Sunday, 15 May 2016

Baltic Amber 'Teething' Jewellery - The Story Behind the Scenes

As I still get emails weekly for my Baltic amber jewellery I thought that writing about it here might give more of an insight than my brief reply to messages.  

It's been a long time since it all happened - four years to be exact - and I've finally decided to update my blog and write about why I no longer sell Baltic amber Teething Jewellery.  

To be clear at the onset, I had checked for any regulations regarding children's jewellery….and there were none - or any that existed were vague and open to interpretation.  The cords I used were Azo Dye tested and certificated safe by my German supplier, I only used non toxic Baltic amber, the silver components were sterling silver with no nasty additives.  All beads were knotted with strong nylon cord and the clasps were designed to break under pressure.  Each item, when delivered came with a clear information card outlining how the jewellery should be used and never without adult supervision.  Covered.  Or, so I thought.

Then in early 2012 there were discussions within the EU about the safety of the products.  It was basically settled that each country could decide on how to proceed.  Some chose to let sellers continue as long as clear safety information was provided at point of sale.  Others decided to ban them.  The UK was among the latter and they came down hard on all sellers across the country.

I had my first visit from Trading Standards on week before I was about to head off to Australia with my son.  I was told to remove all items from sale until the TS groups across the UK could pow wow on what was to be done (Trading Standards operate independently from within differing council offices - some are more robust than others).  I of course complied immediately.

Then on my return, I had a visit from two more TS officers. Baltic amber necklaces were taken for 'testing' and I was told to issue a full recall on all necklaces.  As a sole trader this could have been devastating as unlike a registered business - all personal assets are at risk.  I had sold thousands!  Luckily my husband had come home ask the right questions as it was a blur to me.  

I could sell the necklaces for over 36mo.  The anklets were fine for all ages.  I had to 'reasonably' make an effort to contact customers within the last six months.  I had 'reasonably' make an effort to publicly inform people of the recall.  I had to show these notices for a 'reasonable' amount of time.  I had to remove all images from online of my son (under 36mo) wearing the necklaces.  I had to sign documentation confirming that I would comply with the above.

Again I of course complied.  Thankfully most of my customers thumbed their nose at the establishment and chose to keep their jewellery.  Then I had an email from Trading Standards about the anklets.  They had changed their mind and these also had to be taken from the site for under 36mo but no recall was necessary.  The whole thing became quite stressful but I continued within the law selling the jewellery for over 36mo.

Then again in 2013, I had a call regarding the child's jewellery.  Had I had it tested?  Now, as mentioned before, the dye in the cords was certified, the silver used was sterling and amber is non-toxic.  No.  Not good enough - they wanted me to test it at a UKAS approved testing house.  My spirits were low and I was slowly falling out of love with something I had adored for so long.  

I contacted a number of approved testing houses and the responses were varied as to what I actually had to have done.  Some recommended this - others that.  It was a fog of vagueness.  Finally when they suggested that I have the cords tested - each different colour - for toxic dies at a cost of thousands, I gave up.  My passion for Baltic amber jewellery have been eroded by constant stress and the lack of any clear path to follow.

Around the same time, we lost our beloved childminder, Sally, in a tragic accident.  It all became too much so in 2013 I stopped making and selling Baltic amber jewellery all together and focussed instead on silversmithing.  Thankfully I have rediscovered my passion for jewellery making and I am slowly developing my own unique style - still strongly inspired by the organic loveliness of Baltic amber. 

**I know there are sellers in the UK marketing for under 36mo (whether through product description of images).  If you are a seller, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE check with your local Trading standards office for any guidelines they have and make sure you comply.**