Urs Wolfensberger on how weighing scales can make or break a jeweller.

By Urs Wolfensberger

As tougher regulations regarding weighing procedures have a huge impact upon jewellers, technologically advanced scales can help retailers protect their businesses, writes Urs Wolfensberger, global market manager at Mettler-Toledo.


It was one of the first measuring instruments invented in the world, but now weighing scales are used widely across the globe, and their precision, or lack of, can have a huge effect on your business.

The original weighing scales design consisted of a simple pivoted horizontal bar with a weighing pan suspended from each end – simple, but all that was needed when the first scales appeared, which history can date back to as early as 2400 BC. Since their invention, markets and trades requiring precision weighing, such as the jewellery industry, have heavily relied on their use but current scales have little in common with their rudimentary ancestors, thanks to the development of technology and their digitalisation. For example, today’s scales can weigh extremely small quantities and record the results with advanced software.

With the recurring economic crisis, the scarcity of gold and the growing availability of imitation gold in the market, known as Chinese Gold, regulations to ensure fair trade have increased globally.

The latest developments in scale design and weighing technology enable retailers to comply with the strictest regulations, ensuring not only profitability, but protecting their businesses’ reputations in the short and long term.

This article for Professional Jeweller will focus on the international regulations for weighing devices and how advancements in the manufacturing of scales ensure that jewellery retailers comply with international laws.

The regulatory bodies that monitor weighing conventions vary internationally. The International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML) supervises the global harmonisation of legal procedures and drives the creation of international standards of metrology involving measurement procedures and devices. The OIML also supervises areas in the world that do not have official organisations regulating metrology, such as Hong Kong.

Some of the latest laws for consumer protection, also affecting the manufacturing of scales are concerned with providing customers with the most accurate results through calibration, increased readability and tamper-proof mechanisms. These regulations ensure that traders dependent on weighing devices perform their duties fairly, adding value and credibility to their businesses.

First, calibration is generally regarded as the process of determining the deviation between the measurement value and the true value of the result, which can vary under different measuring conditions. The calibration process can be affected by factors such as temperature and the positioning and levelling of the scale. To ensure accuracy in results, scales must be calibrated on a regular basis which require the use of external certified weights. New precision scales now incorporate automatic or semi-automatic adjustment mechanisms which increase the accuracy of the instrument. Consequently, tests that use external weights can be considerably reduced.

In the jewellery industry, authorities might perform spot checks of retailers’ weighing devices to ensure that they are trading fairly. This is to ensure that jewellers do not try to adjust scales slightly in their favour, which would be a high-risk manoeuvre as any evidence of manipulation of the scale can lead to steep fines and even the closure of a business. Thus, a major concern for jewellers is the need for tamper-proof weighing devices.

In the UK, weights and measures inspectors from The Office of Trading Standards (OFT) can verify scales. It is then an offence for a retailer to tamper with, alter or remove the verification stamp affixed by the OFT.

Another important aspect of a quality scale is the legibility of its results on the display. The measurements should be easily readable from any angle and the information should be accessible to both the retailer and the customer. For example, regulations in the UK state that weight results should be displayed on the customer’s side of the scale, either be it net weight, unit price or total price, when these are used for direct sales to retail customers. This data can be provided via an auxiliary display, which can be attached quickly and easily to all high quality jewellery scales.

For jewellers to legally operate and trade, they need to have a scale denominated Legal for Trade, allowing their use where a product is sold or purchased by weight. In order to obtain this classification, scales must comply with the EC-Type approval in the UK. It is important for retailers to be aware of the fact that not all scales have this approval, and that retailing without a Legal for Trade scale could result in a fine and/or the closure of their business.

With increasingly strict regulations for consumer protection, the jewellery scale manufacturing industry is working on developing new applications that can help jewellers to comply with the toughest laws and preserve their businesses and credibility.
The latest built-in adjustment systems are tamper-proof and ensure accurate and reliable results. For example, Mettler-Toledo’s built-in Fully Automatic Calibration Technology (FACT) automatically initiates internal adjustment of the scale whenever external conditions change, such as temperature fluctuations. During the manufacturing of these scales, internal weights are traceably connected to international measuring standards by means of primary calibration. In this process, the mass of the internal weight is determined by placing a certified weight on the scale and storing its value in it.

Moreover, the levelling of a scale, meaning the setup of a balance horizontally on a flat surface, can also affect the accuracy of its operation and the weighing results. Currently, Mettler-Toledo’s scales provide a clear and user-friendly indication of whether they are levelled, via an integrated spirit level.

In addition, the scales offer sensitive detectors that do not show the final results until the balance is completely stable. Protective functions, such as the Overload function, also help to maintain the reliability of results, by ensuring that even if a heavy item accidently falls on the scales, the ultra-sensitive weighing cell will not be damaged.

Auxiliary displays are also an important element for jewellers worldwide. Mettler-Toledo scales offer separate auxiliary displays that enable users to simultaneously view the weighing result from over the counter. This makes the scales ideal for use in countries where auxiliary displays are a legal requirement, or countries where it is not customary for female clients to come into close contact with male vendors.

Purchasing a scale that complies with international regulations and is equipped with the latest technological advancements can help jewellery retailers across the world to protect their businesses and adhere to the toughest laws regarding inspections, calibration, tamper-proof devices and weighing practices in general.

Moreover, good weighing practices also aid in the development of strong customer relationships, building trust through the use of verified scales that allow transparency in weighing.

In summary, using internationally approved scales adds value to all jewellery businesses, demonstrating the retailer’s ability to meet legal requirements for commercial weighing and measuring scales around the globe.


This article was taken from the March 2012 issue of Professional Jeweller. To view a digital version of this issue online click here.