Chemicals in jewellery and watches

Jewellery and fashion accessories must not contain or release too high concentrations of hazardous chemicals. Jewellery and fashion accessories include:

  • jewellery used in piercings,
  • rings,
  • bracelets and necklaces,
  • earrings,
  • hair decorations, and
  • metal components of wristwatches.

Manufacturers, importers and distributors of jewellery and watches must ensure that their jewellery and watches do not contain or release higher concentrations of prohibited or restricted substances than permitted.

Chemicals with concentration and release restrictions:

  • nickel,
  • cadmium,
  • lead, and
  • chromium(VI).

Chemicals are prohibited because

  • nickel may trigger contact dermatitis.
  • lead and lead compounds are toxic.
  • cadmium may cause cancer.
  • lead and cadmium are also hazardous to the environment.

The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) supervises chemicals contained in jewellery and watches. The responsibility for complying with restrictions is held by the party placing products on the market, manufacturers, importers and everyone who is part of the supply chain, including retail shops.

Nickel in jewellery

Nickel is a general cause of contact dermatitis. There is no cure for nickel allergy. To this end, requirements have been set for the amount of nickel released from jewellery. In other words, nickel can be used in jewellery manufacturing, but it must not be released from jewellery products.

Less than 0.2 µg per cm2 per week of nickel may be released from jewellery intended for pierced ears or other pierced parts of the body.

The amount of nickel released from parts coming into contact with skin in articles intended for direct or prolonged contact with skin cannot be more than 0.5 µg per cm2 per week. This restriction also applies to items with a nickel-free coating. The amount of nickel released cannot exceed the threshold value during a regular period of use of at least two years. This restriction applies to earrings, necklaces, bracelets, chains, anklets, rings, stud buttons, buckles, studs, zippers, metal badges in clothing, pens, spectacle frames and mobile phones, among other articles.

Prolonged contact means skin contact

  • of at least 10 minutes three or more times in two weeks, or
  • of at least 30 minutes once or several times in two weeks.

Standards issued by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) must be used as testing methods, as referred to in the Official Journal of the European Union. Testing laboratories are listed on the website of the Finnish Accreditation Service.

Cadmium in jewellery

Cadmium is a carcinogenic heavy metal. As cadmium accumulates in the body and its half-life is very long, the amount of cadmium in our body may increase as we grow older.

Cadmium may end up in jewellery through impurities in raw materials, recycled materials or solders.

Cadmium content in jewellery and its metal parts, metal parts used in clothing, as well as plastic material, must be less than 0.01 per cent by weight. This restriction applies to wristbands, bracelets, necklaces, rings, piercings, wrist watches, wrist jewellery, brooches, jewellery worn on clothing, hair accessories, cufflinks, metal beads and other metal parts used in jewellery production, among other articles.

The restriction also applies to brazing fillers used at temperatures above 450 °C.

The use of cadmium in jewellery was prohibited in 2011. Retailers may still be selling jewellery that was made available for sale before the restriction.  Jewellery sellers must present documents of the jewellery purchase date if the supervisory authority (Tukes) requires it.

The cadmium restrictions do not apply to antique jewellery made available for sale before 10 December 1961.

Lead in jewellery

Lead and lead compounds are toxic, and they are prohibited for reasons of health and environmental protection.

Lead may end up in jewellery as intentionally added metallic lead, through impurities in raw materials, from recycled materials, or as an additive used in metal alloys.

The lead content in jewellery must be less than 0.05 per cent by weight.

The lead restriction applies to all jewellery, its manufacturing materials and individual structural parts, including wristbands, necklaces, rings, piercings, imitation jewellery, hair accessories, wrist watches, wrist jewellery, brooches and cufflinks.

This restriction does not apply to the following:

  • jewellery placed on the market (imported, sold or conveyed without any compensation) for the first time before 9 October 2013. Jewellery sellers must present documents of the jewellery purchase date if the supervisory authority (Tukes) requires it.
  • antique jewellery made before 10 December 1961;
  • crystal glass;
  • parts inside wrist and pocket watches;
  • jewellery and gemstones, unless they have been treated with lead or lead compounds; or
  • vitreous enamel in jewellery.

Chromium(VI) in jewellery

Chromium(VI) compounds may cause allergies even in small concentrations.

Concentrations of chromium(VI) compounds in leather products or products containing leather were restricted in the EU in 2015. Since then, products cannot have contained more than 3 mg/kg, or 0.0003 per cent by weight, of chromium(VI) compounds.

More detailed information about the restriction is available (in Finnish) in  chromium compounds restricted in leather products

To be noted when selling jewellery and watches

Manufacturers, importers and distributors are responsible for ensuring that their products do not contain any hazardous chemicals.

When you buy jewellery and watches for sale, identify the raw materials and chemicals they contain.

Customers have the right to ask the seller whether a product contains certain substances of very high concern.

The seller must respond to the customer’s question in 45 days.


REACH Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 Annex XVII

Annex XVII, entry 23: cadmium
Annex XVII, entry 27: nickel
Annex XVII, entry 63: lead and lead compounds


EN 1811:2011+A1:2015 Reference test method for release of nickel from all post assemblies which are inserted into pierced parts of the human body and articles intended to come into direct and prolonged contact with the skin
EN 12472:2005+A1:2009 Method for the simulation of wear and corrosion for the detection of nickel release from coated items
EN16128:2011 Reference test method for release of nickel from those parts of spectacle frames and sunglasses intended to come into close and prolonged contact with the skin