New standards for gold jewellery, including compulsory hallmarking are likely to be implemented in the country from January to safeguard the interests of consumers.

Jewellers will get about six months to get the hallmarking licence from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), top sources in the government told The Statesman.

This will come as a big relief to the jewellers who fear incurring losses on account of hallmarking. Of a total of four lakh jewellers only 20,000 have the hallmarking licence.

Currently, due to absence of standards, the gold jewellery sold in the market is of different carat value and quality, leaving consumers in doubt about the purity of the precious metal.

Once the new regulation is implemented, all jewellers will have to sell hallmarked gold ornaments of only 14, 18 and 22 carat. BIS has been asked to frame hallmarking standards for jewellery made from 24 carat gold also, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Wednesday.

At present, there are BIS standards for hallmarking of jewellery made from 14, 18 and 22 carat gold. “Earlier, jewellery could not be made from 24 carat gold. Now it is possible to make with the sophisticated technology available abroad. There is a demand to have standards for this category also,” Paswan added.

The new BIS Act came into effect from 12 October this year. The governing council of the BIS met on Wednesday to decide on the regulations for the hallmarking. “It would take a couple of weeks to get all the required approvals before a notification is issued in January,” said another source from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. The ministry of Consumer Affairs has asked the BIS to finalise the rules by January.

The cost of hallmarking comes to just Rs 35 per piece, of which Rs 7 goes to the government as royalty.

Even as the consumers look forward to hallmarked gold jewellery, the jewellers have demanded that the new rules should be implemented in a phased manner, starting with the cities which have the hallmarking facility.

“Hallmarking centres are very few. It is not possible to get all the jewellery hallmarked by these 400 plus centres,” Surendra Mehta, president, Indian Bullion and Jewellers Association (IBJA), told The Statesman.

The policy should be implemented first in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, Surat and Jaipur which already have hallmarking centres. Government can increase the number of centres to cover all the major  cities and towns.

Till then, it should allow big jewellers to self-certify their products, he said. “There is a big risk involved in the transportation of the high value metal to far off hallmarking centres. So the shops dealing in bulk jewellery should be allowed to self-certify their ornaments.

IBJA has also demanded that they be allowed to have hallmarking of 13, 14, 20 and 23 carat ornaments as there is demand for it in some markets. Jewellers have demanded that they should be given at least 3 months notice to dispose off their old stock.

Meanwhile, the jewellers have reported a dip in gold sales as many consumers postpone their purchases till the implementation of hallmarking rules.