How safe is costume jewellery?

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By IS COSTUME JEWELLERY SAFE? SACHIN VARMA PUTS THE PEDAL TO THE METAL & FINDS OUT
  • Published 31.05.13
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The price of gold falling is welcome news! But for most of us, artificial jewellery is still more affordable. Not to mention easy wearability and the trend to match it with your dress. But is costume jewellery safe?

Artificial jewellery is made of metals that are cheap and can be easily moulded into various shapes. Traditionally, the commonest metal used to make artificial jewellery is a white metal called nickel. Lead, copper, cadmium and brass are also being used. But are these safe? Though in many cases, yes, not always.

Let’s see what they are:

1 Nickel: Nickel is easily mouldable, durable and cheap, and hence is the commonest metal used in artificial jewellery. Nickel is mixed with other metals to create an alloy from which artificial jewellery is made. Not only jewellery, nickel is also used to make watchbands, eyeglass frames, hairpins, buttons, zippers and many other items we come in contact with daily.

But nickel is also one of the commonest agents that produce allergic contact dermatitis. And with the increase in the use of costume jewellery, the incidence of this is also rising.

2 Copper: Copper is a yellowish metal which is either used to form an alloy or mixed with gold to form jewellery. The lower the carat of gold, the higher the percentage of copper likely to be present in the piece. When copper comes into contact with air, the oxidisation results in the discolouration of skin. This may be seen as a greenish patch after wearing copper jewellery. Allergic reactions to copper can also happen but it’s less frequent.

3 Brass: This too can cause reactions.

4 Lead: Though lead is less likely than nickel to produce allergy, it is still a toxic metal and can lower your IQ, causing learning disabilities, especially in children. In adults, it can cause a lack of concentration, decreased fertility and blood pressure issues. The side-effects of lead are seen when the metal is ingested through contaminated hands after handling jewellery or objects containing lead. Children are more at risk because they tend to put objects into their mouths.