Author Options:

Request: How can I test jewelry components for lead content? Answered

How can I test plated or unplated metal components for lead content? The components I have are all kinds of metal washers, nuts, gears, wires, etc.

I know there are at-home lead testers available, but they are not really made for testing metal components. I have over 50 different samples to test, so the $4 swabs are too expensive.  


You're not likely to find lead in washers, nuts, gears or wire. Do you have anything that you think might have lead in it?


California and now Federal law limits the amount of lead in jewelry, especially and in particular for stuff made for children. 

I don't know if the lead in leaded (or free machining) brass leaches out, and some Minnesotan indians have gotten lead poisoning from wire insulation-but they were stripping large amounts for recycling using their teeth...  Recycled wire could easily have lead solder on it.  Pot metal gears could contain any number of metals.

Lead comes out of car emissions and is in the air and water we breathe. it's everywhere. So long as it isn't swallowed by children, it's okay. That being said, childrens toys when I was growing up, the plastics ones, they had that wonderful soapy toxic taste. Now, I just ignore the flavor of my bottled water, even if I can taste the plastic, I don't drive, but unleaded gasoline is still an option, right?

where are you getting tetral flavored gas? there hasn't been lead in gas for 20 or so years

Lightweight = Brittle. Stainless steel that I know in my area is very heavy, yet it has a coating over top. Some stainless might be lighter, right? Lead is very heavy.

Some weights.

Chromium 428.00

Nickel 555.72

Lead 707.96

From the wiki.

Ferritic stainless steels have a body-centered cubic and contain between 10.5% and 27% chromium with very little nickel, if any, but some types can contain lead.

So, I wouldn't be surprised if there is lead in many of the nuts and bolts. I specifically remember the texture of lead smearing off onto my hands when working with some nuts and bolts. So they probably aren't coated. Think pencils.

You could probably weight the stuff, by comparison and come into your own conclusions. You could try bending a washer, and if it snaps, it's probably nickel, chromium. Don't quote me on that. However lead will bend.

From the wiki.

Lead is a soft, malleable and heavy post-transition metal.


2 years ago

taste it. if it tastes like pencil, it has lead. If it tastes acrid/bitter, there is something toxic, probably an arsenic. I just did a search on arsenic, and pure arsenic has no taste, but it is said to change the property of foods so they turn bitter.

Orange peels are bitter because they are slightly toxic. Bitter, like soap is the bodies way of telling you, that you are ingesting a toxin.


Answer 2 years ago

Now that I think about it, I remember watching a history show on smelting silver. Lead is absolutely abundant in the silver process. So, if there is silver to be produced, there is 100x (don't quote me on that) as much lead that has to be put to use somewhere. In other words. To produce silver, you mine huge resevoirs of lead. And then super heat the lead, and the silver seperates into a pure silver.


Answer 2 years ago

And finally. Steel, is always a combination of metals. It is probably called steel, because it sounds like steal. You steal the pure valuable metals out. Only a thought. Sure some alloys promise better properties than others, but it's always a "steel".

I read that "lead test kits use one of two chemicals--sodium sulfide or rhodizonate--to detect lead by color change". No idea on how to apply that yet though.


I don't know how easy it is for you to get a hold of, but most of the lead test kits I've seen use Sodium sulphide. Lead (II) cations and the sulphide anions react to form the insoluble Lead sulphide which is a distinctive brown solid. If you only need to test qualitatively for the presence of lead on the surface of an object, a cotton swap dipped in distilled water wiped across the surface should turn brown when sodium sulphide solution is dropped onto it.  Potassium iodide might work too; it makes a distinctive yellow precipitate with lead, but it would be much less sensitive. If you actually want to test the metal's lead content, you'd have to dissolve some of it with an acid.  

Beyond that, you're looking at a significant expense for testing. I think how they typically do lead testing analytically is with a lead ion-selective electrode, or perhaps some sort of complexometric titration, but that's beyond the average persons capabilities.

As lemonie points out, you don't usually find lead in small metal parts, is there some reason you suspect lead contamination?

Is lead sulfide easily discernable from other metal sulfides please? I've read that dark sulfides also form from iron, nickel, mercury, molebdenum, and copper. Copper in particular is going to be present in both gold and silver jewellery, and nickel wouldn't be too unexpected either.

(source: http://www.sashas.net/images/documents/doc_lead_r...

Don't lick your gears ?