Since June, the government has been trying to usher in mandatory hallmarking of gold and silver jewellery. A hallmark indicates the actual gold or silver content in an article made of precious metals that you purchase. While this is a pro-consumer move, one of the key concerns is whether there are enough AHCs across the country.

What is it?

Assaying and Hallmarking Centres (A&H) test individual pieces of jewellery to ensure that proper standards are adhered to in their making and that the hallmarked items do contain the promised caratage of gold or silver. Only A&H centres recognised by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) can hallmark jewellery. An A&H centre will certify the purity of gold jewellery of 14, 18 and 22 carat, six grades for silver jewellery, gold coins and medallions of 24 carat. Only when an A&H centre assays the article and assigns a hallmark, can it be taken to be of certified purity. An amendment to the Indian Standard is also being issued which would permit hallmarking of six caratages of gold jewellery/artefacts — 14, 18, 20, 22, 23 and 24 carats.

These hallmarking facilities are usually located near jewellery hub or markets, and there are 915 A&H centres as on March 31, 2020.

Why is it important?

The objective of an A&H centre is to ensure that the articles sold by the jeweller are of the claimed caratage. When the jeweller registers and submits his/her articles for hallmarking online, the date and time is recorded, starting with the receipt of gold/silver article at A&H centre to the dispatch of the hallmarked article. This is intended to help in tracking the item for all parties involved.

There are four indicators to verify if the piece of jewellery or coin is of stated quality — the BIS mark, purity in caratage for gold or silver, A&H centre identification number and jeweller identification number. Since June, the last two marks have been replaced with HUID (hallmarking unique identification number). A consumer can check for these marks in the piece of jewellery before buying. Further, in due course, you can run the HUID number in BIS Care mobile application to check if it conforms to quality standards.

But there are exemptions for A&H from hallmarking certain articles. Articles weighing less than two grams, any article meant for export which conforms to any specification required by the foreign buyer, jewellers with turnover of less than ₹40 lakh per year and jewellers using Kundan, Polki and Jadaau techiniques are exempt from hallmarking.

Why should I care?

The objective of mandatory hallmark is to protect consumers against fraudulent sales of gold or silver articles. You can also get articles tested in A&H centres by paying testing charges of ₹200 per article. The details of A&H centres in your region are available on the BIS website (under hallmarking). While handing over the jewellery at the A&H centre, ensure that you get a receipt with the hallmarking cost, net weight of precious metal and purity in carat and fineness. Ideally, all A&H centres should undertake consumer requests on a priority basis and issue a report. However, depending on the work-load at the A&H centres, the timeline may go up to three months. In case any purity issues are observed, BIS is expected to ensure the same is redressed by the registered jeweller. The aggrieved consumer is entitled to get compensation calculated at two times the shortfall in caratage for the weight of the article sold and a refund of testing charges.

The bottom line

A&H centres verify that all that glitters is gold.

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