All the jewelry I wear gives me a rash.” Can you relate to this statement? This allergic reaction to some metals is commonly referred to as dermatitis. The Nickel found in many types of jewelry is the cause of most forms of dermatitis. Allergies to Nickel are quite widespread. Nearly one in seven people experience an allergic reaction to Nickel. Women suffer more than men from Nickel allergies. This is probably due to the fact that more women wear jewelry then men, so they are more exposed to jewelry with Nickel content. So what types of jewelry metals should one avoid if they are allergic to Nickel?
Let’s firs take a look at Gold jewelry. Generally, jewelry made from yellow Gold (14 karat and above) usually doesn’t cause Dermatitis. However, white Gold may. White Gold contains Nickel and other “white” metals to produce its Silver coloring. One out of every nine people will react to the Nickel in white Gold. Another form of Gold jewelry is Gold-filled or “GF” jewelry. Gold-filled jewelry metal is created when a base metal is coated with a layer of Gold. This results in a much thicker layer of Gold in relation to Gold-plate jewelry. With Gold-filled jewelry, the amount of Gold contained in the jewelry is between 75-200 times higher in Gold content than in that of Gold-plated products.
For those that love the look of White Gold, but have allergies, Fine Silver or Sterling Silver is a great alternative. Fine Silver is by definition 99.9% pure Silver. Normally, jewelry is generally not made of Fine Silver because the metal is extremely soft and does not withstand normal wear and tear well. In general, most Silver jewelry is made from Sterling Silver. By definition, Sterling Silver is 92.5% pure Silver. Copper makes up the remaining 7.5%. To make the Silver more durable, Copper is alloyed with pure Silver. Since Copper is normally used, Sterling Silver is a great metal for Nickel allergic people. By law, all Sterling Silver must by hallmarked with a .925 symbol. This marking is common on manufactured pieces, but may not be present on artisan jewelry.
Another great choice of metal to consider if you have Nickel allergies, is Copper. Most Copper jewelry doesn’t contain Nickel and is made with 100% Copper. Surgical or Stainless Steel is commonly used in jewelry. As the name implies, Surgical Stainless Steel was designed to be used in the human body. Conversely, Nickel is used in Stainless Steel making up to as much as 8 to 12% of the alloy. People with sensitive skin should avoid Stainless Steel in that it does contain a high percentage of Nickel. Another choice “white” metal for those that suffer with Dermatitis is Platinum. It contains no Nickel and is chiefly composed of 95% Platinum and 5% Iridium. The last of the “safe” metals is Titanium. Titanium is a great metal for jewelry – it’s both hypoallergenic and durable. For those that suffer from Nickel allergies, Titanium jewelry is a sure bet.
Please be aware of these types of jewelry and metals when shopping if you commonly have skin problems. Nickel is frequently used to make Costume and Fashion jewelry. Fashion or Costume Jewelry typically contains high quantities of Nickel or German Silver. German Silver does not contain any Silver. In fact, “Silver” only refers to the color of the metal, and is no way related to metal compostion. The “Silver” appearance of German Silver is a result of melting Nickel, lead, zinc, or tin during the alloying process. If your are concerned that your jewelry may contain Nickel, the best way to determine this would be to buy a test kit available online. By asking a few questions and doing a little research upfront, you can save both time and money, and still allow be able to wear fashionable jewelry.