The risks of selling jewellery made with bad metals

It's tempting to take shortcuts when selling jewellery. When you look at the profit margin for various items, it seems to make financial sense to buy cheap products that you can resell at a higher price, earning more money for your business. As long as the piece of jewellery looks good to the customer, that's all that matters, right? That's actually far from the case. There are many risks tied into selling jewellery made with bad metals. Here's a look at some of the issues that arise from doing so.

What do we mean by 'bad' metals?

Not all metals are equal. Many can look appealing but are often relatively dangerous or toxic for humans. Typical bad metals used in the production of jewellery can include material such as lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel and mercury. Some, like lead, are left over from antique jewellery that has been re-soldered or adapted. Others are used frequently today in cheaper-made jewellery, such as nickel.

The risks of selling jewellery made with bad metals

The risks are numerous, both to your brand and business, and to the customer you're selling the pieces to. Here's a breakdown of exactly what to be aware of when it comes to the perils of using bad metals in jewellery.

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions are a significant issue for many people when dealing with cheap and bad metal. In particular, chromium and nickel can easily cause allergic reactions. Nickel is often used in costume jewellery and watches as it's inexpensive, but shiny and attractive looking. It's a great metal for 'padding' out more expensive metals, while keeping costs low. However, it has various risks. Some studies have shown that it's connected with an increased risk of lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and other long-term issues.

Additionally, as many as 1 in 5 people have an allergy to nickel, with more people likely to develop one through wearing the metal too often. This can lead to contact dermatitis - a painful skin condition that can cause red and swollen skin that often blisters or turns scaly. Simply being in contact with the cheap metal for 6 to 24 hours can lead to such problems.


Ingesting toxic substances is something that many of us believe could only happen through eating or drinking. However, how many of us find ourselves idly gnawing on a necklace nervously or rubbing our faces with our hands that happen to sport a ring or two? Through doing one of these simple, almost imperceptible things, it's easy to inadvertently expose one's self to a toxic metal such as cadmium.

Cadmium has many dangers tied to it, with exposure of low doses of its fumes known to cause emphysema, kidney and liver disease, and even some form of cancers. Understandably, no one really wants it near their skin in case of consumption.

There's also the issue of jewellery breaking apart, and kids or pets eating broken pieces. Typically, if a piece of jewellery is made from a bad metal, it's probably also been constructed cheaply, so it's more likely to fall apart.

Shoddy quality

At its simplest, selling a piece of jewellery made from bad or cheap metal isn't showing your business in the best light. As mentioned, it’s possible for cheap jewellery to break apart and your kids or pets eating the pieces, potentially leading to health issues.

More notably though, people buy jewellery expecting it to last, and to look good for a long time to come. Frequently, pieces of jewellery are purchased as gifts and keepsakes. No one will return to an establishment that sold them a necklace or ring that turned shabby in hardly any time. It's important for your business to sell the best-quality products so that customers always know to come to you for top-quality items.

Health-standard breaches

Materials such as lead were highly popular years ago, but substantial bans mean we now know that it's dangerous. It’s poisonous to be used anywhere other than in very specific situations such as making car batteries or radiation shields. Old jewellery that needs to be re-soldered may still contain lead. It's important to be aware if this is the case, and to avoid doing so where possible.

Similarly, in recent times, EU legislation has come into force to restrict the levels of cadmium in jewellery to 0.01%, with similar legislation for nickel. It's important to conform to these rulings. Otherwise, you could be in for a hefty fine.

What to do next

It's important to not cut corners when selling jewellery to your customers. Those parting with their money appreciate high-quality products, and knowing that what they're wearing is safe for them and their family. That’s why it’s important to know what metals are bad, and avoid using them. If you do use poor-quality metals, at best you'll be considered a shoddy seller. At worst, you could be responsible for multiple legal breaches.

Dodge the risk by choosing an ethical wholesale jewellery supplier like Tempest Designs. We care about the quality of our products and the welfare of our customers. We only use the best materials out there to ensure that everyone is happy with the finished product.