Rushing to buy gold? Check for its purity

Bavadharini KS | Updated on May 06, 2019

In India, two precious metals — gold and silver — have been brought under the purview of hallmarking. File photo   -  Reuters

Proceed with caution. Look for the hallmark symbol and its components

India is one of the largest gold markets in the world. Gold is cherished both as an adornment and as an investment, but it is most sought-after in the form of jewellery. The number of jewellery stores across the country are testimony to this. Indians need no excuse to buy gold in any form, and Akshaya Tritiya is an auspicious occasion to buy the yellow metal. In a rush to buy gold at the best rate, don’t forget to do your due diligence on its quality, as the value of gold is measured by its purity.

Gold hallmark

Before checking the purity of gold, it is important to understand the concept of hallmarking. The hallmark symbol certifies the purity of gold articles in accordance with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) — the national body for standards. If you are buying gold, look for the BIS-certified hallmark, which ensures you don’t buy inferior quality. Hallmarks are official marks used in many countries as a guarantee of purity or fineness of precious metal articles. In India, two precious metals — gold and silver — have been brought under the purview of hallmarking.

The BIS Hallmarking Scheme is a voluntary scheme operated through the Bureau’s network of regional offices across the country. As per this scheme, a jeweller applies for and is granted a licence that certifies the purity of gold or silver jewellery. Each piece of jewellery he sells is hallmarked through a BIS-recognised assaying and hallmarking centre.

The BIS conducts regular surveillance audits of assaying and hallmarking centres, testing random market samples from licensed jewellers.

What to look?

A hallmark consists of four key components — the BIS mark, the fineness number, the assaying and hallmarking centre’s mark and the jeweller’s identification mark. The marking is done using either punches or laser-marking machine. In accordance with BIS procedures, hallmarking is applied to all parts of the item that can be easily detached, except for lightweight items and bangles where it is applied only once, says a report on hallmarking from WGC.

Let’s see what each component means.

The BIS mark: Any gold jewellery that is hallmarked by BIS will bear its logo.

Carat and fineness number: Another component to look for is the purity of gold. This is usually measured in carat (KT) and fineness number. A 24KT is considered to be the purest form of gold; however, it is too soft to be converted into any jewellery. Certain metals such as copper and silver are added to make it durable. For instance, if a jeweller says 22 carat (22K) gold, it contains, 91.7 per cent gold, 5 per cent silver, 2 per cent copper and 1.3 per cent zinc.

Fineness number is also another way to measure gold’s purity. It is measured in parts per thousand. According to the World Gold Council, 24KT should be 1 (24/24), but there is likely to be slight impurity in any gold; it can only be refined to a fineness level of 999.9 parts per thousand. So a 22KT is 0.916 (22/24).

According to BIS, from January 2017, gold hallmark is given for only three levels of purity — 22K916 (22 carat), 18K750 (18 carat) and 14K585 (14 carat).

Identification marks: Another component to look for is the assaying and hallmark centre’s mark or number and the jeweller’s identification mark. It is important to note that the jewellery is hallmarked by BIS-recognised assaying and hallmarking centres and not by jewellers. There are 400-plus centres in the country with about 40 per cent of them in the southern states.

If you had purchased gold before December 32, 2016, the year of making would also be visible in the jewellery, denoted in the form of a code, as determined by BIS. For instance, there will be ‘R’ for year 2013 and ‘C’ for 2002.

BIS scheme cover hallmarking for gold medallions (in the shape of coins) of 995 fineness and below are permitted.

So, every time you purchase gold, proceed with care and caution.


If you had purchased a gold ornament and are not sure of its purity, you can have it tested in an assaying and hallmark centre. The centre is expected to undertake testing of jewellery of common consumers on priority basis and issue a report. In case the hallmarked jewellery is found to be of lesser purity, the testing charges will be refunded and the jeweller is obliged to replace the item to satisfy the consumer.

Published on May 06, 2019

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