornaments for manufacturing in future," said Ashok Minawala, Director, All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation (GJF).

An email sent to Alka Panda, Director General of BIS, did not elicit any response.

"The general format of gold purity is 22 carat in jewellery. But some regional customers demand 23 carat jewellery which we produce to serve them. Hence, the widely accepted purity are 22, 18 and 14 carat. But, jewellery with other than these purity levels should also be hallmarked," said Rajiv Popley, Director, Popley and Sons, a decades-old jewellery in the city.

The jewellery sector has been under pressure with the mandatory requirement of the permanent account number (PAN) for purchase over Rs 2 lakh, levy of excise duty and of late, demonetisation of high-value currency notes.

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