How to choose the right jewellery when you have a metal allergy

People, who suffer allergic skin reactions to metal, have a real challenge when it comes to finding jewellery they can wear. In a cost-saving measure, a lot of jewellery manufacturers are adding cheap metal alloys that lead sensitive skin to have adverse reactions. When you know which metals you’re allergic to and which ones are hypoallergenic you can look for the kinds of jewellery and accessories that you can wear without worry.

 

 

What Happens With a Metal Allergy?

People with metal allergies get contact dermatitis or rashes when their skin comes in contact with certain metals. This frequently happens when they wear jewellery because it touches the skin for long periods of time when being worn. Some people trace their allergic reactions to metal way back to their childhood, while others somehow develop the allergy in later years. Piercings often trigger an allergic reaction because an open wound is being exposed to metal. When you have a metal allergy it isn’t going to go away, but it can certainly get worse with repeated exposure.

Metals That Commonly Cause Allergies

Many people are allergic to nickel so a piece of jewellery that contains nickel will often irritate the skin. What makes it worse, is that nickel can be dissolved in water to form salts. Therefore, when someone wears a watch, bracelet or ring containing nickel and they perspire or wash their hands, the salts will cause a painful and/or itchy skin reaction. The same reaction can occur when perfumes, lotions and soaps are being used on sensitive skin, given enough moisture. In addition to nickel, cobalt and copper are also prone to causing allergic skin reactions.

Metal Alloys in Jewellery

Oftentimes people will have skin reactions when wearing gold and/or silver, and so they just assume they’re allergic to these metals. But the truth is that these metals very rarely cause reactions. What is happening is more likely that these individuals are reacting to the metal alloys contained in their gold and/or silver jewellery pieces. The alloys have probably been added in an effort to make the metal harder, more durable and less expensive.

When you have gold and silver pieces that are low karat, it’s highly likely they’ve been mixed with copper and nickel, which many people are allergic to. Copper is often used in making brass jewellery, leading many people to think they’re allergic to brass.

Symptoms Associated with Metal Allergies

The main symptom that shows up on the skin is something called contact dermatitis, meaning it’s a skin reaction from coming in contact with the metal. The reaction usually appears within 24 hours of being in contact with the metal and will be in the same area, but can certainly spread and affect other areas of the body. Once the metal is removed the symptoms will go away.

These allergic skin reactions can range in degree of severity, from mild to serious and they make people more prone to infections. In a mild case the skin will itch and become reddish and swollen. In severe cases, the skin will become dry, cracks will for, and even painful blisters.

Why Do Certain Types of Jewellery Cause People to have Allergic Reactions?

A lot of jewellery being made today contains trace amounts of metal alloys usually nickel. This is especially common when it’s inexpensive. Very often jewellery that’s plated has nickel beneath the metal seen on the top. Jewellery made of leather can also cause allergic reactions. The reason for this is that in tanning the leather metal is used, which leaves traces behind on the leather. Even these tiny amounts can cause someone to have an allergic reaction when leather is used on or as a piece of jewellery.

Jewellery often does not come with a label listing its contents, however consumers can test their jewellery with an at-home metal-testing kit. These kits come with a solution that you can drop onto a fresh cotton ball, then rubbed onto the jewellery. When a certain metal is detected the solution on the cotton ball will change colour. These testing kits will not damage the jewellery and are very useful in helping people identify jewellery and/or accessories that might cause them to have an allergic reaction.

Hypoallergenic Jewellery

Jewellery designers today have advanced technology at their disposal, which has allowed them to make beautiful jewellery pieces from hypoallergenic materials. Certain materials can give the shiny appearance of being made of precious metals, while other hypoallergenic materials can offer bright vivid colours that look amazing on jewellery and accessories.

One jewellery material that you can be sure is hypoallergenic is wood or timber, in fact there are some beautiful hypoallergenic watches made of wood and you will never need to worry about having an allergic reaction while wearing any of these watches.

Fine Jewelry Made of Hypoallergenic Materials

People love receiving fine jewellery as a gift, and love wearing it on formal occasions. Many people even collect fine jewellery as a matter of pride in having something of monetary and sentimental value to leave their children. Here is a list of hypoallergenic materials often used in fine jewellery in creating beautiful pieces adorned with diamonds and/or other gemstones:

14-Karat Gold and Up

For gold jewellery to be hypoallergenic it must be at least 14-karat gold. If you buy anything lower, it will most likely contain allergens like nickel and other metal alloys. Do not buy rose gold, or gold of any other colour, because it will probably contain copper and/or other metals that could cause an allergic skin reaction.

Palladium

If you were interested in buying jewellery made of white gold, it would be better to instead buy pieces made of palladium. Palladium has a silvery white look to it, almost like platinum, but it is less expensive. Very often there is nickel and rhodium in white gold, but when Palladium alloys replace those, the piece is a lot less likely to cause allergic skin reactions like contact dermatitis.

Platinum

Jewellery made of platinum is a stunning silvery white colour with a lot of shine to it. Platinum is totally hypoallergenic in that it usually contains less than 10% metal alloys. It’s very pure and safe for people prone to metal allergies.

Argentium Sterling Silver

Traditional sterling silver is 92.5% silver plus 7.5% metal alloy, which is usually copper. Argentium is hypoallergenic and can be used instead of copper without compromising the gorgeous appearance and appeal of sterling silver. Argentium sterling silver is also tarnish resistant, which is a wonderful benefit for jewellery.

Hypoallergenic Jewellery for Men

Men are not as inclined as women to have metal allergies, however 6% of men do get contact dermatitis from metal jewellery and need to find alternatives. Men can choose jewellery and accessories made from the materials already listed, as well as from the following materials:

Titanium

Aside from being hypoallergenic, titanium is very durable. You will find that many rings for men are made of titanium because it has a number of beneficial properties. Titanium is highly resistant to corrosion, even from the chlorinated water in swimming pools, and from perspiration. Some jewellers substitute titanium alloys in gold jewellery instead of using nickel and/or other alloys.

Wood

You may be surprised to know that wood is being used on high-end watches to great acclaim. There are no two grains alike so a wooden watch is unique, quite beautiful and hypoallergenic as well. Because of their uniqueness, wooden watches often become a conversation piece, drawing attention and compliments among both men and women. You can find a wonderful assortment of hypoallergenic wooden watches.

High-tech Ceramic

You will find high-tech ceramic often used in men’s rings and watches. This is a synthetic material containing no metal, so it is naturally hypoallergenic and has the benefit of being very durable. Another advantage that high-tech ceramic has is that it is lightweight, which makes it very comfortable. It also comes in a variety of colours, which stay vivid and bright over time, never fading.

Tungsten

Tungsten is another metal that is naturally hypoallergenic and you will find this alloy in gold jewellery. Tungsten has a brushed-looking finish, which keeps it free from scratches.

Hypoallergenic Fashion or Costume Jewellery

Rubber & Plastic

Very often people assume that because fashion or costume jewellery is inexpensive that cheap materials are being used and these would cause allergic skin reactions. However, there is a lot of fashion jewellery on the market that is stylish and trendy and totally hypoallergenic. You can find cute bracelets made of rubber and plastic, which are perfect for casual outfits.

Wood

Wood is also a safe bet when you want to avoid having an allergic reaction to your jewellery, and is often preferred in choosing a watchband. Wooden watchbands are very popular these days, especially on watchbands. It looks beautiful and it feels cool when on your wrist. Because wood is naturally anti-bacterial, it doesn’t attract germs so you never need to worry about any bacteria building up on the watchband. Take a look at a wonderful assortment of hypoallergenic wooden watches.

Pleather

Necklace chains made of pleather won’t cause allergic skin reactions like real leather does. Pleather comes in a variety of colours and finishes and jewellery, including watchbands, made of pleather can nicely compliment any casual outfit.

Niobium

Niobium is a metal that has undergone certain electrical processes, making it hypoallergenic and it comes in a range of vibrant colours. This makes niobium ideal for artists and jewellery designers and you can find some gorgeous pieces of fashion or costume jewellery made with this metal. 

Hypoallergenic Handmade Jewellery

People who are into making handmade jewellery often have a hard time finding hypoallergenic materials for customers who are prone to metal allergies. Metal beads and earring hooks usually contain a lot of nickel and copper, which these customers would definitely react to. However, you can find plenty of beads made of clay, crystal, glass, plastic and wood. And you can also get earring hooks made of surgical steel or niobium, all of which are hypoallergenic.

Crafters who do macramé often make accessories, and even jewellery. People even wear crocheted and knitted jewellery, which of course would all be hypoallergenic. For those with just mild allergies, metal jewellery can often be coated with lacquer, which would prevent the piece from directly touching the skin. These lacquers are easy to apply and also add a nice sheen.

Conclusion

People with metal allergies can still find beautiful fine and fashion jewellery made from hypoallergenic materials that will not cause skin problems. There are quite a few alternatives that give a great appearance. When buying jewellery it is important that you find out first what the piece is made of to ensure that you will not have an allergic skin reaction. If the jewellery is made of metal you can certainly use a metal-testing kit if you have any doubts. Check out some tips on coping with your metal allergy.

If you do have an allergic reaction, remove the piece immediately and it goes without saying that you need to keep all jewellery clean just in case, in order to avoid having an infection if you do react to it. Hypoallergenic jewellery is always a good idea when deciding on a gift because you never know if someone has metal allergies. There are many different hypoallergenic metals to choose from, but don’t forget to check out other hypoallergenic materials as well when buying jewellery.  

Among the most popular choices today would be hypoallergenic wooden watches. These make wonderful gifts due to their uniqueness. They look stunning on both men and women and will usually attract attention. People love wooden watches once they see how different they are. You can’t miss with a wooden watch.

  • Amy

    Thank you for the detailed post, was very informative. My Hubble can’t wear many kinds of jewellery, now I know it’s because of a nickel allergy. Typical that it’s from the cheaper variety of product that sets him off.