The women in my family are no strangers to jewelry allergies. My mother can only wear 18Kt gold earrings or her ears will itch like mad and start to turn red. My aunt suffers from the same, and only wears the earrings that she was originally pierced with. Fortunately that part of the gene pool missed me and I can wear anything, but many of my customers cannot, so I’ve really been researching materials and options for everyone.
First of all, what does a jewelry allergy consist of? According to Web MD, a reaction would start to occur within 12-48 hours of wearing the jewelry. In my opinion this may be the case for a necklace, bracelet or ring, but many people that I’ve spoken to will break out much sooner than that when wearing earrings. According to Web MD and the many ladies that I’ve spoken to, the area in contact with the jewelry will start to itch like crazy first. In some cases there may be redness, swelling and the occurrence of a bumpy rash. In severe cases you might even see blisters. So my advice would be, if you start itching at all, take it off before it gets worse. Accessories should be fun and fabulous, not uncomfortable. If you’ve broken out into an itchy, rashy state Web MD recommends applying a hydrocortisone cream to the area or taking an antihistimine. If it becomes severe you may need to see your doctor for a prescription.
Of course you can go to your doctor and be tested for allergies, but what are you looking for? Usually Nickel seems to be the culprit. Nickel is not only found in many jewelry metals, but also jeans buttons, zippers, coins and even eyeglass frames. I remember my mom placing a folded up paper towel between her stomach and the button on her jeans because it started irritating her skin, usually in the summer. Sweating can increase the problem, so in warmer temperatures or climates, you may feel a reaction more often or more quickly.
So what’s a girl to do when she wants to wear unique and fun bling? Don’t despair just yet, because nowadays there are more and more options coming available all the time. I have found ear wires* at Hobby Lobby by The Jewelry Shoppe that have worked perfectly for my customers with nickel allergies. They offer several Nickel Free findings options that are great for creating fun and unique fashion jewelry. If you do suffer an allergy, don’t be afraid to ask what materials a specific item is made from. If you’re buying from a vendor at a craft fair or local market they should know, and if not, better safe than sorry.
So here is a quick rundown of some other common jewelry metals that you will come across when out shopping for the perfect date night accessories. I found this information on Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, a site that I use often, and I trust their info and their products. This will give you an idea of what your options are if you do have issues with Nickel. Or, may reveal if you are possibly allergic to something else.
- Gold: Yellow and white gold 18Kt and above are usually a safe bet, whereas 14Kt and lower actually contain more nickel.
- Sterling Silver: Doesn’t contain any nickel. It’s made from 92.5% silver (this is what the .925 stamp on these pieces means) The other 7.5% of sterling silver is compiled of zinc and/or copper. Some people may have an allergy to these metals.
- Stainless Steel: Steel is a mix of iron and carbon, but also contains chromium, nickel and small amounts of other elements. There are different grades of this metal, but has been found to be wearable by most people without a reaction. (Grades 304 and 304L have a nickel content between 8-12%, grades 316 and 316L have a nickel content between 8-10%)
- Titanium: This metal is said to be almost completely hypoallergenic. It does contain nickel, but the nickel is so deeply embedded in the metal that it doesn’t affect the skin.
- Niobium: This is the most recent addition to jewelry components and is considered the “marvel of the metal world”. It has proven to create no reaction at all for people with sensitive skin or metal allergies.
- Hypoallergenic: This is a word that we see all over the place, so what does it mean? The item in question contains little to no potentially irritating alloys. The jewelry metals are made using certain components of gold, niobium, stainless steel and titanium.
My last thought for you about coping with the frustrations of an allergy. Be careful where and who you buy from. This is one of those situations where cheaper is not always better. Keep in mind this is coming from a women who scans her ibotta and cartwheel saver apps before compiling a grocery list! 😉 Just for example, this past summer I placed a small “test” order with a new jewelry supply distributor because it seemed like I would be getting a great deal on sterling silver supplies. Long story short, when everything came in there was some sketchiness about the stamps on the chains and ear wires, along with some packaging mix-ups. Needless to say I won’t be ordering from them again, and I did not sell those items to my customers. Stick with a reputable source, spend a little extra and enjoy looking fabulously accessorized!