Jewelry Metal Allergies 101

Posted on Wednesday, July 12th, 2017 in Gold, Hypoallergenic Jewelry, Informational, Precious Metals, Sterling Silver.

chuck of nickel

Unfortunate as it may be, some people experience itching, redness, and tenderness while wearing their favorite jewelry. So why do some jewelry pieces trigger these symptoms while others can be worn every day without the wearer developing any allergic reactions? And what should you do if you aren’t able to wear your beloved jewelry pieces anymore because your skin is too sensitive? Here’s everything you need to know about jewelry metal allergies:

  • Virtually all jewelry allergies are actually an allergic reaction to one metal in particular, nickel. Because of its white color, nickel is commonly used in a variety of different alloys including those that make up silver and white gold jewelry. Most people can tolerate small doses of nickel, but those with an extreme sensitivity should try to avoid the metal at all costs.
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10-20% of the population is allergic to nickel.
  • Not all jewelry skin irritation is a response to an allergic reaction. Sometimes a finger rash can develop when moisture becomes trapped under a ring. To avoid this, make sure to completely dry underneath your rings after washing your hands. Likewise, make sure to remove your rings whenever you take part in any activities that will cause you to sweat.

How to best avoid jewelry metal allergic reactions:

  • Select jewelry made from a nickel free metal, such as platinum.
  • If you’re set on a particular metal, try to find a piece that contains a high concentration of that said metal. For example, if you prefer gold jewelry, look for pieces with higher karats, such as 14 karat or 18 karat gold. Similarly, if you prefer silver jewelry, try to find pieces made from sterling silver, which is 92.5% pure silver.
  • Look for jewelry that is rhodium plated (especially if you want a silver piece). Rhodium is hypoallergenic so you most likely won’t develop an allergic reaction to pieces that are coated with this metal. It’s important to note that rhodium does wear off after time, so you’ll most likely need to get the jewelry piece re-plated every couple of years.

What to do with the jewelry you love but can’t wear?

  • Visit your local jeweler to see if your jewelry can be re-created with a different (preferably hypoallergenic) metal, such as platinum.
  • For earrings, consider replacing the posts and backs with platinum ones.
  • Ask your jeweler to plate your jewelry with a layer of rhodium.