Maryam Al Hammadi
UAE's first gold inspector, Maryam Al Hammadi Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

Dubai: Buyers from all over the world descend upon Dubai to pick up gold.

Unknown to many, it's the gold inspectors who labour everyday to ensure the integrity of the gold trade, and keep the people's trust.

Dubai Central Laboratories (DCL) inspectors carry out systematic inspections, visiting shops daily to make random checks, collect samples (jewellery pieces like bracelets, chain, etc) to ensure adherence to fineness mark — and purity.

Emirati Maryam Mohammad Al Hammadi was 23 when she first became a gold inspector.

Work begins at 7.30am. “The system usually throws up the shops located close to each other so we can maximise on the number of inspections to cover in a day,” she said.

Gulf News journeyed with Maryam and Ismail Abdulla Almass, Head of Product Quality Xontrol unit at DCL, for one day to Kalyan Jewellers in Karama Centre for a random inspection.

Dubai Gold Souq
Dubai Municipality inspectors carry out systematic inspections every day. They visit shops daily to make random inspections and collect samples (jewellery pieces like bracelets, chain, etc) to check for its fineness mark and its purity Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

Nineteen years on, she is a well-respected employee of the Dubai Central Laboratory Department (DCL), part of the Dubai Municipality responsible for ensuring quality standards are adhered to in the emirate when it comes gold buying and selling.

Aware of the magnitude of her responsibility, Maryam takes her job seriously. She's fascinated by jewellery.

There are 804 jewellery stores registered in Dubai.

“Going by our time-table system, every shop is monitored in Dubai at least twice a year. We get an alarm in our system every six months that all random inspections of shops have been done. The alarm is also an indicator to start the second round of inspections.”

“I was always fascinated with the yellow metal, even as a child. I would spend hours looking at gold at jewellery stores," said Maryam.

"I used to love looking at my mother’s collections. And so after my studies I wanted to be in some way connected to gold and jewellery. I joined Dubai Municipality in the year 2000 and the rest is history as they say.”

A day in the life of this inspector

“My day begins as early as 8am. The first thing I do is log onto my system. It gives me my daily schedule. The schedule basically tells me the names of the jewellery stores where I have to make random checks for the day.”

Maryam Al Hammadi
Maryam Al Hammadi (right) walks with a fellow inspector inside Karama Centre to make random inspections at gold and jewellery stores Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

There are 804 registered gold and jewellery stores in Dubai. These stores are all grouped, with every group having four stores.

DCL inspection activities are fully in compliance with ISO/IEC 17020 and is accredited by Emirates International Accreditation Center (EIAC) with Accreditation Certificate No. IB-065.

“So every day we pick a group and set out for the day to conduct inspections.”

Maryam said jewellery shops in Dubai usually open at around 10am every day. So the team of inspectors prepare all the ground work before heading off outside to conduct inspections.

“We prepare bubble wrap envelopes which we take with us. The samples from the stores collected for inspection purposes are put inside the bubble wrap envelopes. The reason we have this is because the bubble wrap helps to not damage the jewellery piece.”

Maryam Al Hammadi shortlists three jewellery pieces to send to the testing department at the Dubai Central Laborarotory of Dubai Municipality. Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

"By around 10am my colleagues and I head out to the shops."

Random inspections

Once in the target store, they start making random inpections.

“Basically I scan the jewellery store and pick up different pieces. These can be a bracelet, a ring, a chain or any other job.”

After collecting the samples, the inspector writes all details of the jewellery pieces on a set form. A copy of record of the jewellery is kept with the shops and another is kept for the lab.

“The form asks for a brief description of the piece, details of the weight of the piece and the fineness mark on it – to confirm if it is a 18-carat, 21-carat, 22-carat or 24-carat jewellery,” she explained.

As Gulf News headed out with Maryam to Karama Centre where she conducted an inspection inside Kalyan Jewellers, we see first-hand how she does her job.

Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

“Before checking the weight of the jewellery, we first test if the weighing machine works correctly. So we always test the machine's accuracy before doing a random check of the jewellery piece.”

Maryam shortlists three pieces for testing among the ones she selected for random checks.

Dubai Gold Souq
Dubai Municipality inspectors collect jewellery samples for purity testing as part of their daily inspections, the pieces are put inside this bubble-wrapped enveloperap envelopes Image Credit: SUPPLIED

These are all put inside the envelope and sealed. Once the envelope is sealed, both the jewellery shop manager and Maryam sign on the back of the envelope to ensure it is not opened.

The envelope is delivered to DCL next day by the jewellery shop manager.

“We are developing a system wherein we will have a system to pick up the jewellery pieces in the most safe and secure manner,” said Maryam.

Maryam Al Hammadi
Checking the authenticity of the weighing machine before placing the jewellery on it Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

As she swiftly carries on with her work, Maryam commands all the respect from the jewellery stores.

It is obvious how well she has done in her job as an inspector. She knows the ins and outs of the trade, with an impeccable knowledge of the pieces.

We are amazed at how well she can identify the country origin of each jewellery piece.

“This is 22 carat from Turkey, this is from India, this is Italy,” she said when we head out to the inspections with her.

In the last 19 years as a gold inspector, Maryam has gained remarkable knowledge and experience on the trade, while also upping her skills just so she can get her job right.

In 2017 she successfully completed a training in analysis and merging of precious stones.

Maryam Al Hammadi
Maryam Al Hammadi talking to a saleman at Kalyan Jewellers in order to pick her samples for testing Image Credit: Clint Egbert / Gulf News

In 2018, she received an international accreditation that has put her up on the ladder of success, after obtaining a diploma certification from the highly respected International Gemological Institute — to become a certified Polished Diamond Grader.

“One should never stop learning. Every day on my job, I learn new things. It is only when our skills are upped can we ensure high standards are maintained in the emirate.”