In two big initiatives to promote sale of pure gold, government today cut licence fee for gold hallmarking by up to 87.5 per cent for jewellers in small towns and launched a system for giving a unique identification number for each jewellery with purity certification.
The current licence fee is Rs 20,000 for three years for all jewellers across the country.
After today's reduction, the licence fee will be Rs 2,500 for three years for jewellers in small towns with a population of less than three lakh.
For jewellers located in towns having a population of 3-10 lakh, the fee is Rs 5,000 for three years.
The license fee has been drastically reduced to promote hallmarking of gold, which is voluntary in nature at present.
Gold hallmarking is a purity certification of precious metals. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), under the Consumer Affairs Ministry, is the administrative authority of hallmarking.
Announcing these measures, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister K V 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."
He said BIS would introduce a unique identification number on each gold jewellery weighing more than 10 grams to protect consumers from unscrupulous jewellers.
This would help ensure traceability of jewellery and take action against those who are misusing the purity certification, he added.
THe BIS grants licence to jewellers. The BIS certified jewellers can get their hallmark from 250 assaying centres across the country.
Hallmarking is the accurate determination and official recording of the proportionate content of precious metal in articles. It is to protect the public against adulteration.
BIS Director General Sunil Soni said BIS would outsource the process of generating unique identification number (UIN) to an IT consultant and would take 2-3 months to get these numbers.
"UINs will help in accessing the entire history of the hallmarked jewellery article. It would have details of name of manufacturer, centre of hallmark and purity data," he said, adding consumers can verify these details before purchasing.
The move to generate UINs comes after reports of some discrepancies even in hallmarked jewellery during a market sample testing by BIS, sources said.
Besides slashing licence fee, Soni said, the procedure for granting licence has also been simplified.
At present, sale of hallmarked gold jewellery is highest in south India with a percentage of 70-80 per cent, while it is not so popular in north India with only 15-20 per cent of total sales comprise of gold hallmarked products.
Sale of gold hallmarked jewellery in eastern India is 30 per cent, while it is 50 per cent in west India, he added.
BIS has decided to set up a separate cell to promote trade for the benefit of industry and exporters.