Cadmium is a heavy metal which has been widely used for over a century in both fashion and fine jewellery products. Small amounts of cadmium may be added to alloys used to make jewellery to impart specific technical and functional attributes to the metals. It may be present in jewellery as part of the metal alloy, solder, or gold coating for electroforming/electroplating, or as a pigment or stabiliser in non-metal components.
Cadmium has long been recognised as a toxin and a known carcinogen, harmful when it is ingested or inhaled. Increasing concern with regard to consumer and employee health and safety has pushed it into the spotlight. This has been accelerated by a recent trend for Far East manufacturers to substitute cadmium for lead, which is now tightly restricted in many countries. As a result new legislation has been introduced and jewellers making, importing and selling both fine and costume jewellery need to be aware of these.
EU LEGISLATION - REACH Directive
European Legislation under the REACH Directive limits the CONTENT of Cadmium in jewellery and other articles.
Regulation, EU 494/2011, enforceable from 10th December 2011 restricts cadmium content in jewellery to 0.01% (100 mg/kg) by weight of metal and this applies to “metal beads and other metal jewellery components, metal parts of jewellery and imitation jewellery articles and hair accessories (i.e. bracelets, necklaces, rings, piercing jewellery, wrist-watches, wrist-wear, hair accessories, brooches, cufflinks). The regulation also restricts Cadmium in all plastic materials and brazing fillers to 0.01% (100 mg/kg) by weight and Cadmium in all paints and recovered PVC to 0.1% (1000 mg/kg) by weight. Jewellers at all stages of the supply chain clearly need to respond by ensuring their products are compliant.
Companies exporting to California should be aware of different testing requirements in the Americas.
California’s Metal-Containing Jewelry law prohibits the manufacture, shipping, or sale of Jewelry, or offering the jewellery for promotional purposes in California, unless the Jewelry meets the restrictions set forth in the law. A brief summary of those restrictions are as follows:
California’s Metal-Containing Jewelry restricts the Cadmium content as follows – Children’s Jewelry must not contain more than 0.03% (300ppm) Cadmium. AnchorCert Analytical is UKAS accredited to carry out this method for this regulation.
Cadmium is used for various specific reasons. With such widespread use the jewellery supply chain needs to audit and review its practices in respect of cadmium. Its prevalence is apparent when gold and sterling silver scrap is melted . While levels are generally low, below 300 ppm for 95% of the time, cadmium may be present at levels of 1000 ppm and occasionally very much higher in both gold and silver melts.
Its main uses are:
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