Retail jewellers across the State are demanding a revamp of the hallmarking norms, saying that only they are held responsible for impurities found in ornaments and not the manufacturers or the hallmarking centres. Some allege that the system followed for hallmarking is flawed, with only a random sample or two tested for purity.
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has detected impurities, even carcinogenic substances such as iridium and ruthenium, in hallmarked jewellery sold by some jewellers in the State, leading to the cancellation of the hallmarking licence of at least 30. Even customers seem to be steadily losing faith in hallmarking.
The Kerala chapter of the Indian Association of Hallmarking Centres has issued a directive to retail jewellers in the State on the conditions to follow to maintain quality and avoid cancellation of the licence. But jewellers allege it is a ruse by the hallmarking centres to wash their hands of their responsibility.
Bhima Girirajan, president of the All Kerala Gold and Silver Merchants Association, told The Hindu on Thursday that a section of the hallmarking centres were issuing hallmarked tags to products which were not of 916-purity gold. He said some leading gold ornament manufacturers had hallmarking centres. The merchants had come out against the BIS for giving hallmarking franchise to the manufacturers.
Ramamohan Kamat, secretary of the Calicut Bullion Dealers’ Association, supported the view that the hallmarking norms should be overhauled. He said most jewellers buy their products in lots from manufacturers in Thrissur, Mumbai, Rajkot or Kolkata.
If, for instance, 100 rings of the same type were bought, one or two would be selected at random for the fire assay test at a hallmarking centre. The rest would only be made to pass through an X-ray fluorescence machine for hallmarking and there was no guarantee that they would be of 916-purity gold. A fee of Rs. 25 had to be paid for each piece. “So how can the jeweller be blamed,” Mr. Kamat asked. The manufacturer could go for hallmarking before selling the ornaments to the jeweller, but then the logo stamped on them would be of the former.
Mr. Kamat said that retail jewellers had not been consulted during the framing of the hallmarking rules. Thus, hallmarking remained an advertising point rather than a stamp of quality. Customers felt that all talk about hallmarking was a trick.
A.P. Ahammed, chairman of the Malabar Group of Companies, said the hallmarking system was functioning properly in the State. Some black sheep would be there in all sectors and the hallmarking sector too was not free of that. It was the duty of the government to identify such operators and weed them out.