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Tue, Jan 26, 2010
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4 gold jewellers fail gold purity test
by Cheryl Lim

Four jewellers have been found to be selling gold jewellery that contained less than the minimum amount of gold required, in a test by mystery shoppers from the consumer watchdog here.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) conducted the test on 33 jewellery retailers from November last year to this month.

Overall, the quality of gold jewellery sold here has improved over the past year, said Case president Yeo Guat Kwang.

Case had previously conducted two similar rounds of tests.

In the first round carried out in September and October 2008, Case checked 30 retailers, of which five failed the test for gold purity.

In the second round done in December 2008, one of 12 retailers tested failed the test.

Mr Yeo said: “We do this survey to find out if retailers are still selling gold jewellery that does not meet the claimed fineness, or charging consumers for manufacturing loss.”

It is especially important to conduct such tests on gold, because consumers cannot verify and assess the precious metal “with their naked eye”, he said.

Mr Yeo stressed that, in the latest round of tests, only two of the four errant retailers – Lim’s Jewellery and Giftwell Gold – “clearly breached” the minimum required amount of gold content, which stands at 91.6 per cent.

A pair of earrings from Lim’s Jewellery contained only 80.76 per cent of gold, while a brooch from Giftwell Gold contained 91.36 per cent.

The other two retailers – Satya Jewellery and Poh Fok Jewellery – were “borderline cases”, which might have failed because of technicalities during testing, Mr Yeo said.

A gold ring from Satya was found to contain 91.49 per cent of gold, while earrings from Poh Fok contained 91.51 per cent.

Six retailers who had breached the previous rounds of tests were included in this round.

All except one, which was closed at the time the mystery shoppers dropped by, passed the test this time, Mr Yeo said.

The improved test results are partly due to a general improvement in quality standards in the jewellery trade here, said Ms Ng Siew Hua, chief assayer of the Singapore Assay Office (SAO), an independent body that tests and certifies precious metal.

“More retailers now opt to send their jewellery for testing at the SAO,” she said.

The SAO’s membership, which currently stands at 50 retailer- members, has increased by 40 per cent in the past year.

Customers who buy from jewellers who are members of the SAO or the Singapore Jewellers Association are entitled to a refund or an exchange if they find that the items they bought contained less gold than claimed.

The latest round of tests by Case also highlighted a problem with the SAO’s testing system.

One of the pieces failed the test this time even though it had been certified pure by the SAO.

The SAO explained that this might have happened because it tests only a few samples from each batch of jewellery.

The samples are destroyed during the testing process.

To prevent substandard pieces from slipping through again, the SAO has started carrying out X-ray tests since Jan 6 on all gold pieces from each batch of jewellery, on top of the standard test on a few samples from the batch.

Golden rule

  • Compare prices and shop around before buying, as some retailers may offer discounts.
  • Buy jewellery certified by the Singapore Assay Office.
  • Ensure that the jewellery is weighed in your presence, and that jewellers charge based on the net weight.
  • Insist on a detailed breakdown in the receipt of the gold price (per gram), labour cost and weight, and keep all proofs of purchase.
  • Consumers can report to Nets or credit-card companies jewellers who attempt to pass on credit-card or Nets processing fees – which sellers claim to be 3 to 5 per cent of the goods’ price – to buyers.
  • Retailers are supposed to absorb the charges, according to contractual agreements between Nets and retailers.
  • Check with retailers on the terms and conditions of purchase, and if they have an exchange or refund policy before buying.

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