Buying Cheap Jewelry Could Have Deadly Consequences

Oh, we all thought we were so clever, buying cheap but cute necklaces and colorful bracelets at places like Forever 21, Target, and Claire’s. Sure they might make our outfits look better for a very low price, but it turns out these pieces of crappy jewelry might also be poisoning us. Grr. Looks like it’s time to admit that deep down, we knew it was too good to be true.

A non-profit organization called The Ecology Center ran tests on 99 pieces of jewelry. Some of the pieces were geared toward children, but most of it was for adults. The items were purchased from 14 different stores around the country, like Target, Claire’s, Forever 21, and Walmart.  All the pieces cost less than ten dollars. They checked each piece for dangerous things like lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, brominated flame retardants, chlorine, mercury and arsenic. And, surprise, surprise, lots of the jewelry was full of nasty stuff.

Hazardous Chemicals

Over half of the jewelry had high levels of these hazardous chemicals. Twenty-seven of the pieces had lead levels exceeding the 300 ppm limit for children’s products. Ninety percent of the pieces had chromium and nickel, which can cause allergic reactions. Ten percent of the pieces had cadmium, a toxic metal that has been the subject of other jewelry and toy recalls. Some of the most toxic pieces they found included, “Target’s Silver Charm Necklace, and Forever 21’s Long Pearl Flower Necklace.” Take a quick scan of the jewelry you’ve got on to make sure none of these poisonous gems are making contact with your fragile epidermis as your read this.

Don’t Eat Your Jewelry

It may come as some comfort to you that wearing this contaminated jewelry is far less dangerous than eating it. How might you come to eat a necklace? Well, these things are cheap, and they break and chip easily. So you might ingest it if you start absent-mindedly gnawing on your necklace while trying to concentrate during a meeting or class. But the bigger danger is really that a child might somehow eat a broken piece of it or bite something that you’re wearing. There’s also the problem of the brominated flame retardants, which are usually sprayed onto jewelry and can rub off onto your skin or be inhaled. That is bad because the compound used is a known hormone disrupter—definitely not the best accessory one can think of.


Jewelry sold specifically for children is required to meet safety standards, but adult jewelry is not—even though it can still be ingested or rubbed the wrong way by adults or children. Since this report has been released, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is looking into it. They’re planning to pick up samples of the jewelry and test it themselves. But, unless they come up with some foolproof way to test every piece of jewelry on sale, you’re probably better off skipping the super cheap jewelry in favor of a more bare, but significantly less carcinogenic neckline.