UK’s biggest unhallmarked gold seizure

Published: Friday 27th April 12

Two jewellery company directors have been taken to court following one of the largest seizures of unhallmarked gold jewellery made by Trading Standards officers in the UK.

Wandsworth Council launched a prosecution after officers discovered nearly 6,000 items of unhallmarked gold jewellery, worth about £750,000, during an inspection of Rathy Jewellers in Tooting.

On Tuesday (April 24), Tharshika Jewellers Ltd director Arunan Sivagnanalingham of Kaye Don Way , in Weybridge, Surrey, and former director Rajtharan Mahalingham of Fairview Crescent , Harrow , were ordered to pay a total of £9,860 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to charges under the Hallmarking Act 1973 at Richmond Magistrates' Court.

Sivagnanalingham and Mahalingham had ignored a warning issued by Trading Standards officers based at the council last April to ensure all jewellery on sale is hallmarked.

When officers, along with a representative the Sheffield Assay Office, inspected the Upper Tooting Road shop in June, they found that a large quantity of unhallmarked gold jewellery was still being displayed in glass cabinets.

About 6,000 items were immediately seized in a huge council-led operation and sent to the Sheffield Assay Office for testing and hallmarking.

Wandsworth's chief trading standards officer, Christopher Roe, said: "We believe this to have been one of the largest seizures of unhallmarked gold jewellery made by Trading Standards officers in the UK and is the second high profile prosecution for unhallmarked jewellery in Wandsworth this year.

"Hallmarking dates back to 1300 and represents the oldest form of consumer protection in the United Kingdom.

"It is impossible for customers to tell the precious metal content of a metal by touch, feel or colour and hallmarking gives a visible confirmation of the content.

"The hallmark is applied by regulated assay offices, which are independent of the trade.  This independence ensures that the hallmark acts as a trusted guarantee for both the consumer and the trade and it is essential that the legislation is fully complied with."

Ashley Carson, Sheffield Assay Master, added: "It is vital for the integrity of the entire industry that every single item put up for sale by a jeweller is hallmarked by their Assay Office.

"Our hallmarking system in the UK is the envy of many other nations, and provides customers with the knowledge that the item they are buying is genuine.

"We hope that this case acts as a warning to others, and ensures that any other traders will not take the same risks and make the same mistakes in the future."

Tharshika Jewellers Ltd, which traded as Rathy Jewellers, was fined £3000 for five offences under the Hallmarking Act 1973 and ordered to pay £2000 costs, plus a £15 victim surcharge.

Mahalingham pleaded guilty to two charges and was fined £1300. In addition, he was told to pay £2000 costs, plus a £15 victim surcharge. Sivagnanalingham also pleaded guilty to two charges and was fined £400 and ordered to pay £1,115 costs, plus a £15 surcharge.

It is an offence under the Hallmarking Act 1973 for any person, in the course of trade or business, to describe an unhallmarked article as being wholly or partly made of precious metal(s) or to supply unhallmarked articles to which such a description is applied.

On January 24, 2012, another jeweller in Tooting was fined £800 and ordered to pay £500 towards costs after pleading guilty to five charges of having unhallmarked gold jewellery in his shop.

He admitted to the court that he had been fully aware of his responsibilities for hallmarking and had been previously warned about it by Wandsworth Trading Standards.

Anyone who has concerns about goods on sale in the borough can call the Citizens Advice Bureau on 03454 04 05 06.


Notes to editors

Hallmarking was originally introduced in 1300 by a Statute of Edward I and is one of the earliest forms of consumer protection. Compulsory Hallmarking protects all parties - the public who receive a guarantee of quality, the manufacturer who is given quality control and protection from dishonest competitors, and the retailer who avoids the near impossible task of checking standards on all his goods.

Precious metals used in jewellery and giftware manufacture are always used as an alloy. The precious metal must be mixed with other elements to give it necessary properties such as flexibility in order to produce a desirable and durable article.

Even the most experienced jeweller or chemist cannot tell how much precious metal there is in an alloy just by looking at it - or whether a thick plating of gold is covering a base metal interior. Due to the high price of precious metals, this offers a huge opportunity for fraud and there has therefore always been a need to protect the public and honest suppliers, from those who are tempted to cheat them.

Therefore all items being sold as gold, silver, platinum or palladium in the UK must be hallmarked to confirm that they meet the legal standard. This cannot be done by the manufacturer or importer - goods must be submitted to one of the four UK Assay Offices, or an Assay Office belonging to the International Convention.

The only items which are exempt are those which are under the legal weight threshold - 1 gram for gold, 0.5 grams for platinum and 7.78 grams for silver.

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