It may be made mandatory subject to Central government approval, reports K. Lakshmi
Of the over 3,000 jewellery shops in the city, only 90 have obtained license to use hallmark, a standard denoting its fineness, on gold jewellery.
One of the prime reasons cited is that the jewellers now apply for hallmarking voluntarily. The hallmarking scheme, which was launched in the year 2000 to provide third-party assurance of gold's purity, is awaiting Central government's approval to be made mandatory for jewellers. The Union Cabinet recently passed a bill approving amendments to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Act, 1986 to make hallmarking for gold ornaments mandatory, said officials of BIS.
Hallmarking is done at the 16 private laboratories approved by the BIS in and around Chennai after testing the ornaments of their purity. There are totally 180 assaying centres across the country. Officials said that inadequate assaying centres proved to be a hitch in expanding the ambit for mandatory license for all jewellers.
While purchasing the precious metal, consumers must ensure that the ornaments have hallmark with five components- BIS symbol, number denoting the fineness of gold (916 for 22-carat), logo of the hallmarking centre, code letter ‘P' representing this year's of marking and the jeweller's identification mark.
The BIS, southern region, also lifts samples from the market every alternate month and tests them for their quality at the referral laboratory in its premises. Of the 16 samples taken from various showrooms across the city between April 2011 and February this year, four did not conform to the required standard during the tests. Use of banned metals such as ruthenium and iridium were also found in few market samples, said officials.
BIS Additional Director General, New Delhi, Alka Panda said the jewellers now are informed about the deviations in the degree of purity and asked to rectify them within few months as per IS 1417:1999. “We can initiate punitive action against only when the hallmarking becomes mandatory,” she said.
She insisted that showrooms must have a magnifying glass for the consumers to counter-check the hallmark. On the KDM mark found on some jewellery, she said that it denotes the use of cadmium. The BIS has banned manufacturing jewellery by using cadmium for soldering as it is carcinogenic. It affects the artisans too.
“It is not true that hall-marked ornaments were expensive as the charges were only Rs.18 per piece irrespective of their weight,” she added.
K.Anbarasu, Deputy Director General (South), BIS, said about 250 mg of gold is required for test using fire assay method.
Silver articles too have a prescribed hallmark standard. For details, visit www.bis.org.in.