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Safety protocols - preventing toxicity from jewelry workshop chemicals

No doubt this topic has been discussed ad infinitum on this forum so apologies in advance.

I’ve been “in the business” as a bench jeweler for a number of years and have worked in, as well as visited, several shops. One of the seemingly common denominator between these shops, with exception to one that I’ve worked in, is that they are lax, dare I say ignorant of protocols to prevent toxicity from jewelry workshop chemicals. Generally what I see is people putting hands in ultrasonics to clean their fingers after polishing, lack of ventilation hoods for soldering/plating setups, lack of specialized dust collection units for at the bench polishing, and the list goes on.

This ignorant apathy seems to be fueled by one of three things; the need for speed, a tough guy/superman attitude, and general cheapness on the part of the brazen bosses.

I would like to know how you, fellow Orchidians, overcome this seemingly omnipresent environment, or endure it day to day. On the other hand, if you open your studio window and breathe only verdant clear meadow air from skylight soaked studios while your hepa filter gently hums away, I would like to hear your story too.

Finally, a quick thanks to Charles Lewton Brain for publishing the monumental “Jewelry Workshop Safety Report”.


Sure I wash the first layer of polishing compound off my fingers in the ultrasonic. Not while it is running and I wash them with soap afterwards. I have seen up close some of the goo that comes off jewelry. Most solder does not have cadmium in it any more so I don’t spend a lot of time with the vent over my bench running. I have a good suction unit on my polishing machine and I am not one of those nearly polish at the bench guys. To tell the truth that is more about the money it collects than the silica. Again plating solutions are not cyanide based anymore. Is running a big suction vent over the top of them that big a deal anymore. I spend about 10 actual minutes in any given 8 hour day rhodium plating. Seems a lot of money to spend on venting for 10 minutes. Should I wear a face mask filter when I polish? Probably, never found one that wasn’t pretty annoying. 38 years at the bench and I probably fall into the ambivalent category. I also ride a motorcycle, love a good big juicey steak and enjoy a couple of vodka and tonics each evening. Am I more likely to die of silicosis, heart disease or a distracted driver. Time will tell

Investing in safe protocols since I began running a company myself, there are no regrets in this manner…Using only high-end alloys, we don;t need to electroplate, electrostrip, nor expose each other to these vulgar chemicals… Our polishing system scrubs the air of all particulate, and investing is performed with a proper mask. This in in contrast to the standards of the shops in which I was trained, where cyanide was a common pollutants and where polishing dust coated the walls.