Beware of Bullet Jewelry

BoingBoing posted this image of a ring made from a mushroomed bullet. I was horrified to see that they had used a lead bullet.

Lead is toxic and should not be worn in contact with the skin. I have been tested for lead poisoning and if you shoot a lot, so should you. The symptoms are nasty.

I got myself tested not because I was worried about symptoms but because at the time I was shooting a few times each week and I wanted a baseline figure for the amount of lead in my body.

[ Many thanks to Sven (Defense and Freedom) for emailing me the the link. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • OAW

    Would empty shell casings have traces of lead still on them? If so, would they be small enough so as to not worry about?

    • OAW, I presume they would be cleaned and polished before they were turned into jewelry.

  • Very good advice.

  • Matt Groom

    I’m often far less cautious about Lead than most people (some people behave as if the mere knowledge of the existence of Lead causes Lead Poisoning) but in this case, you’re definitely right, Steve. Wearing jewelry that contains Lead in direct contact with your skin for extended periods of time is a surefire way to get Lead poisoning.

  • Freiheit

    Also be aware that some anti-gun artists and organizations are selling these. Know where your dollar goes!

  • Don

    Remember Darwin?

  • Jeff

    I get tested for lead every year since I shoot in an indoor range 1-2 times per week. Glad to hear someone else keeps an eye on lead levels too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Vlad

    Steve, out of curiosity, when you did the tests, did you see the amount of lead in your body go up while you were going to the range often?

    • Vlad, I have only been tested once. The level of lead was fine. I will probably get checked in 3-10 years time.

  • Martin

    Pure paranoia.

    Despite how much the subject is studied, the effects of lead exposure and adults is poorly understood. With children, it’s much more obvious, as lead interrupts development. While most governing bodies consider anything in excess of 40 ยตg/dL a danger, documentation stops there. Dermal exposure (as is indicated here) is the least effect method of transmission. I’ve never been able to find any studies on absorption rates.

    Generally speaking, adults have to consume a considerable amount of lead to suffer any ill effects. Consume as in ‘eat’. If you are eating these rings, you may develop a problem. Ancient Rome had a lead problem, but you have to understand the massive amounts of lead they consumed. They even sweetened their wine with lead salts.

    FYI, I live atop the biggest lead mine ever, in the lead belt, and our water comes from those mines.

  • D

    lead has to be in a very fine form to be absorbed and to pose a hazard. Larger pieces like in bullets aren’t dangerous to have in contact with your skin. Breathing and eating lead is much more effective way to intake lead, I doubt touching it on the skin is very fast.

  • sqlbullet

    I agree that making lead out of jewelry is probably not the best course of action in today’s world, I also wouldn’t get bothered by it.

    As Martin mentions, unless lead levels are VERY high in adults, you are unlikely to notice ill effects. To be effectively absorbed, lead powder must be inhaled or ingested. Lead based paint contains such lead powder, and leaded gasoline put it in the air.

    Some primers contain lead based compounds and are the real source of danger at shooting ranges. There is also a minimal risk from lead that vaporizes when it hits the backstop, but this again very minimal.

  • Jim P

    My understanding is that in firearms usage the vast majority of the lead exposure is from the lead compounds used in the primers. The lead is vaporised and absorbed throughg inhalation. Given the particulate size and the total surface area of the alveoli absorbtion is quiet possible.

    Absorbtion through melting of lead and casting of bullets in poorly venilated areas have also been documented as of course infants EATING the lead paint that has chipped (IIRC the lead adds a sweet taste).

    Absorbtion of lead from eating/drinking/plumbing articles made out of lead are well known and documented.

    Absorbtion through handling only or jewelry usage may be possible but I couldn’t find any peer reviewed articles on the subject last time I looked.

    I would be much more concerned about the sharp edges causing injury than the lead in the product.

    I can always be wrong and if anyone has any good documentation showing any lead absorbtion through unbroken skin I would love to read it.


  • Jon

    Echoing Don, solid lead, like in bullets, is not well absorbed into the body, especially by the skin. That is, it has a low bioavailability. The real problem comes from fine inhaled lead, and lead compounds, such as tetraethyl lead, as used in fuels.

    This is very similar in mercury as well: people with mercury amalgam fillings don’t keel over and die.

    • Sam Suggs

      yeah it will react with oils salts and other compounds on your skin and form lead oxide or other easily obsorbed compoud stfu

  • TheGunGeek

    I’ve read some good things about taking EDTA supplements as a way of getting the lead out, so to speak.

    You can get them from online sources, but most stores don’t have them.

    I’ve also heard they do some good for those with cholesterol problems.

    Whenever I go shooting, I take EDTA for lead as well as an aspirin, a vitamin E and some n-Acetyl Cysteine to help prevent hearing loss.

  • Sam Suggs

    no shit stupid etsy

  • Outlaw Glam

    I would only purchase shell case jewelry from someone who is using brand new, never been filled/used shell cases. There are enough people out there making some great looking jewelry using new shell cases, why pay for something that might not have been cleaned properly?

  • Scout sniper

    I wear .50 cal bullet around my neck on a dog tag chain. It was bullet from an old world war 2 bomber that was salvaged. The primer had been fired and there was no powder but the bullet was original. It has a copper jacket and lead in the middle.

    Coulget lead poisoning from this bullet?

    • Scout sniper

      Sorry for the spelling errors. My keyboard is acting up.