Not so pure

The government’s decision to make hallmarking compulsory for all gold jewellery is welcome in these times of rising gold prices and falling quality.

Voluntary hallmarking has existed since the government proposed it in 2001. But very few jewellers opted for it and the claims of those who supposedly went in for it were suspect. It was made mandatory in four metropolitan cities in 2007.  It has worked fairly well though there are some aspects which can be improved. Extension of the system across the country to all cities, towns and villages will pose many challenges. There is hardly any place where gold business does not exist and implementation of the rule may not be easy.

Hallmarking involves stamping the sign of purity, guaranteed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) on all gold jewellery items. It is common knowledge that customers are frequently cheated on the purity of gold which is difficult for a lay person to evaluate.

Eighteen or 20 carat gold is sometimes passed off as standard gold. Some substances which are mixed with gold are detrimental to health. So there was clearly a case for quality control.

Gold has considerable resale value but customers are often shortchanged at the time of resale on the issue of quality. The loss is greater when jewellery is sold at a shop different from where it was bought. Hallmarking will ensure that jewellery is accepted at any shop without the price being cut for any reason. Importantly, it brings transparency to a business which has lacked it all along.

Implementation is not going to be easy. There are over 3.5 lakh jewellery shops and many more goldsmiths in the country, spread over thousands of places. BIS has only 200 quality testing and certifying centres and it will have to tremendously expand its manpower and network. The quality mark will be difficult to put in small items made by artisans though it may not be a problem with machine-made jewellery.

Though jewellers have generally welcomed the decision there are some who have expressed reservations on the ground that small jewellers and village goldsmiths will be hit. It’s a fallacy because the customers will be prepared to pay a higher price if quality is assured. Technical and infrastructure problems should be resolved soon so that the decision is implemented at the earliest.

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