Hi While making niello with a lead content might not kill you or your
customers, it possible that it would be illegal to sell it. The
’lead free’ product legislation is constantly changing and I am not
sure of the various national rulings now relating to lead in jewelry
around the globe (For example, the United States Congress banned the
use of lead solder containing more than 0.2% lead for some purposes
in 1986). The presence of lead in some costume jewelry alloys has
caused some alarm (and lots of lurid internet reading).
Presumably the commercially available niello (as noted on Orchid a
few days ago - from Fischer in Pforzheim Germany.
http://www.fischer-pforzheim.de part number 7625.)is lead free (is
The other good news is that prior to sometime around the 9th or 10th
century all (or at least much) niello was lead free - just silver+
sulphur or silver + copper + sulphur. The bad news is that this lead
free stuff needs a different application approach - doesn’t flow the
same way. (A recent reference to all this ancient stuff is Karen
Stemann Petersen: Danish niello inlays from the iron age. I: Journal
of Danish Archaeology, nr. 12, Odense University Press, 1998, s.
So perhaps stick with the commercial available stuff. But even then
it might be tricky to avoid hallmarking hassle (applying niello after
hallmarking might well avoid Assay Office rejection, but could still
be illegal, at least under UK legislation - the UK rule of thumb is
that you really can’t do anything to a precious metal object after
Hallmarking that would have prevented it being Hallmarked if you had
done it before submitting it. If you see what I mean).
Or, of course, use some other blackish mixture - I’ve seen a good
imitation made with ground-up pencil ‘lead’ and crazy glue (pencil
’lead’ is, of course. ‘lead free’ – phew…)