Demand for safer and higher quality jewelry continues at the same time as global concern grows over chemicals used that can pose a potential health risk. Prolonged exposure to certain heavy metals in jewelry can result in allergic reactions, learning disorders and/or damage to children’s livers and kidneys. SGS expert HingWo Tsang explores the issue.

Jewelry products are ubiquitous ornamental objects for children and adults alike. They are decorative items that are worn for personal adornment and may be attached to clothes or the body. They can be manufactured from a wide variety of materials such as ceramics, crystals, enamels, glass, leather, metals, metal alloys, natural materials, paints or similar surface coating materials and polymers.

Over the last few years, the issue of dangerous chemicals in jewelry products has come to the forefront of investigations, market surveillance activities and legislative requirements.

In the European Union, the recent release of the European Commission’s 2015 Rapid Alert System annual report for dangerous non-food products (Rapex) announced an increase in the number of notifications involving chemicals in fashion jewelry. According to the report, the number one risk detected in Rapex over the years has been ‘physical injuries’. More recently though this has switched to chemicals, as an increasing number of products are found to contain dangerous substances. Although fashion jewelry accounted for 6% of the notifications in 2015, it was the second most notified product category posing a chemical risk. 

In Canada, alarming levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry came into the spotlight in January 2016, following the release of a CBC Marketplace investigation where some items were reported to contain up to 7,000 times the threshold guidelines from Health Canada. One jewelry component was astonishingly found to contain almost 100% cadmium.

In November 2013, the Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) reported that a shipment of 16 tonnes of cadmium-containing jewelry was detained at the Port of Rio de Janeiro. Although the high concentrations of cadmium found in these products did not present an imminent and significant risk to the public, the impounding led to the development and publication of legislation in 2016, to regulate the use of lead and cadmium in jewelry.

Legislation and standards for restricted substances in jewelry for international markets can be complex. Jewelry is regulated in the European Union (EU), the United States (US), Canada, Brazil and China. It is important for manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and retailers to understand and to comply with the laws and standards, and often very different specifications, for identical restricted substances or identical products destined for different markets. In the US and China, there are distinct requirements for children’s jewelry and adult jewelry.

European Union

In the EU, jewelry products must conform to the chemical requirements as mandated by the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), Regulation (EC) 1907/2006, a comprehensive piece of EU-wide legislation for the management of chemicals. The important provisions in REACH, governing the use of chemicals in jewelry are:

  •  Restricted chemicals falling under Annex XVII of REACH which include:
    • Cadmium
    • Chromium (VI)
    • Lead
    • Nickel (migration)
    • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Substances of very high concern (SVHCs) on the Candidate List for the purpose of:
    • Article 7(2) of REACH ‘Notification of substances in articles’
    • Article 33 of REACH ‘Duty to communicate information on substances in articles’

In addition to EU-wide legislation, it is also important that jewelry products destined for a particular EU member state conform to any specific requirements, as mandated by the laws of that particular market.

United States

In the US, jewelry products intended primarily for children aged 12 years and under are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). Across the nation, a host of jurisdictions regulate adult and/or children’s jewelry with unique specifications.

There are two American standards for jewelry. ASTM F 2923 for children’s jewelry and ASTM F2999 for adult jewelry. Rhode Island is the first state to regulate children’s jewelry to ASTM F2923. The laws for these jurisdictions are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1.

Jurisdiction Legislation/Citation
Federal Public Law 110-314 (CPSIA)
  • Health and Safety Code § 25214.1-25214.4.2 (Metal-containing jewelry law)
  • Proposition 65
Connecticut Public Act 10-113 ‘An Act banning cadmium in children’s jewelry’
  • Public Act 96-1379 ‘Cadmium-safe kids act’
  • Public Act 87-175 ‘Lead poisoning prevention act’
Maryland Environment, §6-1401 through §6-1404 ‘Cadmium in children’s jewelry’
  • § 3256.389 ‘Items containing lead prohibited’
  • § 325E.3891 ‘Cadmium in children’s jewelry’
New York Albany County Local Law 1 for 2016
New York Suffolk County
  • Chapter 704: Retail Sales; Article VI ‘Children’s products containing cadmium’, § 704-40 to § 704-47
  • Chapter 704: Retail Sales; Article X ‘Toxic children’s products’, § 704-72 to § 704-80 
New York Westchester County  Chapter 433 ‘Prohibiting the sale of children’s products containing certain chemicals’ 
Rhode Island  Title 23 Health and Safety
Chapter 23-24.11 ‘Comprehensive children’s jewelry safety act’
Washington  RCWA 70.240.010 to RCWA 70.240.040 ‘Children’s safe products act (CSPA)’ 

American standards for jewelry

  • ASTM F2923 ‘Standard specification for consumer product safety for children’s jewelry’
  • ASTM F2999 ‘Standard consumer safety specification for adult jewelry’


Health Canada regulates both lead content and migratable lead in jewelry that appeal primarily to children under 15 years of age. Canada has been closely monitoring the levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry since requesting the industry to stop intentionally using cadmium in 2010 and the publication of a proposed regulation for these products in 2011.

The overall framework for product safety is the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA). The specific requirements are governed by:

  • Children's Jewelry Regulations
  • Surface Coating Materials Regulations
  • The draft proposal for cadmium guidelines in children’s jewelry


Jewelry destined for Brazil is governed by Ordinance No. 43, of January 22, 2016, which restricts the use of cadmium and lead in jewelry and came into effect on January 26, 2016.


Jewelry for China is regulated by two mandatory standards. These are:

  • GB 28480 ‘Adornment-Provision for limit of baneful elements’
  • GB 11887 ‘Jewellery-Fineness precious metal alloys and designation’

Jewelry Testing Services

SGS has accredited state of the art testing laboratories worldwide offering a comprehensive range of physical, chemical and functional testing services for components, materials and finished products. Our technical experts can devise not only a tailored program to demonstrate a product’s safety and compliance to regulatory requirements, but also help you to consider its intended destination markets and help to reduce development costs by grouping testing.

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For further information, please contact:

HingWo Tsang, Ph.D.
Global Information and Innovation Manager
SGS Hong Kong Limited
t: +852 2774 7420