As we know, nickel metals are easy in triggering allergies. Therefore, I have listed some of the common metals which we can focus when buying jewelry. I have broken down into three groups.
Metals likely contain nickels from factory enhancement
- White Gold – Due to color change, some jewelry may alloyed with nickel
- 9 to 22 Karat Gold – hardening jewelry, factory may mixed with unknown metals
- Sterling Silver – Market nickel-free, but it is not always nickel-free
- Surgical Stainless Steel – Nickel is a good element to bind with other metals
- Copper – Potential cause skin green due to easily tarnish
Metals that can be hazardous to our health
- Lead – long term interacting may cause cell damages
- Nickel Silver – usually contain lead, nickel and zinc
- Nickel – Often apply to jewelry due to increase shine on jewelry
Safe Metals to wear
- 24 Karat Gold – usually safe to wear if 18-22 karat, contain none or very little cheap metals
- Titanium – Does not corrode or tarnish. It’s non-allergenic metal
- Niobium – This has the same characters as Titanium
- Argrentium Sterling Silver – Non-tarnish silver made with 93.5% pure silver
- Platinum – rarely will alloyed or mixed with nickel
People buy “Nickel-Free” Jewelry and still the jewelry become tarnish and making skin green color. Why is it still happening?
What’s with nickel that makes the skin react? Let us see why we have to use nickel-free jewelry and which jewelry metal contains nickel.
Does Nickel-Free Jewelry really exists?
Because of its “decolorizing” effect when alloyed with other metals, jewelers utilize nickel in jewelry. With only 5% of it in a copper alloy; it can already make it a white metal such as nickel silver and nickel white gold.
However, nickel fumes are proven to be carcinogenic and that it’s much safer when not exposed. It is being a carcinogen, its contact with skin causes various kinds of dermatitis and makes one more susceptible to developing allergies than other metals. Because of this, Japan and Europe are banning most nickel alloys.
The term “nickel-free”, as defined by manufacturers, is a non-usage of nickel in the jewelry’s plating, but is still present upon utilization in the base metal.
This method prevents a greater saturation of nickel to be in contact with the skin, making the surgical grade jewelry slightly allergenic and safe to wear on longer skin exposure.
It also is surgical grade makes it safe for piercing. Even with its claims to be “nickel-free”, it still contains 8-12% nickel (even surgical steels) for the alloy’s integrity as jewelry.
In a majority of metal items we use, nickel adds durability as well as the shine and sparkle in jewelry. Most jewelries often use a nickel alloy as the base metal and uses an overlay to cover the base metal which could be other metals like gold, silver, and platinum for its surface finish and for it to be nickel-free and safe to use.
However, there is still a possibility that the plating will wear off and will cause those intensely itchy rashes to begin upon gaining contact with the skin. Because nickel allergy lasts pretty much forever, what people should wear are those jewelries which the nickel is so tightly bound that it will never contact your skin and trigger an allergy rash.
Popular Jewelry Metals
First fact, different people are allergic to different metals, but a majority corresponds to the allergens that can be caused by nickel. Here are different popular jewelry metals that contain nickel and ranked on which has the most nickels in it.
Stainless steel is being used as a jewelry metal over the years. It is a composition of metals including steel (iron and carbon), chromium making it resistant to corrosion and scratches, nickel, which lessens its brittleness and increases its strength and susceptibility to high and low temperatures, and also other trace elements. There are different grades of stainless steel which are:
The430 stainless steelperhaps contain the least nickel in it as an alloy. It contains less than 0.75% nickel, making it able to pass the EU Nickel Directive. It may have good corrosion resistance when compared to non-stainless steel metals, but it is still not as good as the 304 alloys.
The304 stainless steel. This type of alloy consists of 8-10.5% nickel and being used for sinks, storage, and hauling with things found in the kitchen. This same alloy used for food handling which is stain and corrosion resistant, is also the most used for jewelry- making it the most popular grade of stainless steel.
The304L stainless steelis almost the same as the 304 stainless steel, but it consists a slightly higher amount of nickel (8-12%) that is made for an increased weldability and corrosion resistance. This grade of stainless steel is commonly used in men’s jewelry.
Being one of the “noble metals”, gold is known as one of the traditional metals that are so called “noble” for their ability to withstand a couple of things a jeweler or wearer wishes a jewelry to be.
These things include oxidation, its chemical stability, and its corrosion resistance. Because pure gold is softer longer wearing and more susceptible to scratches, it is mixed with other alloys- most commonly, nickel.
10 karat (10k) goldconsists of 41.66% pure gold and the rest would be nickel alloy. This type of gold can be seen in white gold jewelry with the alloy being used to make the gold more durable for longer wear.
White gold is a less expensive alternative to platinum, which can have allergenic properties as soon as the plating wears off.
14 karat (10k) gold and 18 karat (18k) goldare also used for jewelry which consists of 58.33% and 75% of pure gold respectively, leaving the rest to be nickel alloy.
These types of gold are still likely to react to people’s skin because a lot more composition of nickel on it leaves the allergens in direct contact, causing the skin to still be itchy when worn.
24 karat (24k) goldconsists of 99.90% of pure gold, making it more brilliant and lustrous. But for most jewelry, this type of gold is too soft and is not suitable for longer wear than the other types of gold.
However, this type is less likely to react on the skin, but its cost is much higher than all the other types.
Another option in jewelry consists of avoiding the base-metal alloys entirely and instead uses precious metals in its entirety. This means that the following metals have little to no amount of nickel in it, passing the EU Nickel Directive.
Sterling silver is an alloy that contains at least 92.5% silver, which usually leaves the other 7.5% for copper. Although some people are allergic to silver and copper, most sterling silver is safe to wear and will rarely be allergenic only if it is good quality sterling silver.
However, when buying from a jewelry from shops other than the renowned ones, one must be aware that there is a huge possibility that you will be buying jewelry alloyed from random metals and mistaken for as sterling silver. In that case, you’ll know its legitimacy if the price is right.
It is highly resistant to corrosion and other reactions, niobium comes first choice with people who have metal allergies. It is a type of metal which is non-plated but can be in different colors by anodizing.
It doesn’t match with gold and silver colors, but it can be found in black, copper, blue, bronze, green, pink, purple, teal and yellow colors. It doesn’t flake or chip, making it more suitable for people who have certain metal allergies.
Titanium is a metal that has high tensile strength, lightweight, and has corrosion resistance. Like niobium, with its hypoallergenic properties, it is commonly used as jewelry by metal allergic people.
It is commonly found in medical implants and earrings. Although for a fact, titanium cannot be sized and is still susceptible to scratches.
Copper is a reddish metal which is easy to work with but oxidizes quickly, leaving the skin in contact turn “green” after a while of wearing which makes it irritating to wear as earrings.
But because it isn’t as allergenic as nickel, it can still be safely used by people, but without the excitement of having their skin colored green on the part of the skin where it touches them.
Instead, copper is being plated with other nickel-free metals like a sterling backing or using instead a copper-colored niobium for jewelry.
Conclusion: Why Jewelry contains Nickel can be a headache?
Whenever I have my meetings, having brunch on busy days, going out on a dinner with a special someone, or even when I go out to party, I never forget to wear my jewelry. It may be something small worn on the body, but it sure does make a great difference in my appearance and personality.
From earrings, necklaces, to bracelets and anklets, truly, you are never fully dressed without a sparkle. However, it is not always the case that it just looks good on the body or if it is attractive, what must also be taken into consideration is if it is wearable on your skin.
In multiple cases growing up, I have some jewelry I have worn that my skin reacted differently. Some of the earrings I own make my ears itch, some necklaces also have the same kind of reaction.
Worst case include swelling and eventual bleeding due to scratching on the particular part of the body where it was worn. Because of this, I would always have to switch to wearing nickel-free jewelry.