Lead in Kids' Jewellery
In 2003, a 4-year-old child swallowed a piece of children's jewellery bought from a vending machine. The child became ill because the jewelry was made of lead. The potential for children to be exposed to lead from this source caused the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue on July 8, 2004, a recall of 150 million pieces of metal toy jewelry sold widely in vending machines.
We always make a point of checking with manufacturers about the lead, nickel and cadmium content of their baby and children's jewellery. Some quality suppliers now produce an official assay for retailers to prove their jewellery is safe. Generally, lead is found in cheap toy jewellery found in department stores or vending machines. Our advice is to never purchase these items, although we know that some of them are very pretty and very cheap. My main concern is lead which can cause lasting injury to a child years after ingesting it.
It's true to say that sterling silver and gold do not contain any toxic metals. Baby jewellery in these metals is more expensive but they are safe.
With lead, the risk is greater, the younger the child. For example baby bracelets containing lead might frequently be put in babies' mouths. This innocent act can cause long term injury to the child. The older the child the less harm from lead, simply because older children do not put their jewellery into their mouths. For example some crystals contain lead (though these days crystals used in children's jewellery are almost entirely lead-free) and reputable manufacturers advise that children over 12 can wear their lead crystals without harm.
If you want to check if there is lead in an item of kids' jewellery or perhaps in the paint on a toy, I've found kits online to check lead levels, from as little as $12.99 from leadinspector.com.