ALL THAT glitters is gold, at least for a majority of consumers. If statistics are anything to go by, over 99 per cent consumers in Indore take the jeweller’s word on the purity of gold at face value and don’t bother about certification or hallmarking.
At present, out of over 1,000 gold jewellery shops in the City, only 12 showrooms have got BIS licence to sell hallmarked jewellery. This should come as no surprise except for the fact that Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has been creating awareness about hallmarking since past four to five years, and the government has decided to make hallmarking of gold jewellery compulsory from January 1, 2008.
Hallmarking signifies that gold articles have been evaluated and tested at an official assaying centre, and the articles bear a serial number indicating the caratage.
Indore Chandi Sona Jawaharat Vyapari Association President Hukum Chand Soni attributes the reluctance of traders to sell hallmarked jewellery to high input costs and associated risks. “Small and medium jewellers are reluctant to fish out Rs 20,000 per year as licence fees. Moreover, there is no authorised testing centre in Madhya Pradesh and traders will have to send the jewellery to Mumbai or Delhi for certification, which means more expense and a great deal of risk.”
The latter problem would be solved soon, as BIS is about to authorise Indore-based Choksi Laboratories to hallmark silver and gold jewellery. Sources say the final clearance could come as early as first week of November.
“The problem is lack of awareness among the buyers,” says Sumeet Anand of Punjabi Saraf, one of the BIS-certified showrooms in the City. “It is strange that when people buy property they demand proper documentation, but the same people buy gold on blind faith.” When asked about rise in input costs of certified jewellery, Anand said they had reduced the margins to stay competitive.
Jewellers who have gone for hallmarking believe that once public becomes more aware, the increase in sales volume of certified jewellery would more than compensate for low margins and when the hallmarking becomes mandatory they could compete on a level playing field.
The BIS on its part is not sitting idle. “We have launched awareness drive on a national level including advertisements in electronic and print media,” says BIS, Bhopal, head Dr A P Chandra Rao. “We also hold seminars for jewellers from time to time to explain them the benefits of hallmarking.”
Soni, however, feels that hallmarking doesn’t prevent unscrupulous elements from selling under-carated jewellery. “There are reports from some quarters about corruption in the laboratories authorised by BIS. Jewellers in collusion with the staff manage to get authentication for substandard jewellery,” he alleged.
Refuting the charge, Dr Rao said they had not come across any such incident in the country. “These allegations are made by people who want to avoid hallmarking due to obvious reasons. We draw market samples regularly to keep tabs on all the certified showrooms,” he said.
As with any change, there is resistance, but it seems that hallmarked jewellery is here to stay. Now, perhaps, all that glitters will be gold.