Cultural differences

Out with the old

9:38 AM

It all (re)started when DH’s father called him to ask him to purchase a 5g pure gold coin to gift one of his friend for Diwali, and my logical question of “Can we afford that expense?”.

Then I remembered an old idea that has kept coming and going. See when we got married in 2006 a few relatives did gift me a few pieces of gold jewellery. Nothing big, just a pair of earing, a traditional pendant on a tacky mangal sutra like chain (even though mangal sutras aren’t worn in DH’s family) a huge ring that could not scream Auntie any louder, and a mang tikka (a thing I will never wear), and big over worked traditional stud earrings (that make me look 15 years older when I wear them). All in all 10g of gold that has been sitting in a box, 10g I’ll never wear, 10g I have no sentimental value attached to, 10g that is not even shaped to my taste. 10g I'll gladly exchange at the current market value for something I would actually like. And that is what we set out to do the other day, heading to Tanishq.

First I chose myself a nice modern looking ring of my liking, the idea being that whatever remained of the gold value I brought to exchange would go toward that gold coin we were to purchase for my FIL.
Once my ring chosen, we explained our wish to use my old gold, and they nicely asked us if we were really ok with it as it meant they would melt it right away and it would be gone, I assured them it was ok, there was no chances of me regretting loosing these items. So they first took the jewellery to weight them in their current shape, and put them in the “carat meter” to estimate the caratage of gold on them, the mang tikka, ring and pendant had a tiny strip of gold welded to the back with an unofficial hallmark stating 23k gold, which I always found a bit odd considering the metal wasn’t as soft as it should be for such a high purity of gold, the earrings had no hallmark. Tanishq’s carat meter reported a purity of 19k for the earrings, 17 for the mang tikka, and 18 for both the ring and and the pendant.
Needless to say that we have a few relatives that got cheated by their local jewellers on the purity of the gold purchased. My other observation was that the gold despite being 18k was quite dark yellow, to achieve that they used more copper than silver in the alloy, which is not only cheaper, but also better at deceiving the buyer into thinking they bought purer gold, as it makes the jewellery piece not only bright yellow but also softer than on a quality 18k piece that used more silver (typically the alloy used on diamond jewellery).
If I were the buyer of the original pieces I would have been pissed, but since they were gifts I didn’t mind, and in fact I was even all that much happier to get something else out of the exchange.
The salesperson told us that of course the carat reading was an estimate, as the definitive one will only come after the gold has been turned into a nugget, and asked me once more if I was sure I wanted to go ahead with the process, made us sign a few forms upon my affirmative reply, and then DH announced he was going for a smoke, so the guy asked me to come in the melting room as they don’t melt any metal without the owner present. There they weighted my pieces in front of my eye to have me as a witness, my stuff weighted 10.87 grams (my kitchen scale despite being cheap was indeed accurate as it reported 10 grams at home), then they dropped everything in a small cylinder that was inserted at the top of a boxy kiln, they added a little powder, and in just a few minutes the job was done, the guy removed a nice little bright red melting hot nugget out of the cylinder and plunged it in a cooling dip where it turned a dull yellow covered in black patches, then the guy went hammering it, probably to get some of the surface impurities out as the gold looked a bit less dirty in the process, and then weighted the whole thing again, where the ending weight was 10.87 grams bearing me as a witness to attest that no grams were lost in the process.
Then straight to the carat meter we went. The machine did reported what I suspected, the alloy had indeed more copper than silver in it, which was why the gold looked purer than it was to the naked eye. In the end after 3 measures the average reading was 18k.
Tanishq substract 8% of the total value in an exchange process, in the end my 10g of 18k gold were worth around 22 thousands rupees at the current market rate…not bad at all, My ring took about half of that value, and we put the rest toward a 24k gold coin with DH ending up paying an additional 6k out of his own pocket for the coin.

Now according to my MIL, it is not considered auspicious to sell your gold jewellery the way we did, in the old days it was the only life insurance a woman had should her husband leave this world before her. And exchanging the old for some new stuff means there is a loss of value, as you end up paying the jeweller making charges (Tanishq took 8%).
Now of course DH and I don’t see gold jewellery as much as an investment as my MIL’s generation does, gold? Yeah sure it is a safe investment, but in coins and bars of hallmarked purity, not in the form of rings and pendant. And then as far as life insurance goes, well LIC is covering me, for a value that is far more substantial than the meagre 10g of gold I exchanged. My wedding jewellery was costume jewellery, and I have one necklace I got from my MIL as an engagement present that I actually love and would never melt in a million year…so much for the investment nature of gold necklaces huh?
And on top of it all, my so called 23k pieces turned out to be 18k and the ring I got in exchange is a 22k officially hallmarked piece from Tanishq, so in the end I wonder if I lost that much in my exchange, the market rates for 22k are higher than 18k. Not that I think I’ll ever melt that ring in the future of course, because this is more of a purchase to please myself rather than an investment.
After all I come from a culture where jewellery aren’t bought as an investment anymore.

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