Saffron spice is the dried yellow / orange stigmas that are detached from the harvested saffron crocus. The saffron crocus has purple flowers and comes into bloom only once a year in September.
Due to the fragile nature of the stigmas of the crocus that are 3 to 4 cm in length, the stigmas must be hand removed and also for the harvesting of the crocuses this is done by hand as well because a machine would decimate the delicate petals of the flower.
This most labor intensive method necessary to produce saffron spice makes the price very high. An unbelievable yet true fact is that saffron price is in fact by weight more expensive than gold. People who buy saffron know that you get what you pay for regarding saffron quality of this spice really is second to nothing.
After harvesting the stigmas from the plant the blossoms are thrown away, so quite a large amount of waste compared to just 3 stigmas that are produced by each saffron crocus. Saffron farming worldwide is carried out by small farms, not by co-operatives and not by corporate bodies.
As a result traditional methods of ensuring quality are the only form of checking the quality and originality of the Saffron. There is however an ISO industry standard certification that all quality saffron producing farmers will be awarded and they will sell their saffron in bulk in conjunction with a formal ISO certificate to validate the quality and authenticity of their saffron spice.