Gold carries a strong emotional and cultural heritage along with it in all parts of the world. It has been the prime choice of women in making ornaments from the first days of the metal age. Every woman loves to have it in their possession. In many occasions and weddings, Gold is exchanged in the form of the ornaments. It is a proven fact to judge the softness of the metal that, a three kilometers long wire can be made from a single gram of pure Gold. To make the metal hard and strong we need to mix a few portions of other metals like copper, zinc, etc. the purity of gold is inversely proportionate with the mixture. The more metals are mixed in it the more its purity dips.
It is always not possible to judge the purity of Gold from its color. To minimize these kinds of problems, over three hundred years ago a marking was started to guarantee the purity and fineness on the precious metals like Gold by the London Goldsmith Hall and it was done on a voluntary basis. Later on, this marking system became famous and it was renamed as the Hallmarking on the precious metals. It achieved more popularity in the twentieth century among the customers who were concerned about the purity of the metal. A convention was held at Vienna in 1972 on Control and Marking on Precious Metals. Countries like United Kingdom, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland took active part in the convention. The main aim of the convention was to facilitate the fair trade of the precious metal articles with a view of protection of the consumer rights and safeguarding of the consumer interests. Few common sets of technical necessities were announced in the convention for the individual verifications by the third parties. The participating countries agreed to allow all the articles and goods with the Hallmark to be imported without any further technical verification. With the Hallmark on them the articles will simply and normally qualify for the sale in the domestic market. The CCM (Convention’s Common Mark) was started to be applied by all the National Assay Offices which were designated under the general terms of the Vienna Convention to all the articles made of Gold, Silver and Platinum. They used to put the marks on the articles after checking them through the agreed testing methods. The CCM is applied individually and independently by the countries. In some European countries the Hallmark system is compulsory and the others practice a voluntary system. Some of the countries also have a mixed system of compulsory and voluntary, both in practice. For example, in Switzerland, only the case of the watch is compulsory to bear the Hallmark. Other countries like China, Bahrain, Croatia, Spain, Slovenia, France, Sri Lanka, UAE, Serbia- Montenegro and India are the regular followers of the Convention for more active participation in the international trade of the precious metallic articles.
Hallmarking system in India was started on a voluntary basis by the HHEC, who was the first importers of the complete set of the equipments of Hallmarking from the United Kingdom. It was done under the Indo-British Bridging Development Program and the first Hallmarking unit for the jewellery was established in the Jhandewallan Flatted Factory Complex. The unit facilitated the Jewelers and the traders of the complex area to maintain the international quality standards. The step was taken to increase the share of India in the international Jewellery trade. The unit was handed over to the MMTC limited later on who again sent there top business officials to the British Hallmarking Center to get trained. The World Gold Council (WGC) is also a vital part of the Hallmark campaign and they are also equally responsible to make it a bigger success in India through various seminars and workshops. Bureau of Indian Standards was identified by the Indian Government to operate the whole scheme of Hallmarking and they started their scheme on 11 April 2001. The standards of Hallmarking were set by the BIS which are at par with the international Standards of control and marking of the quality of precious metals. BIS is granting license to the Jewelers and on the other hand recognizing all the assigned Hallmarking Centers in India according to the pre-defined criteria. The licensed Jewelers can register themselves in any recognized Hallmarking Centers to get their products certified for the purity of the metal. Every center has their own sets of the latest Hallmarking equipments to satisfy their clients meeting the international standards. BIS is closely monitoring the centers to ensure the procedure of the Hallmarking is according to the International norms and guidelines. All of the Hallmarking centers in India are working on the latest and globally accepted “Fire Assaying Method” to ensure the quality of the products.
Fire Assing: lots of methods are used to test the purity of Gold like Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometry and X-Ray Fluorescence.
The Electronic Gold Tester Pen: this method is the most traditional method of testing the purity of Gold with the stone.
Fire Assay: this is the most accurate method of testing the purity of gold. The system has an accuracy percentage of 0.02% and is accepted world wide. For testing the Gold we are relying on a sample metal from an article and added some amount of silver in that. Then the whole thing is wrapped in a foil which is highly recommended for this purpose. The mixed and wrapped metals are then put into the cupellation Unit. The process will remove all the base metals and separate them. After taking out the wrap we will place the Gold and silver alloy into the nitric acid which will remove the silver leaving behind the pure gold. This same technique is used by all the Hallmarking Units worldwide for the measurement and control of the purity of Gold. Each and every hallmarking center in our country is working on the guidelines provided by the BIS and maintaining the international standards and purity levels of the precious metal. According to the BIS guidelines all the Hallmarking centers in India will have to stamp the following parameters in a checked Gold coin or an article:
BIS LOGO: BIS is solely responsible for monitoring the working standards of the Hallmarking Units in India. According to the law the logo of BIS will have to be there in each coin or article made up of gold and tested under the guidelines of BIS in any Hallmarking Unit to guarantee the international standard of purity of the article.
Hallmarking Center Logo: The logo of the hallmarking center which has tested the article should be there n it to certify their testing. This will help the consumer to get back to them in case of any controversy or mistake done by the particular center.
Jeweler’s Mark: The jeweler’s mark is important for the customer to remember the place from where the article was purchased. They can any time contact the jeweler for any dispute.
Year Of Marking (The Code Letter): The code letter represents the particular year when the jewellery was Hallmarked under the guidelines of BIS. For example the year 2006 was denoted by the letter “G”.
Fineness Of Gold (Number): this is actually the ratio of the purity tested by the Hallmarking Unit. The number denotes the ratio on 1000 portions. The number 916 means 22 Karat, 875 stands for 21 Karats, 750 is for 18 Karats, 585 means 14 Karats, 375 stands for 9 karats. We should always remember that this method is as per the design structured by the CCM. The other important fact is that the Hallmarking can only be done on Gold of 9 to 23 karats. Below 9 and above the 23 karats Jewellery and coins can not be tested by the Hallmarking centers. In case of the silver ornaments Hallmarking can be done on 80% to 97% silver contained ones and the coins can be tested with up to 99.90% silver content in them.