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Understanding BIS Hallmark

"I want Hallmark jewelry" a statement I've heard a lot over the last two years from the customers I have attended, but hardly any of them knew what they meant by it. They were asking for 22 karat gold jewelry, which can or cannot be hallmarked, which made me realize there's a gross misunderstanding regarding Hallmark in the minds of most consumers in this country. Hence I felt compelled to write this post, where I'll try to explain BIS Hallmark from every angle possible.


Understanding Karat value

The very first thing you need to understand is the Karat value of Gold. People often confuse Karat with Carat. Carat is unit of measurement for weights.

1 carat or ct = 200mg or 0.200gm of Gold.

Karat on the other hand, is the purity level of Gold or the fineness of Gold when mixed with alloys. It measure the parts per 24. So 24 karat or 24K is 100% pure gold.

Once there are other metals mixed with Gold to make an alloy, the purity level naturally goes down. These metals are usually Silver, Copper, Zinc, Nickel and Cadmium. Cadmium being a controversial one. These metals are added to add strength and color to Gold, as gold in its purest form is very soft and malleable.

So if there is 22 parts of Gold and 2 parts of alloy, that alloy is 22K pure. If there is 18 parts of Gold and 6 parts of alloy its 18K pure. If its 14 parts gold and 10 parts alloys its 14K pure.


Karat value in terms of percentage %

Now that you know what 22K, 18K, and 14K means, you should know its percentage value too. Its very simple and trivial.

If 24K is pure and 100% gold, then

22K is 22/24 = 91.60%

18K is 18/24 = 75.00% &

14K is 14/24 = 58.30% (often written 58.50%)


Now that you know all about Karat value and its corresponding percentage value, I can explain what Hallmarking is exactly,


BIS mandates Gold Hallmark

Gold has held value ever since, and is a next to liquid investment. Indian's adore it, and most of the population being rural, it is a key mode of investment for them.

Since people back then and lot of them even now didn't know about gold purity levels, government mandated Bureau of Indian Standards to start Hallmarking scheme for gold in 2000 and for silver in 2005.

"Hallmarking is the accurate determination and official recording of the proportionate content of precious metal in the jewellery/artefacts or bullion/coins" (bis.gov.in).

So Hallmarking is simply stamping your gold/silvery jewelry/artefact with a mark that mentions what is the purity level of Gold/Silver in your coin/ artefact/ jewelry. It does not mean any particular level of purity, and certainly does not mean just 22K pure Gold Jewellery. 22K, 18K, and 14K are all Hallmark grades.


Indian standards specifies 3 different grades only on Gold Hallmarking -

22K/916, 18K/750, 14K/585

for Silver jewelry/ artefacts there are 6 grades -

990, 970, 925, 900, 835 & 800


Identifying Hallmark

A hallmarked jewelry or artefact has 4 marks, stamped in this order -

BIS logo - Gold or Silvery purity/ fineness - Hallmarking/assaying center's identification mark/ number - Jeweller's identification mark/number

This mark is usually stamped on the inner side of the jewelry, and must be visible clearly at least using a 10X magnification device.

Hallmark was a voluntary scheme for jewelers until this year on 15th January 2020, BIS made it a compulsion for every jeweler to sell only hallmark gold jewelry. This will come into force from 01 June 2021.


Hallmarking on studded Jewelry

Until last year any type of studded jewelry like, Kundan, Polki or even diamond Jewelry, was hallmarked just like plain gold jewelry without stones.

Since last year end, any studded jewelry with stones, Polki, Diamonds, requires the jeweler to mention the net weight of the jewelry, along with the Hallmark stamp. Net weight of the jewelry, is the weight after deducting any kinds of precious, semi-precious or non-precious stones.

This move is beneficial for customers, since for future, their buyback or return value can be determined by the gold weight mentioned.



Cadmium

Earlier gold jewelry was soldered using copper, and it was mixed with Gold to form alloy, but the percentage of copper had to be lot more, and it couldn't provide 22K gold.

Hence Cadmium began to be used in Gold Jewelry, since it could be used in a proportion providing 22K purity.

Cadmium infused Gold Jewelry is widely known as KDM Gold Jewelry. Everything was fine until cadmium was found to be toxic, and potentially harmful to skin.

Hence new guidelines restrict assay centers to hallmark a gold jewelry item which uses cadmium soldering. They can put a laser marking stating whatever the jeweler asks them to, but it won't be a hallmark stamp. It might say 18K or 22K but not a hallmark stamp.

Hence sometimes your jewelry might not be hallmarked, but it might have the purity level, the jeweler says it is.


Pricing

Hallmarking is a nominal charge of under Rs.35/- excluding tax for Gold jewel, and Rs. 25/- excl. tax for Silver.

Apart from this, now that you know about percentage value of different gold purities, you can calculate the true purity rate of any gold hallmark. E.g. - if 24K is 5000/gm then 22K = 0.916 * 5000 = 4580/gm.


Conclusion

  • Hallmarking is a proof of purity, of the Gold used in the jewelry you are purchasing.

  • It grades Gold in 3 grades - 14, 18 & 22K. Silver in 6 grades.

  • It does not refer to any grade in particular like 22K.

  • Any other marking, rather than the one mentioned above, is simply a laser stamping. If you consider it hallmarking, is upon your trust in your jeweler. For instance a piece of ring with 18k purity and cadmium used for soldering, will be 75% pure, but it won't be hallmarked, according to the BIS.

  • Understanding gold purity grades is only tip of the iceberg, is 22K Jewelry actually beneficial to you? Every hallmark grade or gold purity has its own pros and cons, and I'll write about that in my next post.


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