Consumer affairs minister KV Thomas said: "Hallmarking of gold is not compulsory at present. We have reduced the licence fee because jewellers from smaller towns were not coming forward to take licence for hallmarking due to high fee." Jewellery accounts for 65% of gold demand in India.
The Bureau of Indian Standards under the consumer affairs ministry, which is the administrative authority for hallmarking, has decided to allow public to offer samples for testing if they are suspicious of the quality of the hallmarked product and will be rewarded for information on misuse of the hallmark certification.
The vendor fee for hallmark certification will be slashed to R2,500 for three years in smaller towns having population below 3 lakh and R5,000 in cities that have population between 3 lakh and 10 lakh, he added. Currently, the licence fee is R20,000 for three years for jewellers across India.
BIS director-general Sunil Soni said his organisation would outsource the process of generating UINs to an IT consultant and will take 2-3 months to get the numbers. "UINs will help in accessing the history of the hallmarked jewellery article. It will have details such as name of manufacturer, centre of hallmark and purity data," he said. Consumers can verify the details before purchasing, he added.
"The UIN will be printed on the invoice so that any jeweller can't deny he hasn't sold the product. The government's decisions will encourage vendors, even in remote areas, to get products certified by designated agencies. Even in case of hand-crafted jewellery products, quality certification is possible," said Gaurav Issar of Institute of Diamond Trade.
Jewellers say quality certifications will enhance fresh investment as those who refrai-ned from buying over quality concerns may be tempted to buy. Handcrafted gold pieces often leave enough room for dubious claims on caratage.
A scheme for testing public samples has been launched to get the ISI-marked product tested from BIS-recognized labs and hallmarked jewellery tested from BIS referral labs. "A provision has been made to refund the cost of product plus testing charges in case the quality of the ISI marked product or the purity of hallmarked jewellery is found to be lower than the declaration," Thomas added.
At present, 70-80% of gold jewellery sold in southern India has ISI/hallmark certification, but it's not so popular in the north.