Claire’s: The High Price of Cheap Jewelry

In middle school, the mall was my oasis. A place to get a little freedom from the parents with my friends and have fun trying on silly accessories at stores like Claire’s. I wish I could tell you visiting Claire’s as a grown woman was less fun. But the sparkly tiaras, fun sunglasses, and kitty-eared headbands all stirred the giddy preteen in me. My delight was quickly hampered as I conducted my investigation.  The place is packed with ominous looking costume jewelry and make-up for kids, and 95% of everything at Claire’s is made in China.

kid's jewelry safety

Item found : We almost gave up the search for something when I spied a bottle of (alcohol-based) hand sanitizer.

Common countries: China, Hong Kong

Store info: If you were never a preteen girl, you might have only noticed Claire’s as that store in the mall that pierces ears. If you were like me, you spent countless Friday evenings with friends at the mall. Claire’s was a popular spot because it was one of the only places in the mall you could go and purchase something cute with the menial amount you managed to save from your babysitting money or allowance.

Toxic Claire's Jewlery

Overall: Not surprisingly, all this cheap costume jewelry comes at a price—safety. Claire’s jewelry has been in the news many times for recalls of their products. The Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains a searchable database of product recalls and advisories. A quick search for Claire’s revealed several major recalls including three in the last five years. In 2007 and 2008, two separate recalls involving necklaces with high levels of lead were issued. In 2010, charm bracelets were recalled for excessive levels of Cadmium, totaling as much as 95% of the products’ weight! The Cadmium recall was alarming enough for the CPSC chairman to issue a statement to parents to refrain from buying any cheap children’s jewelry.

According to an article in The Daily Green, over 180 million pieces of children’s jewelry have been recalled since 2004. Apparently after the lead scares, Chinese factories began using Cadmium as a cheap substitute.  Cadmium is arguably an even more toxic metal, linked to cancer, lung damage, kidney disease, and more, as reported by the EPA.  If you want to keep your little princess safe but still accessorize her with bling, there are safer options. First, look for items made in the US, where they are subject to restrictions by the CPSC. Look for quality sterling silver or gold pieces. And consider jewelry made from unconventional materials, like wood, cotton hemp, or even recycled materials like cans!

If you have a daughter, what jewelry do you pick for her to wear? Are you concerned about issues of toxins in imported products?