When you consider dangerous substances that can harm you and your family, I bet you don’t think of jewellery. I will get to those dangers in a minute but first I want to take you to the dark side of the industry.
The global jewellery industry can be very nasty, up there with fossil fuels and rug making. Some overseas mining companies and jewellery manufacturers use restricted toxic metals and chemicals that are dangerous to our health and pollute the land and water of those living nearby. Some bribe local officials, violate labour and human rights standards (mostly affecting women and children), and are overall irresponsible corporate citizens. In order to protect ourselves, our children, people who are vulnerable to exploitation, and the planet, it is important to know whether jewellery we purchase has been sourced and produced in an ethical manner that respects the environment, and most of all, is safe to wear.
Here are a few easy steps you can take to protect your health and conscience when purchasing jewellery:
1. As a rule, do not buy cheap jewellery, particularly children’s jewellery, that come from stores like Walmart, Claires, H&M, Zaras, etc. They are made from unknown alloys which can include toxic (and illegal) metals such as Cadmium and lead. The EU allows only .01% Cadmium in jewellery but there are no such guidelines here, Sporadic checks in North America often find Cadmium, sometimes in amounts that range from 500 to 3000 times the EU standard. This means that our children (and people with autoimmune and other health issues) may be absorbing dangerous amounts of toxic metals through their skin or mouths.
“Lead is a toxic metal, which doesn’t break down in the environment and accumulates in our body. High levels of lead have been found in jewelry, especially inexpensive children’s jewelry.” (California Department of Toxic Substances Control. dhttps://dtsc.ca.gov) Lead poisoning can be fatal to children under 6.
Nickel is also often found in imported cheap jewellery. Many people have varying levels of skin sensitivity to Nickel which then develops into contact dermatitis. So why are so many earwires and other costume jewellery made of Nickel and often not identified as such? Because it is cheap and they can get away with it.
2. Although I am generalizing to be brief, avoid all jewellery imported from Asia even when hallmarked. You can be confident if you stick to countries in North America, the UK, the EU and Israel. If you are buying silver jewellery, make sure it is hallmarked 925 (Sterling) or 999 (Fine). Sometimes the country of origin will be identified, but if not, ask. Don’t trust the hallmarks if you cannot determine where it was made because some manufacturers in China for example, misrepresent the quality, content and safety of the metal. I never buy any silver or gemstone products from China because I am not confident in their authenticity and safety which would increase my risk and potential liability.
3. Buy from slow and small businesses. Look up your local independent jewellery store or studio and check out their reviews. There is a much larger chance of finding unethical, unsafe and fake jewellery at chain jewellery stores, big box stores and Amazon then at your local jewellers. The smaller you go the more their reputation for authenticity is at stake. You can build a relationship of trust and confidence in their expertise and reliability when you cut out the middlemen.
4 When you buy jewellery, no matter whether from a high-end shop or a stall at a craft show, ask smart questions such as:
· Where was the jewellery (or materials) made?
· Where does the stone come from? Was it ethically sourced?
· What kind of metal is it made from?
· What country did the silver come from?
· If it is a company that made the jewellery, where is it located?
Any jeweller or seller who is worth buying from will be able to answer these questions or provide you a detailed resource for the answers. You will get a sense from the manner in which they answer whether they are conning you or not. Trust your ability to read people. No good answers, no purchase.
So for the sake of your health and conscience, find a jeweller or jewellery provider that adheres to ethical, environmental and safety principles and practices. Request that others not give your children jewelry due to safety concerns. Avoid cheap jewellery altogether because if the price looks too good to be true (like at Wish.com for example) then the item is likely not safe. Be as informed as possible, ask questions, and err on the side of caution.H