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BIS Hallmarking - Meaning & Importance

Indians have always been in love with gold, and this love continues to bloom, making India the second-largest gold consumer in the world. Be it in the form of gold jewellery, gold coins or investments, gold is such an essential part of our culture that we even have auspicious festivals for buying gold. But in a country that has about 4.50,000 goldsmiths and 1,00,000 gold jewellers, how to make sure if the gold that you are buying is pure?

To ensure that consumers are not cheated by jewellers or manufacturers while buying gold and make sure they get the right purity as promised on the gold ornaments or coins, a marking system was introduced by the Government of India in the year 2000. This system, called the BIS hallmarking, ensures the purity of gold by testing and certifying gold jewellery or items for the consumers. Until now, hallmarking of gold jewellery is a voluntary option for jewellers in India. But from January 15th, 2021, no jeweller will be allowed to sell any gold without hallmarking.

What is BIS Hallmarking?

BIS Hallmarking is a system that helps to determine the purity of gold and silver jewels sold across the country. It is a type of certification issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the national standards organization of India. After evaluating and testing gold articles of jewellers, this authorized agency allots some marks to certify the purity and authenticity of that gold. It also governs the entire process under the BIS act and issues the BIS Hallmark Certificate. Hallmarked jewellery validates that the metals used in that piece of jewellery adheres to the rules and regulations of BIS act.

Hallmarking of gold in India started in April 2000. Before that, consumers never had the surest way of determining the purity of gold in their jewellery. The hallmark is credible proof of the quality and purity of a gold item as it ensures that the metals used to make that item conforms to international and national standards of purity and fineness. As per BIS, hallmarking is done to protect the public against contamination and also to compel gold jewellers and manufacturers to maintain legal standards of fineness and purity.

What are the Signs of a BIS Hallmark?

According to BIS, hallmarked gold items are inscribed or stamped with four components to ensure the purity of gold. These marks are:

1. The standard BIS Logo
2. Purity Mark in Karat and Fineness
3. The Assaying and Hallmarking Center's logo/number
4. The Jeweller's Identification mark/logo

Note: Before January 1st 2017, Gold Hallmarks also used to include the year of marking denoted by a code letter, eg 'A' for the year 2000, 'B' for the year 2001, 'R' for the year 2013 and so on.

BIS Standard Logo: It is a triangular-shaped standard mark which indicates that the purity of that gold item is verified in one of the licensed labs of BIS. This logo will be common on every hallmarked gold jewellery or coin.

Purity Mark: This mark certifies the amount of gold purity in that item indicated in two ways: Karat (denoted as KT or K) and fineness number. According to BIS from January 1st 2017, hallmarking is done only for three levels of gold karats - 22K, 18K & 14K gold. Prior to that, hallmarking was done for more standards such as 23K, 21K, 17K, 9K.

Fineness number is another way to quantify the gold purity of an item, measured in purity in parts per thousand. Simply to say, it is the percentage of pure gold in the total gold alloy. So this means a gold chain of purity 22 karats with have a fineness of 916 (91.6%) and will be marked as 22K916. Likewise, jewellery items made of 18k and 14k gold will be marked as 18K750 and 14K585, respectively.

Assaying and Hallmarking Center's Mark: The third mark on the hallmarked piece is the logo of the hallmarking centre or the third party assayer where that gold is assessed to check its purity. Only licensed laboratories or centres of BIS are allowed to check the purity and put this mark. This is done so that the gold piece can be traced back to the centre if any discrepancies arise later. You can check on the BIS website if a particular hallmarking centre is licensed by them or not.

Jeweller's Identification Mark: The jeweller or manufacturer of the gold item also puts its identification mark or logo on it. Each BIS certified jeweller or jewellery manufacturer has a unique logo that is embossed on their jewellery or other items. The official BIS website has a list of jewellers that are certified by them.

Why is it Important to Only Buy Hallmarked Gold?

Gold is a precious and expensive metal. And just by merely looking at the gold jewellery, it is impossible to judge the exact quality and purity of it. An expert is required to provide with that level of assurance. And without the confirmation of its purity, you could end up paying way more than the actual worth of that gold item.

However, once you've spotted all the four symbols of the BIS hallmark on the jewellery, you can be sure about the purity and fineness of that item. Moreover, selling or recycling a hallmarked gold item is a lot more convenient. As you are self-assured of its purity, you won't have to take it to an assaying centre to get it tested, nor will you have to agree to the jeweller's claim for it. You can just ask for the right price according to the prevailing gold rate before making a purchase.

While buying gold jewellery or coins, awareness is the key. If you are conscious about your rights as a customer, there are less chances of purchasing anything but genuine gold. So, whether you buy gold jewelery, gold coins or anything else in gold, is it essential for you to always go for hallmarked items. And, don’t forget to check the live gold rate in India before buying any gold item online or offline.