The earliest known jewelry is dated 142,000-150,000 years ago. It is a necklace made from half-inch-long sea snail shells found in a cave in Bizmoune Cave (Southwest Morocco). Archeologists found the 33 beads during cave excavations. Since its origins, the materials used in jewelry have grown tremendously, including gold, silver, wood, zinc, tin, pearls, glass, resin, bronze, nickel, platinum, etc. Ensuring the safety of jewelry for consumers is critical. ASTM F2999-19: Standard Consumer Safety Specification For Adult Jewelry establishes requirements and test methods for elements and hazards in adult jewelry.
What Is ASTM F2999?
ASTM F2999-19 establishes requirements and test methods for specified elements and for certain mechanical hazards in adult jewelry. This standard applies only to adult jewelry, that is, jewelry designed or intended primarily for use by consumers over age 12. An age label or warning might include, but are not limited to, “Not for children 12 and younger,” “Not for <12,” “For 13+,” “Adult use only,” or any similar language, symbol, or combination designed to communicate the primary intended user. Moreover, examples of jewelry in the scope of ASTM F2999-19 include anklets, arm cuffs, rings, bracelets, chains, brooches, necklaces, crown or tiara, body piercing jewelry, and cuff links.
The standard does not cover product performance or quality, except as related to safety. ASTM F2999-19 has no requirements for aspects of adult jewelry that present an inherent and recognized hazard as part of the function of jewelry.
ASTM F2923-20 defines children’s jewelry as jewelry designed or intended primarily for use by children 12 and under. ASTM F2923-20: Children’s Jewelry explains consumer safety requirements for children’s jewelry.
Ancient History of Jewelry
Whether used as currency, protection, or fashion, jewelry is one of the oldest forms of body adornment around the world. The earliest jewelry was made from shells, stone, and bones, still surviving from prehistoric times. For example, archaeological evidence in France shows that jewelry beads were made around 3800 BC from bone and teeth, and evidence in the Czech Republic indicates that jewelry circa 2800 BC was made from fossilized shells and ivory beads. It is likely that from an early date jewelry was worn as a protection from the dangers of life or as a mark of status or rank.
In the ancient world, the discovery of how to work metals was an important stage in the development of the art of jewelry, and over time, metalworking techniques became more sophisticated and decoration more intricate. Archeologists have traced the production of the oldest known objects (jewelry, weapons, vessels, rhytons, pectorals, faial masks, etc.,) made from gold to 4400 BC by the ancient Thracian civilization (covered the regions of Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria). Gold was a rare and highly valued material; it was buried with the dead to accompany its owner into the afterlife. Much archaeological jewelry has been excavated from ancient tombs and hoards.
Origins of the Word “Jewelry”
The word “jewerly” comes from Middle English in the late 14th c, which has origins in the Old French word juelerie/juelrye—meaning jewel adornment; present; gem; precious ornaments; jewel work. This word traces back to the Latin word jocale—meaning plaything; game; joke.
Unsafe Metals in Jewelry
ASTM F2999-19 details specifications for antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and selenium in pant and surface coatings of adult jewelry. These are common metals to avoid utilizing in jewelry as their dusts, oxides, and salts can cause skin irritations and disease. For example, cadmium can cause kidney and bone damage; antimony can cause cardiovascular abnormalities; arsenic exposure in alloy makers has been linked to increased death rates from heart disease; and beryllium causes acute and chronic lung disease as well as lung ulcerations.
ASTM F2999-19: Standard Consumer Safety Specification For Adult Jewelry is available on the ANSI Webstore.