Wearing jewelry is an easy and fun way to complete and complement your look, but for some people, wearing certain types of jewelry can be a less than pleasant experience. It may be a pair of earrings that makes your earlobes itch or a necklace causing a rash on your neck. The reaction may happen gradually after repeated exposure or occur immediately after contact. Regardless of how it happens, the culprit could be a metal allergy.
What is a Metal Allergy?
If you have ever had a skin reaction after wearing a piece of jewelry, you may have a metal allergy. The official name for the allergy, contact dermatitis, usually displays as an itchy red rash appearing shortly after or while wearing jewelry containing the metal. Other symptoms of allergy include swelling, blisters, red marks where jewelry was touching the skin, dry patches, and warmth to the exposed area. When someone with an allergy encounters the metal, the body mounts an immune response and produces histamine which causes the symptoms listed above.
The most common metal allergy is nickel, which is one of the most common metals used in jewelry making. It is usually mixed with other metals to create an alloy and can be found in things such as earring posts, body jewelry and costume jewelry. Approximately 20% of the U.S. population have nickel allergies and it is especially prevalent among women and children. The allergy can develop at any age and once you develop symptoms you will always have a reaction when exposed to items containing nickel. Therefore, it is important to make sure you are wearing hypoallergenic jewelry
What is Hypoallergenic Jewelry?
What exactly is hypoallergenic jewelry? Hypoallergenic jewelry means there is minimal risk of an allergic reaction. Metals that are purer in form are a good way to avoid allergies because they do not contain the filler metals, mainly nickel, that is found in costume and plated jewelry. The purer the metal, the less chance of an allergic reaction. Sterling silver, platinum, gold, and titanium are all considered hypoallergenic and make excellent choices for jewelry.
Silver by itself is hypoallergenic but in its pure form it is too soft for jewelry use. Sterling silver is pure silver that has been mixed with other metals to make it stronger and more durable. Most commonly, sterling silver is made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. Because it is a pure element, copper is also hypoallergenic. If you are purchasing hypoallergenic jewelry and considering sterling silver, it is important to ask if it contains any nickel. Jewelry stamped .925 is the safest choice.
Platinum is considered one of the safest metals to wear for people with known allergies. It is comprised of 95% pure platinum and 5% iridium and is very unlikely to cause any type of allergic reaction. It is a durable metal that’s good for everyday wear, but it is also one of the most expensive which can make adding even a few pieces to your collection a costly endeavor.
Gold is a great choice for hypoallergenic jewelry but, like silver, in its purest form is too soft for jewelry use. This means it will need to be mixed with other metals to make it more durable. Most often, jewelry is 14K gold, which means 14 of the 24 karats are made of pure gold. The other 10 parts are made with other metals. If high quality gold is used, most people will not have a reaction to the other metals used.
Like gold and silver, titanium in its pure form is very soft, so it is often mixed with other metals to increase its strength and durability. The types of metals most often mixed with titanium are aluminum, tin, and vanadium. Titanium does not contain nickel and is therefore considered hypoallergenic and safe for people with allergies or sensitive skin. Titanium is lighter weight than gold and silver and is often less expensive, making it a good alternative to the two. Notable cons of titanium are its inability to be resized and its tendency to scratch easily.
How to Choose Hypoallergenic Jewelry
The good news is, there are a ton of choices when it comes to hypoallergenic jewelry. When shopping, be sure to look for jewelry clearly marked as both hypoallergenic and nickel free earrings to reduce the likelihood of a reaction. While hypoallergenic jewelry may come with a higher price tag, it is less prone to breaking, will not change the color of your skin, and will prevent bad skin reactions - all benefits that make the higher price point worth it. When purchasing earrings, be sure the entire earring, including the posts, is hypoallergenic.
All Rowan jewelry is hypoallergenic and made with completely nickel-free precious metals. Earrings are melted down and the alloys and contents are chemically tested to ensure the hypoallergenic integrity. Current options include sterling silver, gold vermeil and 14k gold.
Metal allergies can pose a problem for jewelry wearers, but when care is taken to always choose hypoallergenic pieces, you can continue to safely wear and enjoy your jewelry.