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Thanjavur painting – Shanmugam IAS Academy

Now there is an easy way to tell without taking it apart — Raman spectroscopy

People have long known that not every Thanjavur painting that glitters is gold. There was, however, no way to find out if the gold foil and gemstones used in these traditional crafts were authentic or fake – not without ruining the painting. Now there is: Raman spectroscopy.

The gold foil used liberally in Thanjavur paintings serves two objectives: the glitter makes the painting more attractive, and it also prolongs the life of the artefact. Foils made of fake material look similar to genuine gold, making it difficult for consumers to tell the difference.

Ramanathan Venkatnarayan from the Department of Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi, and his team of researchers from SASTRA University, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu have found a solution that uses Raman spectroscopy to tell whether the foil used in the paintings is made of gold or some other cheaper material.

Test carried out

The researchers tested ten ‘gold foils’ and found only three to be genuine. In the case of paintings, only one or two out of ten turned out to be genuine gold foil. The gold foils and paintings (most of them made recently) used in the study were sourced from artisans from in and around Thanjavur.

Art with GI tag

Thanjavur paintings have Geographical Indication tags, which puts a premium on their authenticity, but there are no regulations governing the quality or authenticity.

The researchers validated their detection of fake gold by carrying out an energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX) of the paintings, which confirmed the Raman spectroscopy findings. “EDX can also be used to find out if the foil is made of gold. But unlike in the case of EDX, Raman spectroscopy does not require the removal of the frame and the glass,” said Dr. Venkatnarayan, the corresponding author of a paper published in the journal Spectrochimica Acta Part A: Molecular and Biomolecular Spectroscopy .


What is Geographical Indication?
  • Geographical Indication is a genre of Intellectual Property.
  • GI tag is an insignia on products having a unique geographical origin and evolution over centuries with regards to its special quality or reputation attributes.
  • The status to the products marks its authenticity and ensures that registered authorised users are allowed to use the popular product name.
  • These could be naturally grown crops like Assam Chilies or manufactured products like Jaipur Pottery.
  • GI tags are given on the basis of the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
What are the benefits of a GI Tag?
  • Legal protection to the products
  • Prevents unauthorised use of a GI tag products by others
  • Helps consumers to get quality products of desired traits
  • Promotes economic prosperity of producers of GI tag goods by enhancing their demand in national and international markets.
  • The GI tag allows the producers of the objects to claim a premium for their products. Thus, it is financially beneficial to them.
  • The GI tag can also pique interest of consumers and thus raise demand for a product again benefiting the producer. - Geographical Indication
What are the legalities related to GI Tag?
  • It is covered as an element of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.
  • At international level, GI is governed by World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
  • In India, GI registration is governed by the Geographical Indications of goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which came into force in September 2003.
  • Darjeeling tea was the first product to accorded with GI tag in India.
Why in news?
  • Odisha and West Bengal are fighting for GI of Rosogolla
  • Nilambur Teak of Kerala is awarded GI tag.
  • Gobindobhog rice has been granted GI tag
  • Seven commodities were granted Geographical Indication (GI) this year by the Indian patent office. It includes :
    • Banaganapalle mangoes (Andhra Pradesh),
    • Tulaipanji rice (West Bengal),
    • Pochampally Ikat (Telangana),
    • Gobindobhog rice (West Bengal),
    • Durgi stone carvings and Etikoppaka toys (Andhra Pradesh)
    • Chakshesang shawl (Nagaland).

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