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Jewelry Safety: Lead Content Classifications

At Rings & Things, we work hard with manufacturers and testing agencies to ensure that our products meet the requirements of California's lead-in-adult-jewelry law, the most stringent law in the U.S.A. regarding lead content in adult jewelry. Products in our online store are labeled according to the classification chart below.

Information on this page covers the basics you need to know to comply with California law. Even if you don't live in California, you might need to follow these guidelines. Do you participate in California arts-&-crafts shows? Do you sell your wares online and ever ship to California? If you answered yes to either of these, you sell retail to California!

The California lead classification system is NOT the same as the CPSIA's Federal children's-jewelry law, but it DOES explain lead content in our products. And, since California maintains the most stringent U.S. laws regarding lead content in adult jewelry components, their guidelines are good to follow for anyone concerned about jewelry safety—no matter where you live or sell your wares. How concerned should I be about lead content?

We also comply with California's Proposition 65, which requires the labeling of products that contain lead or other potentially hazardous substances, regardless of how those products are classified for use in jewelry. Many components deemed suitable by California for use in retail jewelry still require Prop. 65 labeling. For example, Swarovski® crystals and other leaded-glass parts require a Prop. 65 "lead warning" label even though they are Class 1 suitable materials under California's "lead in jewelry" law.

Please keep in mind that none of our components are intended for the creation of children's jewelry, or intended for use by children under the age of thirteen.

CA Jewelry-Making Materials Classification as of March 2008:

Class 1 Class 3
Class 1 items are suitable for inclusion in retail jewelry. Glass crystal and fiber optics (cat's eye) contain lead oxide (PbO), but this does not pose the same threat as metallic lead (Pb).
  •  Stainless or surgical steel
  •  Karat gold
  •  Sterling silver
  •  Platinum, palladium, iridium, ruthenium, rhodium or
          osmium
  •  Natural or cultured pearls
  •  Glass, including fiber optics (cat's eye)
  •  Cloisonné
  •  Leaded-glass crystal, including rhinestones
  •  Cubic zirconia or cubic zirconium (CZ)
  •  Cut & polished gemstones**
  •  Ceramics
  •  Elastic, fabric, ribbon or rope (unless lead has been
          intentionally added & it is listed in Class 2)
  •  Natural materials, including amber, bone, coral, feathers,
          fur, horn, leather, shell and wood (unless lead has been
          intentionally added)
Class 3 items are suitable for inclusion in retail jewelry. This class includes all materials that are not listed in Class 1 or Class 2 AND that contain less than 0.06% (600ppm) lead by weight.

Class 2 Unsuitable for California
Class 2 items are suitable for use in retail jewelry even though they might contain small amounts of lead. See below for allowable levels.
  •  Electroplated metal alloys, including white plate, yellow
          plate, silver plate, gold plate, copper plate, antiqued
          platings, etc., provided they contain:
            < 10% lead by weight on or before 8/30/2009
            < 6% lead by weight after 8/30/2009
  •  Unplated metals that contain less than 1.5% lead (for
          example, solid copper, raw brass sheet or wire, nickel
          silver, titanium and niobium)
  •  Gold fill, which is not electroplated, but mechanically
          bonded using heat and pressure
  •  Plastic or rubber, including acrylic, polystyrene and
          polyvinyl chloride (PVC), provided they contain:
            < 0.06% (600 ppm) lead by weight on or before 8/30/2009
            < 0.02% (200 ppm) lead by weight after 8/30/2009

  •  Dyes or surface coatings containing less than 0.06%
          (600 ppm) lead by weight
Any component that does not fit under Class 1, Class 2 or Class 3 is not suitable to be used in jewelry for retail sale in the state of California. This includes:
  •  Pending: components that we have not yet tested, or that have not yet been guaranteed by the manufacturer to comply with Class 2 or Class 3, have unknown suitability for retail sale in California at this time.
  •  Unknown content: trade beads, African-made components and some other cottage-industry parts (especially metal trade & African beads) are old and/or handmade in small villages, and we never know their exact composition. Even a single strand of such items can contain parts made in different batches from different materials. They might not contain any lead, but to sufficiently test them, we would have to destroy them (which means no one could enjoy them anymore!). Because we cannot guarantee that such items comply with the standards of Class 2 or Class 3, they are not suitable to be used in jewelry for retail sale in California.
  •  High lead content: any items with a known lead content higher than levels listed under Class 2 and Class 3 are not suitable to be used in jewelry for retail sale in California.
**All gemstones Rings & Things sells fit in Class 1 and are suitable for retail jewelry sold in California. The following stones do not fit in Class 1: aragonite, bayldonite, boleite, cerussite, crocoite, ekanite, linarite, mimetite, phosgenite, samarskite, vanadinite and wulfenite.

How concerned should I be about lead content?

Lead (Pb)

is an element used to make alloys (mixtures of metals) softer and to help alloys melt at lower temperatures. The problem with using lead in alloys is that it is toxic and can cause serious health problems, especially in children. Because children's bodies are still developing, lead can affect them in ways it is not likely to affect adults (concern for children is what initiated this legislation). The two main ways lead poses a danger are when it is:
  •  ingested: if components containing lead are sucked on or swallowed, saliva and/or stomach acids can leach the lead out
          of the metal alloy and into the body
  •  inhaled: when lead is heated during manufacturing, or during soldering or repair work, it can create dangerous fumes
Jewelry components containing lead are generally considered safe for adults to handle and wear externally. Nevertheless, as safety and environmental standards continue to rise, measures are being taken to use lead less, both in jewelry components and in general.

Lead oxide (PbO)

is a compound sometimes used in glassmaking. Advantages to using lead oxide in glass include increased refraction (which creates the beautiful prism effect we associate with glass crystal) and a lower working temperature/viscosity (which makes the glass easier to work with). During vitrification (when powdered ingredients melt under heat to form glass), the lead oxide becomes "trapped" inside the glass and can no longer be easily absorbed. In normal use, the lead in leaded glass does not leach out the way metallic lead can.

Want to know more about lead, or lead in jewelry components?

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304 E 2nd Ave, Spokane, WA 99202 USA | Phone: 1 (800) 366-2156 | Fax: 1 (509) 838-2602
All text, illustrations and images are copyright by, or licensed to, Rings & Things 1996 - 2013