Hallmark indicates that the gold content in the jewellery has been evaluated and that it adheres to international standards of purity.

Buying gold for most of us is hardly done on a whim with volatile prices, auspicious times and about two dozen stores to choose from! While we can’t help you decide on the first two aspects, the last one certainly can be narrowed down.

To make sure your hard-earned money is well-spent, look for a jeweller whose retails hallmarked jewellery. A Hallmark – or Standard Mark – for gold jewellery is awarded by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). A Hallmark indicates that the gold content in the jewellery has been evaluated and that the gold adheres to international standards of purity. That is to say, you can take the gold quality as claimed by the jeweller to be genuine.

This Hallmark consists of five parts. The first is the logo of the BIS Standard Mark. The second is the fineness mark. This refers to the gold caratage and is represented as the amount of gold in parts out of 1000. So, if the mark says 916, then it means that gold forms 91.6 per cent of the total metal. The highest number is 999, but since such pure gold is hardly ever available in jewellery, it’s largely ignored.

Breaking up the mark

According to BIS standards, the fineness marks are thus: 958, 916, 875, 750, 585 and 375 indicating, in order, 23, 22, 21, 18, 14 and 9 carat gold.

The third part of the hallmark is the mark of the assaying centre which carries out the certification process, represented by a logo. The list of hallmarking centres with their symbols can be found on the Web site of the BIS. The fourth part is the logo of the jeweller. The final part is the year of marking, represented by a code approved by the BIS. For instance, ‘A’ denotes the year 2000, ‘B’ 2001 and so on.

Other precious stones

It’s not only gold which is hallmarked. Silver articles too fall under the BIS scheme. The procedure for silver hallmarking mirrors that of gold, down to the Hallmark stamp on the articles or jewellery. The unlikely but still possible scenario is that the gold or silver is genuine but the gemstones embedded in it are not. Unfortunately, in this case, you have little choice other than take the jeweller’s word. There are institutes such as the Gemological Institute of India, GJEPC and GIA India which certify gemstones to be genuine. But this certification is not essential. An issue with certifying gemstones, according to Mr Rajiv Jain, Chairman, GJEPC, is that sometimes, stones are much too small in size relative to the cost paid out by the jeweller in the certification process. Once a jeweller is certified, every sales outlet has to display the BIS license number, and the complete official address of the jeweller.

Your rights

Also required at every outlet is an illustration of the Hallmark, explaining its components. And since the Hallmark is usually miniscule, you can demand a magnifying glass to make a proper check.

Further, let’s say you’ve checked up on the jeweller and seen the mark and so on, but are still doubtful of the gold’s authenticity. You can go to an authorised Assaying and Hallmarking centre and get the gold tested.

While you do have to pay testing charges, if your suspicion turns out right and the gold’s purity is less than what is marked, the charges will be refunded. Your jeweller will also have to provide a replacement.

The BIS itself carries out random checks from time to time on the certified jewellers to ensure that they haven’t moved off the path.

Differences in marked and actual purity can lead to cancellation of the license. The list of jewellers with licensed products too is available on the BIS Web site.

But , the stamp of authenticity is likely to push up making costs. Since fees and such have to be paid by the jeweller, these costs could be added on to the end-cost of the jewellery.

acharya@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 7, 2012)
XThese are links to The Hindu Business Line suggested by Outbrain, which may or may not be relevant to the other content on this page. You can read Outbrain's privacy and cookie policy here.