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Dangers of using nickel, tin and lead to make jewelry


#1

Hello everyone:

Of late I have been annealing, cutting, sanding and polishing old
silverplate flatware and forming spoons and folks into jewelry
components. It occurred to me that/hundred year ol/d silverplate
silverware might have some very nasty hard metals that make up the
interior of the silver plated flatware. Does anyone know if it is
dangerous to anneal and sand nickel, tin or lead? I am hopeful that
there is no silverplating covering lead but cannot be certain. The
silver plated spoons and folks are not easy to bend, and that is why
I am annealing them, which leads me to believe they are not composed
of lead. When I cut the pieces I see bright silver color which does
not dull when exposed to the air. Just thinking about all those years
of acid type food and the leaching that might have occurred with
these pieces of silverplate is a bit unnerving. I use an N95% mask
and have an exhaust system (abet not as effective as a professional
studio but as effective as I can create.) As I have said before on
this forum, I have some breathing issue and lost my huband to lung
cancer, therefore I am very concerned with toxic chemicals. Any
regarding what the risks are for nickel and tin would be
great. Also, does anyone know what the general metal makeup of old
silverplated silverware might be?

Regards


#2
Any regarding what the risks are for nickel and tin
would be great. 

Lead is a heavy metal and isn’t nice.

Nickel can cause skin reactions, so would assume the vapour might
not be good for you.

Tin is a low toxicity metal (one of the reasons I prefer it over
zinc). Meaning you have to ingest a lot of it before you get ill.

Regards Charles A.


#3

I use old silverplate trays to make jewelry. I saw into it and use a
torch to add patina. Sometimes it is copper, brass, or pot metal.
Maybe I am too careless. I like the results of “ruining” the silver
plate.

Roxy Lentz


#4

Brass is also toxic and should not be worn on the skin. Salts, sweat
etc produce verdigris. Green colouring on the skin which can leach
into the blood. I know copper is used as a method of preventing
rheumatism,by some, an old wives tale? When brass was used for
cooking pots a green scum formed on the surface of the food causing
liver damage. Lead, as Charles says, possibly caused the demise of
the Roman Empire, their water was piped in lead pipes, drank from
lead goblets and ate of lead plates. Tin is used to surface chef’s
copper pans, probably safer than teflon. Cooking was done in iron
pots, not stainless steel, as it gave a good source of iron to
vegetarians, when aluminium was introduced to India anemia became a
huge problem with those who used it. Really only silver, golds,
platinum, Iron, steel, titanium etc, should be worn.

David Cruickshank (Australia)
jewellerydavidcruickshank.com.au


#5
I know copper is used as a method of preventing rheumatism,by some,
an old wives tale? 

David does not offer any scientific evidence for the supposed
dangers of wearing brass, copper, and (I suppose) nickel-silver. My
jewelry is only made of these three metals/alloys --I do not believe
I am being poisoned by them. Over the whole planet, I would guess
that millions, if not billions, of other people wear primarily base
metal jewelry. In his book, Jewelry Concepts and Technology, Oppi
Untracht refers to the jewelry use of copper, brass, bronze, and
nickel alloys, without a word of warning about any toxic aspects of
such use.

Perhaps if I were very wealthy, I would own the heavier jewelry I
prefer in solid gold. But this is not the case. I enjoy jewelry, both
making and wearing it, and using base metal (copper, brass,
nickel-silver) means I can continue this enjoyment. Without better
evidence to the contrary, I do not believe that jewelry made in
"brass is toxic…" (etc.).

Judy Bjorkman


#6
any scientific evidence for the supposed dangers of wearing brass,
copper, 

Certainly, if a person were so inclined, there is also an extensive
list of references to read.


#7
From what I understand, lead is definitely dangerous. That being
said, the US Environmental Protection Agency has specified bismuth
as a lead substitute, which actually has been found to be non-toxic
and is listed on their Generally Recoginized As Safe (GRASS) list. 

I am not exactly sure what properties bismuth would have mixed with
silver to create solders or other useful materials.

Andrew Jonathan Fine


#8

Hi Judy,

There’s plenty of out there if you look for it.

Firstly copper is an essential element in our diets (if you eat
cheese you eat copper), in small quantities, it’s when the large
build ups happen that the problems start.

Brass is a combination of copper and zinc, again we have a
nutritional requirement for zinc… in small quantities.

Nickel silver can be a combination of copper and nickel, but may
also contain zinc.

We eat all of these elements, in minute quantities, yes even nickel,
although, if you have a nickel allergy you should avoid foods with
nickel in them.

However when you get too much, then really bad things can happen.

Gold and Platinum are inert, and silver is relatively inert. Nickel,
copper and zinc are reactive metals.

Here’s a test, put some gold on your tongue, and it tastes like
nothing, put a piece of copper on your tongue, and there’s a definite
"zing". Of course the lesser carart golds actually have a taste the
more copper that goes into their makeup. Interesting thought: Maybe
you could train your taste buds to carat check gold :smiley:

A reactive metal can be broken down by your body chemistry, and can
be transported into your body. This has the nasty side effect of
raising your levels of that particular element. Which can be bad, and
can become serious. For example too much copper will blow your liver.

Usually you find where people wearing base metal/alloy jewellery,
they are poorer, and life expectancy is lower. The conclusion isn’t t
that “the jewellery effected their mortality”, it’s just their lives
are too short to see any of the damaging health effects of metal
toxicity. I think they’d be there, but the data in that situation is
inconclusive. In our western society we have more data, and we can
draw conclusions.

Summary:

You can put on a gold band, wear it next to your skin, and even get
sweaty without anything bad happening (except that maybe you’ll have
to clean the ring).

However for health reasons I would not wear brass, copper, nickel
silver, or (even my favorite) bronze continually. You can still wear
them, but not all the time.

Regards Charles A.


#9

Most solders are made using fine brass. the silver content will be
about 70%. Do not alloy yourself using domestic brass as this
contains lead to make it easy to draw.

Nick Royall


#10

Hello Charles,

Interesting. I notice that my pharmacist carries and sells copper
bracelets for customers to wear. It is claimed that copper relieves
arthritis pain. No idea if that is true.

I’m just saying… interesting.
Judy in Kansas


#11

Hi david, i must thank you for all the I really
appriciate if all members also could write about this…


#12

Most solders are made using fine brass. the silver content will be
about 70%. Do not alloy yourself using domestic brass as this
contains lead to make it easy to draw.

What brass alloy are you referring to, there are dozens of them.
Some indeed have lead added to make them “free machining” but
drawing brasses which include probably the most common sheet brass
available (cartridge brass aka C260 or C26000) don’t have any lead
deliberately added as it reduces room temperature ductility and
leads to hot shortness at elevated temperatures. So they keep the
lead to a maximum value of 0.07%. Lead is typically only added to
wrought alloys to make the chips from machining break up into small
pieces due to that reduced ductility that lead imparts to most
alloys . This is what is meant by free machining.

As a rule of thumb with brass if it is a rod or bar form (not wire
or sheet) it is very likely a free machining alloy so it most likely
has lead added to it to make it a good machining candidate. Wire and
sheet typically don’t have lead added because of the reduced
ductility making production of sheet and wire difficult but, lead
may still be present as a tramp element. If it is present at the
maximum level listed (0.07%) in the spec for C260 it will exceed the
600 ppm (0.06%) threshold allowed by law for jewelry here in the US.

Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#13
Interesting. I notice that my pharmacist carries and sells copper
bracelets for customers to wear. It is claimed that copper
relieves arthritis pain. No idea if that is true. 

The pharmacy is a business. It doesn’t automatically legitimise the
unproven claims that copper is good for arthritis.

We know that excessive copper can hurt you, and we know this from
legitimate research and data. There have been controlled studies
undertaken that prove that copper bracelets, and magnetic bracelets
do nothing to relieve pain or stiffness due to arthritis.

The only benefit you may get from these devices is a placebo effect.

Knowing that excess copper can hurt you, it’s prudent to not wear
copper jewellery all the time.

Wear it sometimes, wear it as a pendant outside your clothes, that
kind of thing. Don’t be fooled in thinking you’ll get a health
benefit from strapping on a bracelet.

Did you guys get power bands, we got those here, basically a rubber
bracelet, with a “special” hologram attached to it.

Regards Charles A.


#14

Thank you, Charles A., for your considered response. Except for
minor quibbles, I agree with it. While it clearly unsafe to eat food
prepared in base metal/alloy vessels, I still have not seen anything
on the dangers of occasionally /wearing/ base metal jewelry. Of
course, I do not wear mine 24/7. Most of my bracelets do not fit
tightly on my arm, so their contact with any one area of skin is
limited. I rarely find any “green” marks on my ring finger. And so
on.

The Wikipedia article on copper toxicity deals primarily with
toxicity from ingestion of copper compounds.

I feel no danger from wearing base metal jewelry. Where I need to be
slightly more disciplined is /always/ putting on my mask(s) when
grinding/polishing/soldering.

Judy Bjorkman


#15
I notice that my pharmacist carries and sells copper bracelets for
customers to wear. It is claimed that copper relieves arthritis
pain 

What I have read is that in our modern, very well-washed world,
people may not consume enough dirt along with their food (or eat
enough vegetables, which are grown in dirt of course) to get the tiny
trace amounts we need of some minerals, which may include copper.
Furthermore, insufficient copper, the logic goes, may contribute to
arthritis.

So IF you are deficient in copper, you need so little that enough
will probably be absorbed through the skin if you wear copper against
your skin.

And IF copper helps arthritis in people who are deficient, then the
bracelet may do you some good. I’m reasonably sure it won’t hurt
you.

But here’s the real irony. Copper is, as we all know, prone to
oxidation. So drugstore bracelets are generally coated to keep them
bright. So, no copper touching the skin, and so no possible benefit,
unless you think it is just magic.

Noel


#16
Furthermore, insufficient copper, the logic goes, may contribute
to arthritis. 

Copper deficiency has several consequences, but arthritis is not one
of them.

I wonder how all this copper/arthritis nonsense got started? Not
that it can’t be as effective as other forms of placebo.

Al Balmer
Pine City, NY


#17

also interestingly, the OSHA PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) for
copper and nickel is 1 mg/cubic meter TWA. TWA is time weighted
average (applied to the standard 8 hour work day). This applies to
dust produced by grinding, etc. Fumes are listed on the MSDS as
producing metal fume fever. Unless you are grinding copper or nickel
a lot not even a mask is required. There is no LD50 listed for either
material. Both are listed as a possible skin irritant, with the care
being washing thoroughly with exposure resulting in irritation.

There is a comment (anecdotal) that long term exposure to nickel
fumes in workers may be linked to an increased cancer rate among
refinery workers. Casual contact and “exposure” to dust and fumes
should have no adverse health effects.

John
http://rasmussengems.ganoksin.com/blogs/


#18

Of the three elements above tin is the safest.

Large build-ups of tin will make you feel sick, but excess tin is
excreted, and doesn’t lead to fatality.

Nickel poisoning can be severe and can result in death.

Lead poisoning is the worst, there is no figure to represent how
minute a quantity lead is bad for us.

Regards Charles A.


#19
I wonder how all this copper/arthritis nonsense got started? Not
that it can't be as effective as other forms of placebo. 

Well, there is some logic to the copper/arthritis madness. Copper is
important nutrient in maintaining healthy ligaments. Stiffness due to
ligaments loosing elasticity often mis-diagnosed as stiffness due to
arthritis. However they both age related but entirely different.
Ligament elasticity can be maintain by making sure that enough copper
is in one’s diet (plus regular stretching ). In Asia, the tradition
is to include a lot of sesame seeds in preparation of dishes.

Sesame seeds are very reach in copper. So better way to add copper
to a diet would be sesame bagel instead of copper bangle.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#20
Copper deficiency has several consequences, but arthritis is not
one of them. 
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/1n2 

Thanks for the link-- quite fascinating! I agree, I see nothing in
this to suggest copper can help arthritis. It does not touch on the
question of whether deficiency is affected by skin absorption, only
ingestion, in any case. But deficiency in adults seems pretty
unlikely for most people.

So, I guess the question of whether to wear a copper bracelet is
entirely a matter of taste.

Noel