The Birmingham Assay Office (BAO) has launched a new service for the testing of lead, following the new EU regulations restricting the lead content of watches, jewellery and accessories.
The new regulation is part of the EU’s REACH Regulation (Restriction, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), which has a specific exemption for crystal glass, the material used in watches and some jewellery designs.
The legislation becomes enforceable on October 9 2013 and the BAO has reported that many of its customers are enquiring about tests to verify that glass components in watches and jewellery fall within the recognised definition of ‘crystal glass’.
The BAO has thus created a test that will allow brands to ensure their products comply with the new regulations. Products and the materials they are made with must comply with three different criteria which regulate its chemical composition, its refractive index and its relative density.
The BAO said: "Regular exposure to even very low quantities of lead can badly damage the intellectual and behavioural development of young children. REACH regulates the lead content of all types of jewellery and hair accessories, and all parts are included. Lead is commonly found in plastics, varnishes, paints, enamels and lacquers and in glass and crystals."
According to the regulations the lead content of each individual part of a piece of jewellery or accessory must be less than 0.05% (500 parts per million) by weight, however the REACH regulations have recognised that there might not be suitable alternatives for some materials with a higher lead content, amongst them vitreous enamels and crystal glass, which are exempt from the regulation.