Speaking to FE on the need for hallmarking of precious jewellery, Mr Agarwal said, It is a chicken-and-egg situation, and would require some three-to-five years before it could be made mandatory. However, before introducing this, there are certain steps to be taken. Fiscal incentives to jewellers is one among them.
The high-level committee, set up by the Centre to examine the ways and means of securing consumer interest in marketing of gold products, had met for the first time in New Delhi on September 22. The committee is headed by the secretary for consumer affairs. Other members of the panel are representatives of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) under the ministry of finance (MoF), ministry of commerce and industry, MMTC, government mints, the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), World Gold Council (WGC) All India Sarafa Association , New Delhi, and the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
India is the worlds largest gold consuming country, importing more than 500 tonne of gold each year. This is in addition to the thousands of tonne of gold stashed away over centuries. However, there is no statutory requirement for the jewellers to sell authenticated hallmarked jewellery. In absence of such mandatory regulation, buyers of gold in India are grossly cheated by the jewellers as inferior quality jewellery is sold knowingly in comparison to the price he charges. Little wonder, therefore, given this daylight robbery by jewellers here, India has not become a hot global destination for quality gold and silver jewellery. Dubai enjoys the reputation for quality gold jewellery. This is because the authorities there conducts periodic surprise checks on the jewellers premises to ensure quality. If the jewellery is not up to the mark as mentioned, the jewellers licence will be cancelled.
Hallmarking is the worlds first known instance of consumer protection law. It was started in the UK and dates back to about 1300 AD. The Hallmark Act was passed in 1973 and modified by The Hallmarking (Hallmarking Act Amendment) Regulations 1998 and The Hallmarking (Hallmarking Act Amendment) Order 1998. The new regulations and standards became effective in the UK from January 1, 1999.
Thus, if international hallmarking standards are implemented here, India could emerge as a major market for gold and precious metals jewellery. On usage of cadmium a hazardous material for soldering gold jewellery, Mr Agarwal said, this has nothing to do with hallmarking. There are alternative safer soldering products available in the market. But will take time for the jewellers to change their old convinient practice of using soldering material which they say is causing health hazards.
Thus, the recommendations of the high-level committee will pave the way for drawing the roadmap for introducing hallmarking in India. But what are the Standards For gold, the new standards are 375, 585, 750, 990, 916 and 999 parts per 1000; for silver, the new standards are 800, 925, 958, and 999 parts per 1000; for platinum, the new standards are 850, 900, 950, and 999 parts per 1000.
What is more, even if the government makes it mandatory which is difficult and cannot be done overnight there are not too many assaying centres that can cater to the demands of the region. For example, there are barely two or three assaying centres in Kerala or Tamil Nadu. These cannot cover the need of hallmarked jewellery for the entire state and therefore, the need for more assaying centres.
However, according to Mr Agarwal, the assaying centres can come up only if there is demand for hallmarked jewellery.