Gold Hallmarking: Where and How is it done?
Hallmarking is a process for assessment of the quality of the gold bought by the customer. Hallmarked gold certifies that the purity of the gold has been tested as per the norms laid by a government body called the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and that you pay the right value for the purity and amount of gold you are purchasing. According to BIS, there are two main objectives behind the hallmarking scheme. They are to protect the public against adulteration and to necessitate manufacturers to maintain legal standards of fineness/purity in their gold. To know more about hallmarking of gold jewellery and how to check the hallmark symbols on your jewellery items, you can read our guide on BIS Hallmarking - meaning & importance
So by reading the guide mentioned above, you would have the idea of what exactly hallmarking is and what are the signs one should check while looking for a hallmark on a piece of gold jewellery. However, the obvious question that comes along with the topic is - where does this process of hallmarking takes place and how? This guide will enlighten you with the answers to these questions and also about some latest developments recently done to promote hallmarking in India.
Where is Gold Hallmarking done?
Hallmarking of gold or gold jewellery is done at various AHCs (assaying and hallmarking centres) present across the country. These AHCs are licensed and monitored by the BIS and form the backbone of all gold hallmarking processes. There are about 916 AHCs present across India, licensed under the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) that support a network of nearly 30,000 jewellers. Any BIS certified jeweller or seller has the right to register itself with any of the BIS recognized assaying and hallmarking centres to get its jewellery marked. However, the gold jewellery items
are hallmarked by the AHC only after making sure that the piece conforms to the declared purity and fineness.
The primary purpose of the AHC is to govern the hallmarking process from beginning to end and to ensure that the karatage of the gold articles is stamped correctly. If any piece of gold jewellery does not meet the hallmark requirements or its quality is found lower than the purity stated, then the AHC has the authority to melt it. At present in India, hallmarking is done only for three purity grades – 22k, 18k and 14k gold.
The Process of Gold Hallmarking
The hallmarking process is carried out in 3 steps - homogeneity testing, purity testing and individual items marking.
In the homogeneity testing, all items within a given sample are taken and checked to ensure that they comply with the necessary regulatory standards of BIS.
In purity testing, the items are tested in detail which is why it is the most complicated step in the process. Firstly, 1 out of 50 similar items is randomly selected for testing. Then, a preliminary test is carried out on the surface of each item, after which smaller samples from each item are taken for further detailed examination. Finally, intense assay tests are done to determine the value, purity and fineness of the gold.
The final step involves marking individual items once this rigorous testing is done. Based upon the test results, hallmarks are applied through laser, press or hand marking.
Latest Developments to Promote Hallmarking in India
In the past 15 to 17 years, there has been a significant increase in the amount of AHCs across the country. And also, strict measures have been taken to reorganize the supervisory structure for various retailers and hallmarkers. As a result, manufacturing of under-karatage jewellery has decreased from 20-40% to 10-15%. Not only that. To promote jewellery hallmarking, BIS has reduced the license fee for jewellers in rural areas. The AHC equipment cost has also been substantially reduced so that more AHCs can be set up in rural parts of India.
Moreover, from this year onwards, the government has made it mandatory for all jewellers to hallmark their gold jewellery. It has given time till the 1st of June, 2021 to all jewellers and retailers to register themselves with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and clear their old stock. So, from June 2021, no jeweller, be it local or online, will be allowed to sell any gold items without hallmarking.
With adequate government support, more AHCs are being set up in rural areas to benefit the local population, thus removing the problem of over-clustering of AHCs in urban areas. Also, with significant steps being taken to mandate hallmarking mandatory in India, the BIS and the government are working towards building AHCs wherever required.