In October 2018, a news story burst onto airwaves and websites across the country: Many major retailers had been carrying jewelry for adults that contained cadmium. Cadmium is a heavy metal with known dangerous side effects, so finding these items was not happy news.
However, jewelry buyers — customers, not professional buyers —were left wondering what to do with what they had already bought and how to avoid buying more cadmium-containing jewelry. While it's good that stores have been pulling the jewelry, consumers need to know what steps to take.
Cadmium Is Not a New Problem
Cadmium in jewelry is not a new problem. According to CBS News, the first discovery of cadmium in jewelry was in 2010 when the Center for Environmental Health tested a bunch of items from different stores. An additional discovery of cadmium-containing jewelry was found in Canada in 2016, and now the latest discovery in 2018 has people wondering how to avoid the material.
Exposure to cadmium is known to contribute to cancer and kidney disease, especially when the metal is ingested or inhaled (such as if you're exposed to tiny shavings). The main risk is to kids, who tend to put the jewelry in their mouths out of habit. Adults aren't free from risk, either. Cadmium could transfer to one's hands, and then to the mouth.
However, cadmium remains a favorite of jewelry manufacturers because it is so cheap. Vox notes that it's possible that more cadmium is appearing now because manufacturers are no longer using lead.
Jewelry doesn't have to contain cadmium, but if a company wants to sell pieces for lower prices, they need a material that does not cost too much. Lead, cadmium, and even the notorious allergenic nickel are all inexpensive. However, lead now has such a bad reputation and nickel has immediate negative effects, so cadmium is the preferred option for some companies.
Cadmium Isn’t Easily Identified
So now that you know that inexpensive jewelry may contain cadmium, what's your next step? One of the problems with avoiding cadmium-containing items is that you can't tell just by looking. Cadmium can be dyed (and used as a dye itself) to look like silver, gold, or any other metal.
If you aren't sure of the metal content of the jewelry you already have, you may need to replace it. The jewelry in question is inexpensive jewelry that was made in China and that was sold at nationwide chain stores. But even that is too broad a brush because many Chinese manufacturers comply with limits on cadmium, and many stores get their supplies from companies known to be cadmium-free.
One thing you can do if you’re concerned is to send your jewelry for testing to the Center for Environmental Health in California. You're limited to a few items and need to include return postage and packaging if you want the items back. The testing is currently free, although the center accepts donations. Always double-check this as rules and costs can change.
Cadmium-Containing Jewelry Can Be Avoided
As for buying new jewelry, you aren't limited to buying only expensive pieces from now on. Two very good options are to look for estate jewelry and to get items custom-made.
Estate and antique items are available for lower prices at stores that deal with pawning, selling secondhand, and buying estate-sale items. You can get some lovely pieces for affordable prices here, and many of these are unique. In other words, jewelry items at a pawn shop are not as likely to be big-box store items that could be contaminated with cadmium.
You could also look for stores that custom-make pieces. These pieces don't have to be expensive at all. You will pay for design, labor, and materials, but you can work out prices with the people at the company.
If you'd like to find a store that offers both of these services, contact Lang's C & L Jewelry, Inc. With antique pieces for sale and a skilled design department, we offer many options for those who want to find good jewelry that is safe to wear.