Is your jewellery good as gold?

Retailers will have to provide a stamp certifying the authenticity of gold and other metals, and falsifying it will carry a three-year jail sentence.

Habibullah, an Iranian shopkeeper at Baniyas Jewelry, shows off his Dh 250,000 khangar on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, at the Madinat Zayed Gold Souq in Abu Dhabi.  The gold sword too will have to be stamped after the new law that requires so is out. (Silvia Razgova/The National)
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ABU DHABI // Jewellery buyers will soon be able to verify that the gold, silver, and platinum items they are purchasing are genuine.

While a new draft law, discussed by the FNC this week, will exempt historic items and medical equipment from needing a verification stamp, collectables, priced jewels, and gold, silver and platinum are not.

Items too small to be stamped will have to be accompanied by a certificate describing the item issued by a licensed entity.

"According to law, people have a year to sell jewels now without them being stamped, but after that they all must be," Ali Al Nuaimi (Ajman) said.

"People can pay a fee at licensed places after that to get their goods checked in labs to see the specifications and get them stamped or certified."

He said it would also be better if historic items were accompanied by a certificate when resold.

Some members insisted there was no need to stamp heirlooms such as gold and diamonds or swords, if they are resold.

"If I have something rare to sell, the law now makes me a criminal to sell this," said Marwan bin Ghalita (Dubai).

The head of the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, said, however, that such pieces would be a considered historic items.

"If you sell them as gold, then yes it needs a stamp, but as a rare item, then no," he said.

Members and Mr Fahad, who is also the Minister of Environment and Water, disagreed over calls for a clause governing the export and import of items. As it stands, the draft law only covers items sold locally.

Mr Fahad feared an amendment covering imports and exports would harm the economy.

"Issuing a certificate for export would be huge obstacle, believe me, even for us to issue them," he said. "A lot of goods come as transit, obstructing this is not to the benefit of the country."

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi) also expressed concern that Emiratis could be punished for importing collectables - a common hobby - and that it could be abused.

But members insisted the amendment was required to bring the UAE in line with international standards.

Mr Fahad offered a compromise, under which exports would need a stamp or certificate, but imports would not. "This sector is a big part of business in the UAE," he said. "We do not want to put restrictions on exporting or importing."

Doing so would not benefit the economy, he added.

He pointed out that most items coming in and out of the country are in transit, rather than being destined for or having originated in the UAE. After further discussion, the FNC members accepted the revised amendment.

Under the law, anyone selling misdescribed diamonds, gold, platinum or other jewellery would face up to three years in jail, and a fine of up to Dh1 million.

Consumers were sceptical yesterday about what difference the law would make. Umm Aisha, who was browsing in the capital's Madinat Zayed Gold Souq, said she could not see how it would help customers.

"I have gold that I have bought from other countries, what if I want to sell here and it is not stamped?" she said. "How will this law help me?"

Hibib-Ullah, an Iranian gold dealer, said customers were often tricked in markets abroad.

"Mostly gold from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh either has the wrong stamping, or no stamp," he said. "Just last week I had a customer with a 22ct gold bracelet that I felt it was too heavy, so I took it to a workshop and found it was even less than 18ct gold - and only gold-plated."

He said custom-made gold khanjars [swords], like the one he had in his store for sale at Dh250,000, were usually not stamped. They tend to be bought as gift and were only sold in times of need. "Why would antiques and custom made items need to be stamped?" he said.

After the law is signed off by Sheikh Khalifa, the President and the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, officials will then have a year to put it into practice, and companies a further six months to prepare.