#SaferChoices: Jewelry

topazGiven how much lead there can be in older – and newer – jewelry (both in the metals and in the faux jewels), my recommendation for jewelry has always been to stick with pure solid sterling silver (it should be marked 925 in a stamp somewhere on the item – see inside of ring image featured here). For additional sparkle, stick with natural stones which don’t have to be expensive; natural stone options include amethyst, jade, garnet and topaz.

“925 Silver” (Sterling Silver) means it is 925,000 parts per million silver (92.5%).  Much of the 925 silver I have tested has actually been higher than that (usually 940,000 or in that range) so my understanding is the 92.5% is likely a minimum standard in the jewelry industry, where it is expected to be “at least” 925 silver or higher.  The other 7.5% is generally copper,  however it can be a mix of other metals and with items marked 925. In my experience so far (with the many, many  items I have tested over the years), those other metals (in 925-stamped silver) never include lead.

Click here to see why I don’t recommend gold jewelry.

Note: vintage/ antique silver that I have tested (mostly from the late-1800s and earlier) has been as low as 800,000 ppm silver (or 80% silver), and those items often do have lead. Based on my limited knowledge of the history of jewelry making, with antique cast silver items, the initial designs and casting were often done in lead—since it was soft to sculpt; this may have left some lead in the mold – and then the lead from the original sculpted design contaminates the silver. The only time I have been particularly concerned about this is with antique baby rattles that may be marked or sold as sterling silver (but not “925” sterling), and therefore may have trace lead at levels that are considered unsafe for children by modern standards.

I try to avoid both vintage and costume jewelry at all cost—unless it bears the (indelible) “925” silver stamp.

Below I have linked some good examples of #SaferChoices on Amazon (but I am sure you can find similar ones in your local jewelry stores too!)

It’s really hard sometimes from an online listing on Amazon to determine if things are actually solid 925 sterling – so be careful which vendors you buy from and make sure not to buy anything that is “silver plate” – as that can often be silver plated brass – which can contain high amounts of lead. Silver is really affordable as it is – however if things look like they are far too inexpensive to be sterling, then they probably are not sterling (and usually in such cases their product specification sections may be fairly sketchy/non-specific.)

Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links where a purchase made
after clicking will support this website without costing you extra!

The links in pink below are just ideas and examples—I don’t necessarily own these particular pieces; I have bought most of my jewelry from local vendors and local artists (and I don’t have very much of it!)

After spending a good hour surfing Amazon for true solid sterling silver pieces, I’m assuming this “Amazon Collection” line is the most legit [unlike some of the other listings that come up when you look up “sterling silver” on Amazon, with the “Amazon Collection” their prices are consistent with being genuine sterling silver, most of the images clearly show the “925” mark, and the detailed product descriptions for this Amazon Collection are also pretty clear]—so maybe this is a good place to start

Happy shopping, and as always, please let me know if you have any questions.


Tamara Rubin
Environmental Activist
Unexpected Lead Expert
Mother of Four Boys

Affiliate link disclosure: If you choose to purchase any items after clicking the Amazon links above, Amazon pays me a small kick back as a thank you for sending business their way. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this website, allowing me to keep sharing information about childhood lead poisoning prevention (as well as making it possible for me to keep sharing about safe products for your home and family) ... Sharing this information in turn helps families everywhere protect their children from potential environmental toxicity in their homes. I only link to products that are the same as (or very similar to) ones that I either have direct personal experience with in my home or that I have personally tested with an XRF Instrument and found to be lead-safe or lead-free. January 2017


9 Responses to #SaferChoices: Jewelry

  1. Bethany January 21, 2017 at 8:18 pm #

    What about platinum? Does it pose any risks? Thanks for all your work!

  2. Shawn E January 27, 2018 at 10:53 am #

    I would love to test some of the jewelry findings I have purchased on eBay and Etsy. Would the swabs work for this if I nick the piece if it is plated/and even if not? Thanks for all the information!

    • Tamara January 27, 2018 at 7:45 pm #

      The swabs will not work on most jewelry findings. Sorry! Plus that can get pretty expensive too!

  3. Shawn E January 27, 2018 at 10:21 pm #

    Thanks, Tamara…that’s disappointing. Sure can’t afford one of those meters either but would love to have one. Any other suggestions for testing jewelry?

    • Tamara January 27, 2018 at 10:33 pm #

      Nope – not economically. You can go to a local jeweler. They have some reactive agent testing methodologies for certain metals, but they can’t always detect contaminants.

  4. LYD March 12, 2018 at 2:11 pm #

    What about the gold plated Sterling silver? Are there any safe yellow jewelry options (I don’t like silver)?

    • Tamara April 15, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

      I have not tested enough gold plated sterling to draw a conclusion. Gold often has quite a bit more contaminants than silver, so in general I would steer clear. If you like the gold color you could look for a high quality high copper-content lead-free brass, I have seen quite a few examples of that available in jewelry and other applications.

  5. Maria December 30, 2018 at 10:02 pm #


    Most of the sterling silver that I have found has cubic zirconia and is plated with rhodium. What are your thoughts on cubic zirconia, but most importantly on rhodium plating?

    • Tamara December 30, 2018 at 10:15 pm #

      Hmmm – then it shouldn’t be labeled Sterling Silver (or 925). Is it? I haven’t tested many things with rhodium, so cannot weigh in on that.

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