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All that glitters…
3200 kg of gold jewellery was reportedly sold on Akshaya Tritiya(21 April) in Chennai. Relate this to the flourish of advertisements by Kalyan Jewellers (on the inauguration of the Chennai showroom touted as the largest was estimated to have cost of Rs 250 crore along with a Rs 50 crore ad budget spent through a star-studded ad-blitz), Lalitha Jewellers, Malabar Gold, Joy Alukas,...

With the world’s largest and the biggest showroom opened in Chennai to feast the gold-crazy population that grabs the yellow metal, it is time to know about its purity. Akshaya Tritiya, an auspicious day, has passed on and those of you who bought the metal that is believed to multiply your reserves must read below these facts;

A banker recently exclaimed that gold ornaments being pledged at the bank are never 100 per cent pure and that most of the jewellery from Chennai is impure. A recent study by Consumer Association of India lends credit to this point.

India, the largest consumer and importer of gold, consumes around 880 tonnes a year. While global consumption dipped by 18.7 per cent, India’s consumption rose by 14 per cent. A T Kearney’s report states gold jewellery trade to rise to Rs 530,000 crore by 2028. Apart from the importance of it being entwined with our culture, gold is a popular investment medium in India.  


How is jewellery made?

For each piece of gold jewellery made, a permissible level of copper is added to make it malleable. This is known as touch. Every ornament is 91.6 per cent pure and the rest is copper. Hence the 916-Hallmark symbol denotes this level of purity. For commercial use, say 8gm of gold ornament, 7328 mg of pure gold is required as 672 mg of copper is added to make the gold ductile to make jewellery. If it is different from the stipulated percentages, the ornament does not qualify for BIS standard. Surprisingly, most  Hallmarked jewels that are sold do not meet  these standards.

Apart from the Hallmarked, in suburban and rural areas there are sales of 480 tonnes of non-Hallmarked jewelry. The probability of adulteration in these ornaments is more than half.

Of late, jewellers use white metal instead of copper and silver while making jewelry. Osmium, palladium, iridium, ruthenium are some metals with varying melting points that easily evade quality tests. The amount of white metal used varies from 2 per cent to 31 per cent between Hallmarked and non-Hallmarked gold. These white metals cost just a few hundred rupees against the cost of 1 gm of gold, about Rs 2300.

BIS, the standards organisation that certifies the purity of gold, has only 324 certified centres across India. As per the approved test methods, each centre per day can handle only 500 ornaments. This amounts to 162,000 ornaments per day that are Hallmarked across India. If each ornament on an average is 10 gm, then only 591 tonnes of gold can be Hallmarked in a year whereas annual consumption is around 880 tonnes. Something clearly doesn’t add up.


Ways of checking purity

X Ray Fluorescence or the Karatometer helps in detecting impurities in gold. The latest machines have the capacity to detect upto 25 metal impurities in ornaments. Apart from this, while weighing the ornament, a round off error also adds to the burden of the customer. Now consumers can get their gold tested for purity at just Rs 25 at the BIS lab in Taramani, Chennai.

As there are no strict monitoring systems, consumers are taken for a ride. The government should intervene and take strict action against defaulting sellers by barring the licence for gold trade. More competent equipments and manpower should be added to BIS to help ensure that the hard earned money spent on this precious metal is all the worth.


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