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Lead in Jewelry Products
According to our customers, Rings & Things is the first and only supplier to provide lead information about jewelry products in an easy-to-find format. We're happy to provide you with these resources because we want you to keep creating confidently and safely!
Why All This Lead Info?
In the United States, various state legislatures have enacted, or are considering enacting, laws about the amount of lead content allowed in jewelry. A Federal law has also now been enacted for children's jewelry. We're here to help you sort through the confusion:
At the time that we wrote this page, California was the only state to pass legislation that affects adult jewelry, but even if you don't live in California, you might need to follow California law (for example if you sell jewelry online to California).
If a component is suitable for California, it's suitable for adult jewelry anywhere in the United States!
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) enacted the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which took effect February 10, 2009. These Federal US regulations require a third-party to test children's jewelry for lead content.
Some individual states have also passed legislation about restrictions for lead content in children's jewelry. Because Rings & Things' components are not intended for children's jewelry, we do not plan to label our products with additional classifications. Generally speaking, though, precious-metal components and certified lead-free components should comply with even the strictest lead-by-weight restrictions.
The European Union (EU) REACH Regulation limits lead and its compounds in all jewellery (for adults as well as children). The regulation states: "Lead ... And its compounds ... Shall not be placed on the market or used in any individual part of jewellery articles if the concentration of lead (expressed as metal) in such a part is equal to or greater than 0.05% by weight." This amount equals 500 parts per million (500ppm) by weight.
Cast Pewter & Related Base Metals
Most newly-made solid pewter on the market today is lead free. But, cast plated items (including antiqued pewter, gold, bronze and silver) are may still contain some lead (Pb). The reason this matters is because lead is toxic and can cause serious
when ingested (for example from sucking) or inhaled (primarily an issue in manufacturing). ... Do not give children cast metal jewelry if there's a chance they will put it in their mouths!
Lead is popular in manufacturing because its softness makes it easy to cast in a mold. Most cheap base-metal beads, charms and findings available on the market today contain small amounts of lead. As a rule of thumb, if a cast item isn't certified "lead free," or if the price seems too good to be true, it probably contains some lead.
These items can and often do still comply with strict laws, though! Many cast and other base-metal components comply with California's lead-in-adult-jewelry law by maintaining a low percentage of lead by weight. With acceptably low amounts of lead by weight, they fit in California's
Class 2 (suitable). Why? Although there are good reasons to avoid ingesting lead, most adults don't chew on or swallow their jewelry, and simply touching items with small amounts of lead does not cause the problems that eating a lead bead causes. (You wouldn't eat your socks or deodorant either, but most of us wear them all day, every day!)
Naturally Lead-Free Metals
The following elements and alloys (mixtures of elements that create a metal) are either lead free or have a very low lead content because, by definition, they are comprised of metals other than lead:
Titanium: 99.9% pure titanium. This is an element on the periodic table (Ti), just like pure gold. It may contain some slight impurities, but not in significantly measurable amounts. Shop Titanium Earring Findings
Gold: Composition depends on karatage and color. 24kt gold is pure elemental gold and very soft. 10kt, 12kt, 14kt and 18kt gold are alloys containing gold mixed with other elements to make the gold harder (and less expensive). If you're familiar with Black Hills gold, then you've seen rose gold (with extra copper), green gold (with extra zinc) and white gold (with nickel). Many metalworking books provide exact amounts of each metal that goes into various colors and karatages of gold. Many modern jewelers have replaced the nickel in white gold, with other white metals, but if you're allergic to nickel, don't assume: ASK!
Sterling silver: An alloy of 92.5% silver, 7.5% copper (Argentium® sterling silver contains a small amount of germanium, which helps prevent tarnish). Neither traditional sterling silver nor Argentium sterling silver contain lead: it ruins the alloy and causes it to melt into nasty pitted puddles when you attempt to solder it. Shop Sterling Silver and Argentium Sterling Silver Jewelry-Making Supplies
Brass: An alloy of copper and zinc; percentages vary according to desired color or hardness. Our red brass wire is 90% copper and 10% zinc. Yellower brass has less copper and more zinc.
Nickel silver: A silver-colored alloy containing nickel (surprise!). It is often called German silver. Nickel silver has no actual silver in it, despite its color. Elemental nickel by itself is too hard to work with for most jewelry purposes. Copper and zinc are added to make it softer. Our nickel silver wire is an alloy of 65% copper, 18% nickel and 17% zinc.
Copper-clad steel: A common base for plated findings. Steel is tough, but silver and gold platings don't stick to it very well. Therefore, it is commonly clad with copper, to which the other platings will stick. Steel does not contain lead, although it usually contains about 8% nickel, to which some people are allergic, particularly in and around their ears. We carry a range of nickel-free items for people with this allergy.