Jewelers and metalsmiths may work with highly hazardous chemical products that can harm their health. Hazardous products used in jewelry making include:
- Corrosive degreasers.
- Flammable cleaning solvents.
- Cancer-causing degreasing solvents.
- Toxic tarnish removers and sealants.
- Toxic solder and flux fumes.
- Corrosive etchants and pickle compounds.
- Corrosive and toxic patinas.
- Poisonous cyanide electroplating compounds.
Protect Your Skin and Eyes
- Wear gloves while working with flux to reduce the risk of dermatitis.
- Wear chemical-resistant gloves when working with degreasers and solvents.
- Wear gloves, goggles and protective clothing when working with toxic and corrosive pickle, and patinas.
Protect Your Lungs
- Position your tabletop kiln, pickle pot and soldering station close to where air exits your studio to carry contaminants away.
- Switch to water-based or water-washable materials to reduce toxic solvent vapors.
- Keep liver of sulfur away from acids to prevent release of toxic sulfide gas.
- Protect your lungs by using chemical specific respiratory protection and effective exhaust ventilation when:
- Removing the smoke plume from soldering and brazing.
- Using a tabletop kiln.
- Casting metals.
- Using black patina.
Use Safer Practices and Materials
- Use lead-free and antimony-free solder.
- Don’t buy metal amalgam that contains mercury. Read the safety data sheet before buying amalgam products and avoid products containing mercury.
- Use fluoride-free flux like boric acid or fluoroborate compounds.
- Avoid degreasers with labels that contain the words flammable, toxic or corrosive. When possible, look for degreasing products that are certified as EPA Safer Choice.
- Use properly diluted sodium bisulfate as a less toxic pickle.
- Use pre-mixed lead-free enamels.
- Avoid enamel frit and colorants containing arsenic and cadmium.
- Use cyanide-free electroplating techniques.
- Use liver of sulfur gel instead of pebbles to reduce waste and sulfide gas production.
- Keep containers closed to prevent spills of toxic liquids and powders.
- Visit the Art Supplies page to learn about safety warnings on product labels.
Safely Dispose of Jewelry and Metalsmithing Wastes
- Empty containers can be disposed in the trash once almost all the materials they held are gone.
- Spent pickle is hazardous waste because it contains toxic metals that can’t go down the drain.
- Corrosive cleaners and patinas are hazardous waste.
- Gold, silver, platinum, palladium, iridium, osmium, rhodium, ruthenium, or any combination of these are precious metals that can be reclaimed for their economic value. Reclamation companies usually pay for the metal. Some companies have local brokers; for others you will have to ship the material yourself.
- Scrap precious metals can be delivered to a reclamation company. They usually pay for the metal. Contact your jewelry supplier for more information.
- An online search for “Precious Metals Recycling” can also be successful.
- Dispose of chemical products used in jewelry making as hazardous waste.
- Whenever you create art, make sure the waste you generate is properly disposed. Learn more about waste disposal for artists.