The good news related to lead testing for children’s jewelry is
this: As an earlier poster reported, the Consumer Product Safety
Commission staff has proposed an exemption for certain materials,
including precious metals and most (I think) The board is
voting on it and, if approved, the proposal will be posted in the
Federal Register for public comment.
MJSA has worked very hard to persuade the regulators on this issue,
and it looks like there may be light at the end of this tunnel.
You can read the proposal at
http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html#whatsnew. It’s the second
item down under What’s New.
The bad news: Many other important details remain up in the air,
such as how frequently samples of a product line must be tested. For
small-production jewelry makers, that’s a huge question: Will one out
of every small batch have to be tested, at a cost of $15-$20 per
test? (The tests, by the way, destroy the sample.) The legislation,
as I read it, was written with large-scale production in mind, but it
does not exempt small shops.
There are concerns within the industry regarding the definition of
children’s jewelry, too. If you sell a gold-fill crucifix and chain
with an adult market in mind, should you treat it as a children’s
product because it’s a common first communion present? And lots of
girls under 12 receive, buy and wear costume jewelry – earrings and
such – that was not created for their age group.
Also, no exemption has been created to date for the leaded crystal
that so many jewelry manufacturers use.
MJSA is continuing to work on these issues and will try to provide
members with guidance on navigating this minefield. A panel of
experts will discuss the legislation and what it means for jewelry
makers at MJSA Expo New York March 8-10. I strongly recommend
attendance, but if you can’t, please don’t rely on a three-minute
newscast or a 150-word newspaper story for the details. This is
complicated, and those reports cannot address it in the detail that
you need. (I’m not criticizing the media, by the way. It’s just that
I spent 25 years in the newspaper business, and I know its
limitations.) Do some Internet research, and look for the February
MJSA Journal, which will have an update on the situation.
Some other things to consider:
Questionable advice is floating around the industry. For example,
the legislation specifically says the manufacturer or importer is
responsible for testing and certification. “My supplier said it was
OK” may not fly. And while the CPSC does not have the resources to
police craft fairs, you could face trouble if a parent, state health
agency or a lawyer sniffing around for business decides to check up
on compliance. The penalties are stiff, and the lead standard won’t
be that hard to violate inadvertently. It starts at 600 parts per
million on Feb. 10, falls to 300 ppm in August, and may fall as low
as 100 ppm in 2011. At those lower levels, a bit of bad solder or
shop contamination could put you over the limit.
While the CPSC did, indeed, say it was concerned more with safety
than by-the-book certification, it was talking about the brief period
in which SELF-certification is required (Feb. 10 to mid-March 2009)
because third-party labs would not yet be accredited.
Do you paint or otherwise “coat” your jewelry? If so, then you’re
subject to the lead-paint provisions of the act.
Be prepared for galleries and other buyers to ask for
certification in the interests of CYA (that’s “cover your…”).
Several MJSA members have faced that demand already.
It’s not official policy yet, but the CPSC counsel says she sees
no exception in the act for items that were in inventory before Feb.
- It appears that anything for sale on Feb. 10 and beyond must be
in compliance, regardless of when it was made.
- This is not an interstate commerce issue. The law preempts state
regulations everywhere but California, which has similar
All is not doom and gloom, of course. The CPSC is not deaf to the
needs of jewelry makers, and several federal legislators have lined
up behind the industry on this. (I second the exhortation to get
involved and write letters to the CPSC. Write to your legislators,
too.) This may yet come to a workable end. But if you create jewelry
that could be construed as a product for children, don’t make any