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Use of asbestos in jewellery making


Dear Jewellers

I wonder if anyone could help me.

I have just started a class for hand-making jewellery. We work on
asbestos “mats” (I think it is mainly there for when we work with
the blow torch). I have heard that the general use of asbestos
has been banned in some countries (apparently the fibres can cause
lung cancer if inhaled). Is asbestos safe to use like this? Is
there an alternative that is reasonably priced? I would
appreciate any input. Thank you very much. Regards Pauline South
Africa email:


As long as the mats are not moved around too much and create a
lot of dust, they should be fine. It is breathing the dust that
you should be careful of. We also have them in the studio where I
teach. I think soldering fumes and other chemicals pose greater



Pauline, get rid of the stuff. Asbestos is never safe to handle.
There are many different things you can use when you use your
torch - the kind of bricks you use inside your fireplace is
probably the cheapest. But there are other (not so heavy) items
available for your local jewellery supplier as well.

Don’t use your asbestos mat!

Regards Lars Dahlberg/Gotland/Sweden


Pauline Asbestos is your basic no-no in the US nowadays. I have
used refractory (sp.??) cloth when doing work with glass melting.
It comes in sheets and looks like very heavy felt. I haven’t
done any glass work in a long time, so I’m not up on the latest.
But try out some of the glass bead makers or lampworkers sites.
There was one just the other day on Orchid, that looked like it might
help you out. Checkout , their catalog
lists the solderite pads as well as other soldering/heat resistant
blocks etc. Hope this helps. good luck. Leslie


Hi Pauline.

The best answer, in my opinion, is NO, do NOT use the asbestos
mats. Asbestos, if inhaled, will kill you in a very painful and
slow way (your lungs fill with blood or something nasty like
that). You were completely correct to be a bit worried. Now,
having said that, many jewellers have used them for years with no
effects so far, and I’m sure you will get responses from said
people about how great they are… but the way I’ve been taught
(and I’m no expert, but… ) is if you can avoid hazardous
substances, like asbestos and mercury, do it. If there are no
other options, take precautions. In this case, you would probably
want a respirator rated for asbestos.

I’m assuming you mean the coiled soldering pads? There are
asbestos-free replacements available from Rio Grande. Not to
sound alarmist – but if you can afford to take a safer route,
why not? No, your students won’t be jamming the soldering pads up
their noses… but there’s always a chance…just a thought.
I’d be interested in seeing what the veterans of Orchid say on
this. :slight_smile:



Hi Pauline et al, In fact also in Italy the use of asbestos is
officially forbidden. It’s dust is known to be carcinogenic (at
least I heard so). So please, sooner look for some alternatives!


Aogi Yoshizawa


pauline, do not use asbesto pads for soldering! bricks, refractary
one would do just fine. there are some asbesto-free pads you
could use, they are a bit more expensive, but definitely worth
it. but then again, bricks, why don’t use bricks?



You should absolutely NOT use asbestos boards. They are
extremely dangerous as the fibers do become airborne and you can
inhale them. Over a period of time you can develop extremely
serious lung disease. There are no cheap alternatives but we
like to use charcoal blocks.



I can’t believe they still have asbestos soldering blocks where
you are. Get rid of it! Also, if you are in a classroom with
other people using those blocks I suggest not going back to that
classroom. I had a relative who died from a respitory disease that
was directly linked to asbestos exposure. Be careful! Anyway,
if you can’t find a jewelry shop in your area, surf the web, they
are plenty of jewelry supply places on the net (Rio Grande…)

Good lucK!




The answer is NO they are not safe and YES there are safe
alternatives! Asbestos was banned for most all uses in the U.S.
some years ago. Don’t risk your health or the health of others
by even having it around. Ther are several good and inexpensive
composite pads as well as the old-fashioned charcoal block if you
wish something to hold things for you. There are also very good
hard ceramic blocks for use in general work. Most any major
supply house will have these.

Best wishes;



The disease is asbestosis. Very fine asbestos mineral fibers ,
if breathed in, are normally ejected by the lung’s cilia. But
some manage to penetrate the lung’s cells and being inert,
cannot be dealt with by the normal body processes that break
down foreign bodies. So scar tissue forms around these fibers.
Lung movements, especially coughing cause the fibers to migrate
to other cells and create more scar tissue. Emphysema results.
Cancer may be one of the consequential and opportunistic

The above I read from sources like the Readers’
Digest. I am no medical man.

Asbestos is still used in special application like full body
fireproof suits for which there is no suitable substitute.

Kelvin Mok (

Home: (780) 463-4099 | Home FAX: (780) 430-7120


Perhaps my main purpose in this group is to warn about the
hazards of dangerous things…in a nice way, of course. When I
worked for insurance companies, I specialized in serious
liability cases (injuries and death mostly) for twenty years.
The Iargest body of cases I ever dealt with were due to the
exposure of many workers to asbestos. The tiny airborne
particles are inhaled and adhere to the linings of the lungs
doing unspeakable damage. The effect is cumulative and is worse
when combined with exposure to other chemicals and cigarrette

After reviewing the medical data for thousands of exposed
workers in docks and factories, and seeing the suffering and
death it caused, I would never use anything with even a slight
asbestos content. I’m surprised there are still products
available containing asbestos.

Have a nice day!!



You can also use charcoal blocks instead of asbestos. As the
asbestos breaks down you will inhale it and never know it. It
does major long-term damage to your lungs. If you have an
underfunded program and can’t afford supplies, e- mail me and I
may be able to help you.



I have a student who is a doctor–he says asbestos is really
only a problem if you smoke, too. (that’s why all those
ship-builders got cancer. They all smoked) But I think that if
something is dangerous, and there are substitutes available, why
fool around? Cindy

Cynthia Eid


Yes, in the USA the use of asbestos is banned…and for good
reason as you have noted. It does cause a fatal form of
pneumoconiosis, asbestosis…a fatal type of lung cancer.
There are available many different substitute soldering boards to
serve your needs. All jewelry supply firms will list several
alternatives. Avoid asbestos by all means!

Stay healthy. Paul Hartstein


Daniel, for really big things, like soldering together a bottom
onto a cup I use lava rocks. I don’t know if they are natural or
synthetic volcanic rock, but they are sold at KMArt and Walmart
to use as a lining for gas barbecue grills. They are put into a
metal bowl and then a hollow the big enough to rest the object is
scooped out. I have two bowls, one for silver soldering + brazing
and one for soft soldering pewter. The two types shouln’t be
mixed as the soft solder will damage silver at a red heat. Georgie


hi there,

there are many alternatives to using asbestos as insulation or
protection from heat that are much safer.

however, if the asbestos is not friable (crushable and release
of particles) it does not pose much of a threat. theoretically,
only one particle of asbestos is supposed to be able to cause
asbestosis, but we inhale lots of it every day from the air we
breathe. before people knew about the risks of working directly
with asbestos, like in factories, no one would use any kind of
resperator protection at all. when people working in factories
working directly with friable asbestos (especially smokers,
smoking excasberates(sp?) the chances of developing asbestosis)
started getting sick, that is when government officials started
looking into the situation and imposed many safety guidelines for
asbestos handling, removal, etc…

many homes in the u.s. built in the 50’s and 60’s with that
’cottage cheese’ ceiling is friable asbestos. the
dangerous kind that releases milllions of particles into the air
you breathe when you touch it. yet, there is not one case of
asbestosis that has been caused by asbestos in the residence.

best regards,

geo fox


Hi, I am reading all these replys about asbestos. Yes, I am agree
that it is a real danger but above all and almost only for the
miners working in Asbestos mine’s in the 70. Asbestos is a city
close by Quebec where all this stuff (the name for it is AMIANTE)
is coming out, so we are very worry about it and we have followed
all this 30 years story. I am aware about it and I take all the
means of security when I have to work with it. I still use it as
a soldering table top (hard form) and as a wet paste to solder
delicate works. In our jewelry school we still use it with care.
Coincidence! Today in the papers there is an article, a feature
about this. (They wrote that in USA, after an public
investigation, they found that a person who is living in a
building rich in different asbestos construction products has
more chances to die by a wasp bite, to be strike by a lightning
or to stifle with a thoot pick. The lung cancer due to the
cigarette since this time have made 50.000 victims. Nowadays in
USA they recongnise that the danger is true but it takes a
proportion of a psychosis created in part by the thirst for legal
actions).This week in the USA Today there was some reports about
this subject.

Vincent Guy Audette
in Quebec City


Hi, I am reading all these replys about asbestos. Yes, I am agree
that it is a real danger but above all and almost only for the
miners working in Asbestos mine’s in the 70.

Not really just industrial users. One of my friends died about 2
years ago from asbestos related cancer, mesothelioma. He had no
"formal" source of asbestos exposure, just the usual sort of
light, random, chance exposures a person would accumulate. I
learned a tidbit of recently from a book on glass
bead making. Vermiculite, which is used to slowly cool beads
without cracking, is a source of asbestos. Georgie


Is this the same vermiculite used in gardening? Thanks for the
info (as always!) Ryr