Lead-free jewelry components

Dear Orchid Community-

I am looking for a resource to purchase lead-free brass parts from to
use in fashion jewelry. The guidelines we are trying to comply with
require that each component used in our jewelry items must have less
than 6/10ths of 1% of lead. This would include things like brass
lobster claws, spring rings, headpins, solder and even jumprings.
Unfortuneately the big suppliers of these types of parts in Asia
often supply parts that have inconsistent levels of lead, often very
high levels. I need a source I can depend on for an important
customer with very large distribution channels. And of course I need
this… yesterday.

Please advise a resource for brass findings which consistently meets
the new US standard (Feb 2005, childrens metal jewelry). This could
be excellent business for the manufacturer who can supply these types
of parts.

I appreciate any input you may have.

Carol Lipman
Lucas-Design International
2520 West 6th Street
Los Angeles, Ca 90057

resource to purchase lead-free brass parts from to use in fashion
jewelry. The guidelines we are trying to comply with require that
each component used in our jewelry items must have less than
6/10ths of 1% of lead. 

Is this for real or is it just a rampant case of corporate

For thousands of years millions of very intelligent people have
striven and experimented at great length to find the ideal
composition of metal alloys for every purpose. Now, just because some
faceless diplomat has generically said ‘lead is bad for you’ do we
really have to automatically try to exclude it from everything we may
possibly come into contact with? If its really so bad for us, why is
it that, over the last 100 years or so, when the bulk of the western
population (in cities at least) have been exposed to ever increasing
levels of atmospheric lead pollution from vehicle fumes and industry
and, for a good proportion of that time, have been drinking water
which has been supplied through lead pipes - the overall health of
these people has improved leading to longer lives and their
intelligence has also risen? Lead is specifically included in brass
alloys for one purpose only - to control the metal’s grain size and
make it more malleable. Without it, brass is only fit for rough
castings and, in the presence of ammonia fumes, the solvents in some
cosmetics or cats pee, is quite likely to turn literally to dust.
This is a problem I encounter quite often in antique clocks which
were traditionally cleaned every few years in a soap and ammonia
solution - whole sections of the cast brass gear wheels simply
crumble away. Lead added to the brass binds the grains together and
allows the metal to flow whether it is being forged, turned or
engraved. Without it the tool chatters and skips over the surface or,
in the case of forged parts, the brass becomes brittle and easily
breaks. I came across a very similar problem a couple of years ago
when I went to order a new stock of free-cutting tool steel. I asked
for my normal type only to be told ‘Oh, you can’t have that - they’ve
stopped making it because it contained Selenium which is poisonous’.
Yes. I know it contained Selenium - that was what made it so
beautiful to work with but at a level of something like 1/5th of 1
percent I doubt that I would be struck down by the amount that
managed to penetrate the muck which usually covers my hands in the
workshop or by any fumes which happened to be able to penetrate the
fog of cutting oil fumes between me and the bit of 1/8in steel bar in
the chuck!! So, what alternative product was I offered? ‘The only
free cutting tool steel we’re allowed to supply now is this LEADED
steel’!!! Its about as free-cutting as a rusty old nail - absolute

I know someone is going to jump up and down and say ‘ah, but what
about the people who have to make the steel or brass’ etc. etc. Well
the manufacturers of these base products are in a position to protect
their workers and should do so - I know they don’t and that they just
stop making the stuff which is why almost all the world’s brass is
now made in India. The western manufacturers weren’t prepared to
tackle the problem of Zinc fumes and so world production was allowed
to migrate to India where the health of their young workers was not
considered of such importance. I suppose that when India decides to
improve its worker health standards production will move to some
other country down the chain… Its not as though leaving the tiny
bit of Selenium out of my steel did much for the world’s Selenium
production as tons of the stuff is still routinely used in
electronics etc. As you can tell though - even a couple of years on,
it had a deleterious effect on my mental well being. Sorry for the
long rant - had to get it out of my system - I’ll go and turn an
ivory knob for a brass latch I’ve just made out of CZ120!!

Best wishes,

Ian W. Wright