Can gold rings have Lead?
—The answer is, “yes!”
When tested with a a high-precision XRF instrument (in “Consumer Goods Mode”), this 2003 graduating class ring [from Texas A&M University] had the following readings:
- 9,927 ppm Lead
- 417,000 ppm Gold
- Update: I just learned that the Texas A&M class rings have historically been manufactured by Balfour.
As you can see with the image below, this ring also even tested positive for Lead with a reactive agent home test kit (a LeadCheck® swab) which means the Lead is throughout the metal of the ring – including on the surface of the ring – and is highly-likely bioavailable. Continue reading below the image.
Please note that LeadCheck® swabs (see image below) will not work on most gold-colored jewelry. The fact that a LeadCheck® swab worked on this ring (because it had such a very high amount of Lead – as quantified by testing with an XRF instrument) was quite alarming. Continue reading below the image.
Do all class rings have unsafe levels of Lead?
Since May of 2016 – when I first I tested a class ring (this one pictured here on this post – which belongs to my friend David – in Georgia) and had it come up with these (rather alarming) test results – I have been definitely suspicious of ALL class rings, for the following reasons:
- They are quite heavy and relatively inexpensive. To achieve this combination, these rings are more likely to be made of a significant amount of “pot metal” (the term for a miscellaneous mix of inexpensive metals) added to the Gold to give weight without adding to the cost. Pot metal can include relatively high levels of Lead.
- They are sold to a “captive audience” – a graduating class – that may not actually be concerned about the quality of the metals used to make these rings.
- Due to the young age (and correlative anticipated lower income bracket) of the average buyer purchasing a ring like this, these buyers likely expect / assume this to be reasonably high-quality jewelry. They don’t have the experience purchasing high quality jewelry that might lead them to believe otherwise.
- Rings like this are often worn daily (with pride!) over the course of a lifetime and (if they are high Lead) could contribute to the overall body burden of Lead for the user – especially given the amount of handling (and even fidgeting) the wearer of a ring like this typically does (in terms of normal interacting with the ring.)
How much Lead is legally allowed?
How much Lead is “too much” Lead?
- Rings manufactured for use by adults are not regulated for total Lead content at all; yes -incredibly – there are currently no regulations whatsoever governing Lead content in any jewelry intended for use by adults!
- Items explicitly “intended for use by children” are regulated by law to be below 90 ppm Lead in the paint, finish or coating and below 100 ppm Lead in the substrate (in the case of a ring that would be the base metal of the ring)!
- Accordingly (in the absence of relevant regulation) I err on the side of caution and look to the closest relevant regulation – which, in this case is the standard for items intended for use by children. So, coming in at over 9,000 ppm Lead – I would consider this to be a very high-Lead item — that is not “safe” for anyone to wear.
An even bigger problem is that a ring like this might conceivably be given to a child to play with — as it falls within the catch-all realm of “costume jewelry” for most owners (and is something that one might even hand-down to one’s children).
What if I just put the ring on a chain—
and wear it like a necklace?
This could create additional problems if the user has a habit of putting necklace charms in their mouth as a fidget (which many children – and adults – do.)
Solid silver jewelry marked “925” – with natural stones (not crystals.)
Some additional reading that may be of interest:
- More jewelry I have tested.
- More gold jewelry I have tested.
- The testing methodologies I use for the results I report here on this blog.
- My amazon affiliate link for LeadCheck® swabs: https://amzn.to/2SymvyG