Exposure to lead can be hazardous to your health. Recent news stories about lead in children's jewelry have caused many beaders to consider whether their crystal beads and components contain lead.
Yes, all true crystal beads and components contain lead.
According to Halstead Bead, Inc., a well known supplier of crystal beads, this lead cannot be absorbed directly through skin; only by ingestion or inhalation. One of the big concerns about lead in jewelry generally is that people, especially children, may handle lead and then transfer it to their mouths with their fingers.
The crystal manufacturer Swarovski has issued an official statement explaining that they do not believe that skin exposure is a risk with their products, because the lead is bound up within a glass matrix that prevents it from rubbing off. However, Swarovski still emphasizes that their crystal beads should not be used by children.
Bottom Line for Beaders
Because of the potential for accidental ingestion, never use crystal beads in children's jewelry, or allow children (or pets) to play with your crystal beads and components. Some suppliers recommend washing your hands after handling crystal, but it's not clear whether that's really necessary (see my note about Swarovski's statement, above). Although some bloggers have suggested that fire polished beads (sometimes called "crystals") also contain lead, Fire Mountain Gems states that true Czech fire polished beads do not.
- Halstead Bead, Inc., Lead Information Sheet (a PDF linked on this page)
- Swarovski Overview Statement on Lead Content 10/16/08