Gold hallmarking is a welcome step and was long overdue; move to further organise sector, benefit end consumer

Jewellery Hallmarking

By allowing phase-wise implementation, exempting small jewellers and ensuring non-coercive action on failure to meet deadline, government has balanced the interests of all stakeholders.

India has now made it mandatory for jewellers to sell only hallmarked jewellery, which is a significant step towards making the sector more organised. This is also a win-win situation for the end consumers who will now be ensured purity of gold and also standard valuation whether they decide to buy the yellow metal or sell it.

While the rules have come into effect in 256 districts across the country, the implementation is in a phased manner and will give time to the jewellers to get the systems in place.

Hallmark gold is certified gold which means that the gold used for making jewellery lives-up to the international standards of purity. Hallmarking is the process where Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) stamps a certificate for purity and fineness of gold.

Gold hallmarking in India has been voluntary so far, something which has been prevalent mostly in branded showrooms. As per a media report, only around 40 per cent of gold jewellery was being hallmarked until now. It is estimated that India has around 4 lakh jewellers and just around 35,000 jewellers are BIS certified.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs through a 14 June notification notified two categories for mandatory hallmarking — gold jewellery and gold artefacts and silver jewellery and silver artefacts. The hallmarking in India is available for jewellery of only two metals — gold and silver.

This means that Kundan jewellery, polka jewellery, gold watches, pens and jadau jewellery among other items have been excluded from mandatory hallmarking.

Under the new rules, the hallmarking shall be done at the first point of sale which could be manufacturer, whole-seller, distributor or retailer. The alteration (increase or decrease) in the purity of hallmarked jewellery has been allowed up to 2 grams and the responsibility of purity will now rest with the jeweller.

The new rules mandate selling of hallmarked gold which are 14, 18 and 22 carats. The hallmarking was initially done only in these three categories. Now three more categories will be required for mandatory hallmarking viz. for 20, 23 and 24 carats. A wider purview only augurs well for the end consumer and this again is a welcome step.

Also, interests of small jewellers and people who cannot afford expensive branded jewellery have been considered. Jewellers who have annual turnover below Rs 40 lakh have been exempted from mandatory hallmarking implementation. They are free to sell hallmarked or non-hallmarked jewellery and no action will be taken against them for non-implementation.

Businesses that are into exports and reimport of jewellery under the trade policy have also been kept out of the purview of mandatory hallmarking. Moreover, jewellery meant for international exhibitions and for government-approved B2B domestic exhibitions has also been kept out of the scheme for now.

The jewellers are allowed to buy non-hallmarked jewellery. This serves well for households as their non-hallmarked jewellery does not come under the hammer and people are free to sell those.

Benefits of Gold Hallmarking

Gold hallmarking has long been overdue in the country. The decision to mandate selling of hallmarked Gold aims to hit two birds with one stone. The first aim is to make this industry more organised and ensure credibility. Another very important objective is to give authentic material at standard value to the customers.

Hallmarked gold or jewellery will ensure that the customers get the right caratage as has been promised by a local shopkeeper or branded showrooms. This is expected to mitigate cheating by unscrupulous sellers.

Mandatory hallmarking is also expected to ensure that a uniform price is charged from the customers for the same quality of gold across the country. However, one must not confuse this with uniformity in prices of jewellery, as the price of finished product of identical weight and purity could vary from one jeweller to another.

One will also not have to worry about the valuation of the gold, if he or she decides to sell it. A certified gold is likely to fetch the same price irrespective of where the person choses to sell it depending upon the market price of gold on that day. An uncertified gold can be valued differently by different buyers and even the customer may not know the right value and if it is getting sold at a befitting price.

Even in cases, where one pledges Gold as a collateral against loans, the hallmarked gold is likely to ensure higher credit for the same quantity of gold. The banks and gold companies also give interest on Gold that you deposit with them. A higher value of gold can give better interest income for the same piece of gold or jewellery.

Headwinds

The industry has been demanding for this landmark reform for quite some time. The government finally accepted the demand and had kept it for January implementation. However, the deadline was deferred by four months as jewellers sought more time because of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis.

The government has allowed a phased implementation, which again is a welcome decision. Representations were made to the government by jewellers’ association where the government was apprised of the difficulties on the ground including lack of infrastructure to get this implemented.

Many jewellers argued for a phased-wise implementation due to the lack of hallmarking facilities or centres at many locations, where hallmarking could be done. This decision comes as a relief for many in the sector. However, jewellers are required to get their existing jewellery hallmarked by this time if it is already not hallmarked.

While there is a timeline of 1 September 2021 to get this implemented, no coercive action will be taken against the jewellers who miss the deadline because of any reason.

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