Saudi gold merchants once had a reputation for probity. Not any more, Arab News says.

The Saudi government is warning pilgrims to be aware of the possibility of merchants selling them less than what they think they’re buying. While gold is almost always a mixture of substances – pure, 24 karat gold is soft and pretty much useless as jewelry – local shops are being reported as selling over-adulterated gold. Interestingly, the adulterant being used is zirconium, a material that has little consumer use when alloyed with gold. Gold/Zirconium alloys can be superconductors and are used in some dental applications, but not for jewelry, though Saudi law permits up to 5% use, if it is a simple alloy material, like silver or copper to harden the gold. But with the price of gold now in the stratosphere and zirconium much cheaper, temptation rears its ugly head and gold merchants fall prey. So, apparently, do their customers.

Saudi Arabia does not proactively inspect gold shops, the article says. It only looks in when complaints are made. That is a process that usefully could change. Spot inspections could serve to clean up the marketplace as well as provide a few more jobs.

As much as it would like to be known as a place where merchants work honestly, it is even more important to the Saudis that Haj be as uncorrupted as possible. Dishonest merchants do greater damage than just scamming their customers, particularly at this time of year.

Pilgrims warned to watch out for gold fraud

JEDDAH: During every Haj season one of the most sought-after goods by pilgrims is gold and jewelry from the Kingdom.

They prefer this market, because of their belief that the precious metal and designer jewelry from the region is of top quality, and they would not be cheated.

But such is not the case any more, with an increase of fake gold in the market. The Ministry of Commerce too has noticed an increase of fraud cases against jewelry shops in the Kingdom.

Some of the tricks that traders use are easily detected, while others are quite sophisticated and cannot be discovered quickly.

November:04:2011 - 07:56 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink
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