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Cadmium in foreign jewelry


#1

Hello List,

I just read an article in my newspaper, about there being heavy metal
cadmium in jewelry purchased at three leading retailers in Los
Angeles, CA, including Saks Fifth Ave.and Aeropostale.

The jewelry had levels of the toxic material, as much as 75% by
weight.

One of the pieces was made in China and another was made in India.
Labeling on a black-colored link necklace purchased for $69.99 at
Saks, did not indicate where it was made.

Based on the results of its testing, the Center for Environmental
Health said it would seek a ban on cadmium in all jewelry.

Veva


#2

They say these tests are being done with a portable XRF, does anyone
know if this thing is seeing past the surface? I am suspicious that
the whole object is 75% cadmimum or other very high percentages that
are being quoted. It would be more likely a plating on the surface to
be that high a percentage I would think. I can believe it is a part
of the alloy that is being cast in these white metal pieces but 75%
seem way too high. Does anyone have experience with using these
portable XRF units?

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#3

There were also some other retailers.

Has anyone found a good wholesale source for test kits or reagents?
The ones available online to the retail public for lead, cadmium,
etc. are quite expensive when you consider it might take three swabs
to check a necklace on the clasp, chain, and jump rings. I haven’t
found any through our regular suppliers.


#4

It is funny thing that NOW the EV dept. in this country has or will
ban cadmium based metals to be in jewelry.

In 35 years of making jewelry, I used cadmium based solder made by
IStern. It flows way better than plumb. Guess what, I am still alive
and kicking at 60+ years. So I guess buy or use at your own risk.

Russ


#5
a few weeks ago, I was using my new toy, a portable x-ray
specrtometer made by Niton, though a bunch of costume jewelry. 2
pieces, actually religious charms of st christopher I think, had
high enough levels of cadmium (46.1 and 56.0 %) that we treated it
as hazmat. 

accuracy of the spectrometer, on a bad day, is +/- 0.02%, so yes it
was cadmium, and shockingly high. we couldn’t believe it, but there
it was.

Mark Zirinsky
denver
pemed.com


#6

James,

They say these tests are being done with a portable XRF, does
anyone know if this thing is seeing past the surface? I am
suspicious that the whole object is 75% cadmimum or other very high
percentages that are being quoted. 

I looked up the CPSC effectiveness study on these instruments and
you don’t have to read very far to find that it is strictly a surface
reading. I still don’t know exactly what the new lead standards are
in terms of surface versus mass cases, but I suspect that many of
the politicians, special interest, and bureaucrats that oversee these
things don’t know themselves.

The Niton uses a small laser burst to melt an extremely small sample
of surface metal directly into a plasma sample that is “read” with a
spectrograph unit in the larger unit. The sampling and reading are
done in the atmosphere. Because the unit is hand held the sampling
and reading distance is variable. I am sure that the units precision
rating is relative; as is the case often were an instrument is
accurate to a certain standard of measure, but is incapable of using
that standard in the real world because it can’t sample in a
completely variable free environment.

Daniel Culver


#7

Hi Jim:

If it’s the same handheld XRF my scrap guy uses, it’s just a surface
bounce.

I’ve been seeing those same “75% Cadmium!!” headlines, and wondering
about them as well. Seems both insanely high, and much more trouble
than it’d be worth, trying to fabricate out of nearly pure Cd. If
the whole objective of using cadmium is to save money, having a
nearly pure Cd casting seems like a money loser.

FWIW,
Brian.


#8
I am suspicious that the whole object is 75% cadmimum or other very
high percentages that are being quoted. 

I agree with Jim, that we need to be carefull and acurate about what
is reported about cadmium. Look what happened a few weeks ago when
the Children’s jewelry from China was reported to contain cadmium.
More than a dozen politicians were grandstanding and proposing
legislation in less than a week. The original AP story was based on
the discovery of just 12 pieces of jewelry containing cadmium.
Apparently this is enough for our sensationalist news media to
launch a witch hunt. For many activists any opportunity to denounce
imports and trash Walmart are are gift horses not to be looked in the
mouth. If cadmium becomes the new asbestos, we might all find
ourselves in the awkward position of having to prove a negative. If
there are demands that imported jewelry be tested for cadmium it is
quite logical that free trade doctrines will follow that ALL jewelry
be proven to be free of cadmium (or lead, or arsenic or unethically
produced materials) The expense and time that this could take along
with public fear of poisonous jewelry in general could really make
this a big compliance and PR problem, especially for small jewelers.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to give a pass to anyone using
toxic materials. Just be sure you are right about your facts because
it is quite likely that innocent people will also be paying a price
for what this could lead to.


#9

Can anyone tell me how I may obtain one of these portable Niton
spectrometers, and what the cost is? I appreciate any you
can provide - Jean


#10

Cadmium is a nasty heavy metal, and like lead or mercury, not every
one who touches it dies the next day. Same with a lot of things from
radiation to crossing the street, you play the odds. Denver used to
have a thriving cadmium smelter up north and I remember talking to
someone knowledgeable with the business who was commenting on the the
great retirement benefits they offered - because hardly any of the
smelter workers lived long enough to collect. Sounds a bit
apocryphal, but had the ring of truth. I think the last I heard the
area was a super fund site.

I used to coat pennies with mercury (with my bare fingers) and chew
on lead solder - and smoke cigarettes. But now I will pick my
battles and avoid this junk when I can. I wear my seat belt but still
use fluorides in my flux and relish the fruit of the vine.Marlin in
Denver, getting ready for more snow.


#11
I am suspicious that the whole object is 75% cadmimum or other
very high percentages that are being quoted. 

The quote was from the AP news wire in the Reno Gazette-Journal, page
2B. I agree that this could be a big problem with our own business.
The Chinese manufacturers are causing a lot of trouble in our Nation,
when they try to cut corners to cut manufacturing costs. Due to all
the other problems with Chinese goods, my Sister and I, have decided
to boycott all Chinese products, unless we have no choice.

Veva


#12
Can anyone tell me how I may obtain one of these portable Niton
spectrometers, and what the cost is? I appreciate any information
you can provide 

Several thousands dollars as a guess, anything that generates X rays
will be costly if for no other reason than product liability
insurance. http://www.niton.com/

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#13
Can anyone tell me how I may obtain one of these portable Niton
spectrometers, and what the cost is? I appreciate any information
you can provide 

I got curious too, so I spent a few minutes with Google. Do the same
looking for pricing on a Niton XL3t multi-element xrf analizer.
Depending on what options you go for, I found prices ranging from
about 31 thousand to 46 thousand dollars. That’s just browsing
Google’s returns. If you’re seriously interested, I’d suggest
contacting the company. It’s always possible I found the wrong tool,
but it sure looked like the right thing to me. Neat hand held tool a
bit smaller than a cop’s radar gun. Point it at a metal surface, and
it reads out almost exact analysis of almost all elements contained
(some very light ones in the top two or three rows of the periodic
table, and the bottom radioactive row don’t seem to be covered. But
that leaves anything we’d be interested in, at least almost… Now,
if they can just drop maybe three decimal places off of the price…

I think I’ll stick with a touchstone and acids, at least for this
week.

:slight_smile:

Peter Rowe


#14

Well, based on my experience, the XRF appears to be identifying
materials based on a certain “window” peering into the metal. it can
vary, but using the attenuation and filtration of say, a 5 to 30 Kv
pulsed x-ray spread (the actually energy of the x-ray) I seem to be
seeing a conical shaped window, up to about 5 mm thick, at about a
55 degree angle of dispersion. I have not actually bothered to set up
a test station and measure this, because I don’t really care, but
that is what it looks li,e.

plating can confuse the unit, on occasion, as these thin coatings
act as, I think, fourier filters, which can drop out every other
backscatter wavelength. confusing the instrument. I had this happen
on a piece of plated steel, it reported it as gold over chrome, it
wound up being a very thick rhodium coating over platinum over steel
(not something you would see in jewelry, this is out of a high
energy physics piece of equipment, a linear accelerator, weighs about
11,000 pounds, no one is going to walk into your shop with it).

For true determination, we still use backup fire assay with a
reputable assay house. for example, we have one piece of metal that
the portable XRF has identified as 88% tungsten, 11% gold. Normally
we wouldn’t be too concerned, but this block weighs 84 pounds (no I
did not leave out the decimal point) so we are going to get a 2nd
opinion before we celebrate.

however, on straight allows, it is very accurate, +/- 0.02 %,
probably I have that much variation in metal content in my alloys in
jewelry work, simply due to density separation when melting.

The religious charms were scary. With the high cadmium content
(46.0%, not 0.46%), and as poisonous stuff as this metal is (it is a
neurotoxin), the net effect is that the more you rub the charms, the
crazier you are going to get.

Now, if anyone who is reading this wishes to disbelieve, or slay the
messenger, or whatever, well, if that is your reaction, well then,
that is just that, your reaction.

As always, presented here is to be used, or not, at your
own risk.

So, to answer your question directly, I myself have taken a reading
of 46% cadmium on a charm with a hand held portable XRF.

Warm regards
Mark Zirinsky, Denver


#15

actually, the principle of physics of the niton laser is fourier
spectroscopic analysis of xray florescence.

kind of like a UV black light exciting a sample to produce visible
colors, X-ray florescence uses an x ray to excite a sample, and
measure the backscatter, still in the x-ray wavelengths. The back
scatter energy levels are characteristic of different elements.

some of the nitons have a laser built in, but that is for the
purpose of using bar codes to track large number of samples, that
portion of the device is the same as what you see in a grocery store
to read a bar code from a product package.

there the only thing that gets vaporized is the money you use to
make your purchase. its gone.


#16

Please see my earlier reply to this subject.

on a st christopher medallion, I myself took a reading of 46%
contained cadmium content.

Scary.

as always the usual legal disclaimers, use at your own risk.

warm regards
mark Zirinsky, Denver


#17

Hi Mark,

OK, it really is +50% Cd. My initial reaction to hearing numbers
that high was to doubt the accuracy of the assay or reporting, as it
just seemed insane.

Now for a follow on question: if the entire point of making the
parts this way is to save money, wouldn’t making them out of Cd be
more expensive than just regular tin/bismuth/antimony white metal
mixes??

I can see sloppy refining leaving a few percent mixed in with the
tin & etc, but 50% Cd?? That gets into ??WTF!?? territory.

Most puzzled,
Brian.


#18

Mark,

on a st christopher medallion, I myself took a reading of 46%
contained cadmium content. 

I have no doubt that that is what the portable XRF read. But without
a fire assay I have serious doubts that the whole piece is 46%
cadmimum, it certainly could be plated with pure cadmium. I know when
my refiner uses a table top XRF they need to calibrate the results
with a fire assay.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#19
Due to all the other problems with Chinese goods, my Sister and I,
have decided to boycott all Chinese products, unless we have no
choice. 

My mom’s been doing that for at least a decade or more. Not because
of cadmium, but because of quality issues, fair trade issues, the
whole thing about chinese manufacturers scooping up good ideas from
elsewhere and copying them for less money, making business moguls
wealthy but paying workers next to nothing in sweat shops. And more.
She makes an exception for goods she feels properly aught to come
from China. Silks, some tea, similar traditionally chinese goods.
But for the rest, she buys american or european, or from other
sources she feels are playing fair… Took me a while, but I’ve kind
of gotten on her bandwagon. I make a few exceptions here and there
for things I really need, but for the most part, I think I’m getting
more value for my money this way. And it’s a great excuse to never
shop at Walmart…

Peter Rowe


#20
if the entire point of making the parts this way is to save money,
wouldn't making them out of Cd be *more* expensive than just
regular tin/bismuth/antimony white metal mixes?? 

I found a spot price for Cd at $1.40 / lb., another at $1.50 / lb.
Bismuth was $8.40. I saw tin for $6.78. Antimony (per Mt) is $6550 or
almost $3 / lb. So cadmium is definitely cheaper.

Neil A.