Why Does My Jewelry Make Me Itch?

Published: 10th August 2009
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"All the jewelry I wear makes me break out." Can you relate to this statement? Dermatitis is caused by this allergic reaction to some metals. The Nickel found in many types of jewelry is the cause of most forms of dermatitis. Allergies to Nickel are quite widespread. One out of every seven people is likely to suffer from a Nickel allergy. Nickel allergies tend to afflict more women than men. This may be simply due to the fact that women wear more jewelry then men, and therefore are more likely to be exposed to Nickel. So what types of jewelry don't contain Nickel?



First, let's take a look at Gold jewelry. Generally, jewelry made from yellow Gold (14 karat and above) usually doesn't cause Dermatitis. However, this usually isn't the case with white Gold. White Gold is an allow of yellow Gold and Nickel, thus producing the Silver color. 10% of the population has a reaction to white Gold. Another less expensive form of Gold metal is Gold-filled or "GF." Gold-filled is made by heat forming a layer of 10K or more (commonly 14K Gold) around a base metal. 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. By classification, Fine Silver is 100% pure Silver. Most jewelry is not made from Fine Silver, since it is usually too soft and won't hold up under most wear conditions. On the other hand, if the Fine Silver is work-hardened through hammering or tumbling, Fine Silver will last forever and has an added benefit of not tarnishing (since it contains no Copper). Most often, Silver jewelry is made from Sterling Silver. Sterling Silver is designated 92.5% Silver. Copper makes up the remaining 7.5%. Copper is added to pure Silver during the alloying process to strengthen and add durability to the end product - Sterling Silver. Sterling Silver is a great alternative for people with Nickel metal allergies, since Copper is commonly used in Sterling Silver. You can typically distinguish Sterling Silver by a "925" mark found on the jewelry. This marking is common on manufactured pieces, but may not be present on artisan jewelry.



Copper is another great alternative metal if you have problems with Nickel content. Most Copper jewelry doesn't contain Nickel and is made with 100% Copper. Another metal commonly used in jewelry is Stainless Steel or Surgical Steel. Stainless Steel was designed to be used within the human body. However, the Stainless Steel alloy contains between eight and twelve percent Nickel. Since the steel alloy does contain Nickel, caution should be taken when considering Stainless Steel jewelry if you have skin allergies. Platinum jewelry is a great alternative since it contains 95% Platinum and 5% of a secondary metal typically Iridium. The last of the "safe" metals is Titanium. Both hypoallergenic and resilient, Titanium makes a great metal for jewelry. It is a common alternative metal for those who suffer from Nickel allergies.



When you are shopping for jewelry, be aware of these problematic metals and types of jewelry. Nickel is commonly found in most Fashion and Costume jewelry. German Silver or Nickel Silver is another commonly used metal in Fashion Jewelry and should be avoided. 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 color is derived from a combination of Nickel, zinc, lead, and tin found within the alloy. If you do buy a piece of jewelry and are concerned that it may contain Nickel, commercial test kits are 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.





Whether classic or contemporary, handmade copper jewelry by San Francisco jewelry designer John S. Brana is designed to set the wearer apart from the crowd.

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