Metal allergies can take a variety of different forms. Some people are only allergic to nickel, while others are allergic to copper, yet still others may be allergic to any non-pure metal. Metal allergies often manifest as itchy skin, a rash, even blisters. For less pure metals and lesser allergies, the offending metal may simply stain the skin a green or dark grey color. Many people who suffer from metal allergies can stop their symptoms by switching to a purer metal, rather than an alloy. 24Kt Gold, Sterling Silver, and Stainless Steel are often touted as hypoallergenic metals. Lets take a look at these and other options for hypoallergenic jewelry components.
Niobium is a metal that is frequently used in medical implants, similar to titanium, and is great for metal allergies. It is never painted or plated, the color is adhered to the metal by anodizing it in an electric bath. It does not have any additives, like nickel or lead, making it safe for people with metal allergies. The colors can be bright blues and yellows, or more natural grey, black, and copper tones.
Stainless steel is often made of an alloy that includes steel, chromium, and often nickel. Sometimes the nickel content is too high for people with nickel allergies to wear consistently, though it does come in different grades with higher and lower carbon and nickel contents. Stainless steel is used in surgical instruments, which means it is resistant to corrosives and won’t rust over time. If you are looking for the best stainless steel alloy for its hypoallergenic properties, look for XC45 Steel or 430 Stainless- they have less than 1% nickel, while 304 Stainless will have over 10%.
It may come as a surprise, but sterling silver is actually an alloy! It is at least 92.5% silver, which is why most sterling will be marked 925. The other 7.5% is usually copper, though it may also be nickel. Silver tarnishes easily, so it is often plated with Rhodium to keep its pretty shine. For most metal allergies, sterling silver can be a great option.
Silver jewelry findings are often found as silver plated or silver filled. In this case, Sterling silver is applied via heat treatment to a less expensive metal, like brass. The silver will eventually wear off, depending upon the quantity of silver. For people with less severe metal allergies, this can be a great options for many years until the silver wears away.
Gold is found in different karat counts. 24Kt gold is pure gold- 24 out of 24 karats are made of pure gold. But this metal is very soft, oftentimes too soft for jewelry. Most often you will find jewelry components in 14kt gold, which is 14 out of 24 karats are made of pure gold. The other 10 parts are made from other metals, depending upon the color of the gold. Rose gold will be made with copper, while white gold will be made with palladium. Depending upon the wearers allergies, 14 karat gold can be perfect to reduce allergic reactions.
May gold jewelry findings can also be found as gold-plated or gold-filled, similar to silver findings. The gold is applied to a less expensive metal by heat treatment, and will last for many years before the gold eventually wears off.