The Coyote's Game Blog

Coyote's Game Native American Beadwork & Crafts

27. September 2012 06:12
by coyotes

How Current Lead-in-Jewelry Laws Affect the Beading Industry

27. September 2012 06:12 by coyotes | 0 Comments

A fair amount has been written about jewelry and current laws regulating the amount of lead and other toxic substances in products for children as well as adults.  At the risk of adding to the mass of information already on-line, here is how we believe these laws impact the beaded jewelry craft industry.

Even if you don’t make beaded jewelry designed for children, if children are able to wear the jewelry (such as necklaces, earrings, barrettes, bracelets), for your own protection you should be aware of current laws.

These laws were passed because in the United States several children have died or become seriously ill from chewing on or swallowing jewelry parts made of lead coated with another material or jewelry parts having a high lead content.

The US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

The main law that must be considered is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008.  This law limits the amount of lead and other toxic materials in products intended for children age 12 and under.  On August 2011 the amount of lead allowed in children’s products was reduced to 100 parts per million (1%).   Products with a higher amount of lead covered by surface coating or electroplating are not allowed.  Thus, parts and findings made of electroplated lead are not safe for children.  The amount of lead in paint and surface coatings may not be higher than 0.009 percent (90 parts per million).

In addition, anyone making products intended for children under age 12 must age grade their products and follow other standards set out in the law:    CPSIA also regulates products not intended for children.  To see a list of these products, go to .

One important section of CPSIA that beaders and jewelry crafters who make children’s products need to keep in mind is the ban on small parts for children under 3 years old.  The Act defines a small part as any object that fits into a cylinder 1-1/4” in diameter x 2-1/4” long.  The term “small part” includes:  (1) a whole toy or article; (2) a separate part of a toy, game, or other article; (3) a piece of a toy or article that breaks off during testing that simulates use or abuse by children.  This definition makes most beaded jewelry illegal for children under 3.   

The term “beads” includes everything from Swarovski crystals to heishi to plastic pony beads.  Most beaders who sell their work to stores and at craft fairs use glass beads of one type of another and this article will deal mainly with glass.

Glass beads are manufactured in various countries.  Companies each have their own manufacturing method.  Some use lead in the glass making process, others don't.  For example, Miyuki, who makes Delica beads, states that they do not use any lead in the actual glass making process, but some of their slips and linings contain lead.

Most bead manufacturers have a contact email address on their website.  If you use beads from one or two manufacturers exclusively, we recommend you contact them and ask about lead content.  Some bead manufacturers have already posted information on line about lead in their product.  One of these is Kandi Corp. that makes Swarovski crystals.  Beaders who use Swarovski crystals in their work should read their lead content statement    

At least two states have passed laws restricting the amount of lead and other dangerous materials in children’s products—Illinois and California.  While these laws are essentially superseded by the CPSIA, until the provisions of California’s Lead-Containing Jewelry Law are tested in court, jewelry makers must comply with it.  California’s Proposition 65, which requires warning labels on any products that contain toxic materials, affects all jewelry makers who work in or ship to California.

The California Lead-Containing Jewelry Law

In 2009 California passed a Lead-Containing Jewelry Law to protect children from jewelry containing high amounts of lead—the amount of lead varies depending on the type of material.  The law also restricts use of any part with more than 3% cadmium (300 parts per million). 

California's law breaks materials into three classes.  No jewelry, for children or adults, may be manufactured in, sold in, offered for promotional purposes, or shipped to California that does not exclusively use materials from one or more of their three classes.

Class 1 materials are precious metals (gold, silver, etc.) stainless or surgical steel, natural or cultured pearls, most but not all gemstones, natural decorative materials such as shell, wood and leather provided they have not been treated in a way that adds lead, adhesives, and “glass, ceramic, or crystal decorative components, including cat’s eye, cubic zirconia . . ., rhinestones and cloisonné.”   There are additional restrictions for children’s jewelry that craftspeople should check out.  BellaOnLine has an excellent summary of this law as it relates to children’s jewelry.

Class 2 materials include electroplated metal with less than 6% lead by weight, unplated metals with less than 1.5% lead, plastic or rubber including beads and stones that contain less than 2% lead by weight and have a dye or surface coating with less than 6% lead by weight.

A Class 3 material is any part of a piece of jewelry that’s not a Class 1 or 2 material and that contains less than 6% lead by weight, including watch timepieces.

The State of California has an on-line fact sheet that explains the law in detail.    While many beading materials fall within one of the three classes of acceptable materials, it’s a good idea for jewelry makers to know the law and then check with their suppliers.

We asked a representative of the California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control if jewelry suppliers and retailers are required by law to warn customers that jewelry parts may not meet legal standards for children's jewelry.  The answer is "no."  

However, manufacturers and suppliers who sell to retailers are required to include a certificate stating that their products do comply with levels of cadmium and lead under the law.   The certificate can either be displayed prominently in jewelry packaging or in the shipping container.   This means that no one selling jewelry or jewelry making supplies in the State of California should be selling products that don't comply with the law.

As far as the individual beader or jewelry maker is concerned, unless the package containing jewelry making materials has a children's age warning somewhere on it, as do many products from Hobby Lobby, it's up the customer to ask whether the items they're buying are okay for use in children's jewelry. 

California Proposition 65

Proposition 65 requires businesses that employ 10 or more people to include warning labels on products containing lead or chemicals known to cause cancer and/or reproductive toxicity.  Anyone making beaded jewelry who has less than 10 employees doesn’t need to put warning labels on their products.  However, if you sell to a store or distributor with 10 or more employees, it’s likely that you’ll need to include the warning.

Chris Franchetti Michaels points out in her BellaOnLine article that, as a beader, it’s wise to let your customers know in an honest and personal way that the beads you use do contain some lead, and should not be given to children as gifts, nor should children be allowed to play with them.  It’s also a good idea to include pets in the warning although no current law mentions them, since dogs and cats will chew on things they find lying around.

Canadian Hazardous Products Act

Most countries in the world have laws covering toxic materials, particularly in children’s products. Anyone who sells beaded jewelry on-line should be aware of laws in the countries where they do business, whether they use Etsy, eBay or have their own web site.

Canada is right next door and, with the U.S./Canadian free trade agreement, it’s logical to sell to our neighbors.  Item 42 of the Canadian Hazardous Products Act went into effect in 2008.  Glass and crystal jewelry parts are specifically named in the law.  It prohibits the importation, advertisement or sale of any jewelry intended for children under age 15 that contains more than 600 mg/kg of total lead and more than 90 mg/kg of migratable lead.  “Migratable lead” is the amount of lead which is released from a product when it is brought into contact with a liquid solvent.  It’s also important to note the age Canada defines as a “child.”

Last year, Canada Health announced a ban on cadmium in children’s jewelry, restricting the level of cadmium to .013%.   To read Item 42 of the Hazardous Products Act:

The European Union’s Toy Safety Directive

In 2009 the EU strengthened existing laws on child safety.  “Child” is defined by the new directive as anyone under the age of 14, which is two years older than the CPSIA’s definition.   Although the law is called the Toy Safety Directive, it includes “gray area” products such as items for collectors, historical replicas and “fashion accessories which are not used in play.”  Beaded jewelry and clothing adornments fall into this category.

Strict limits are put on the amount of nickel in children’s products and no intentionally used lead is permitted.  Since many of the glass beads used in beadwork come from EU countries, the manufacturers need to comply with EU laws, but that only means they consider the beads safe for adults.  For more information on the Toy Safety Directive use this link:    


These laws make it difficult for beaders and jewelry makers because of the need to make sure all of their materials comply with various laws.  For children’s jewelry, the CPSIA should be the baseline.  Jewelry intended for adults can include beads and findings that are not legal for children’s jewelry, but it’s a good idea to keep California’s Lead-Containing Jewelry Law in mind.  As things now stand, the burden of determining if jewelry making materials meet California's standards for children is on the jewelry maker--not on the supplier or retailer.

If you sell outside the United States it’s essential to read the laws of the country you’re exporting to, because they’re different from ours.  If you sell at craft fairs, flea markets or on-line, there may be no way of knowing where the buyer lives or who they’re buying for.  Native beaders who sell a variety of beadwork at craft fairs should rethink offering beaded children’s items such as baby mocs and baby barrettes.  It’s now illegal to sell any beaded jewelry for children under age 3 except jewelry using large pieces of material meeting the size requirement that have 1% or less lead content.

Common sense can help avoid problems and law suits.  If you design for adults and suspect someone is buying for a child, gently tell them that the beaded item is not intended for children under a certain age and can be harmful.