BUYING jewellery on e-bay could turn out to be a costly mistake and bad for your health.

That was the warning issued by Hertfordshire Trading Standards officers this week.

It comes after a recent series of test purchases were made by local trading standards officers following concerns raised about the safety and quality of counterfeit products.

They purchased seven items of Tiffany jewellery on e-bay, all of which turned out to be counterfeit.

On top of that, five of the items failed safety tests because of their high nickel content.

All five of the items that failed safety tests were in excess of the legal limit.

One item alone was 70 times over the legal limit.

Prolonged contact of nickel with the skin can cause a wide variety of painful reactions, ranging from mild irritation to severe eczema.

After having reacted to the metal the skin becomes sensitised and becomes increasingly likely to react badly to a metal containing nickel in the future.

Keith Emsall, Hertfordshire County Council executive member for community safety and culture, said: "Buying jewellery that turns out to be fake is bad enough, but then to discover that you've unwittingly been exposed to a potential health hazard really is a counterfeit double whammy.

"Nickel is present at safe levels in everyday objects such as zips, hooks, spectacle frames, keys, pens kitchen utensils cutlery and so on, but having to avoid them because you have bought and worn counterfeit jewellery is a heavy price to pay.

"The simplest advice we can give is don't buy items of jewellery unless you are absolutely sure that the product is genuine and safe to wear."

The legal limit for jewellery designed for prolonged contact with the skin is half a microgram per square centimetre per week.

For further information and advice, or to report any problems with counterfeit goods, contact the Consumer Direct hotline on 08454 040506.