Thursday, September 15, 2011

Metals for Sensitive Skin

I weigh the man, not his title; 'tis not the king's stamp can make the metal better.
-William Wycherley, ~1700

One might think that silver and gold are the best choices for our precious bauble, but this is not the case when it comes to those with delicate ears.

I have been getting really excited about earrings for a while now, and the ironic thing is that I don't wear them! I love the old vintage clip-ons I have collected over time, but I am thinking that is just not enough anymore. And, since I started making earrings last year, as part of my fancy for jewelry beading, I have become super ready to start wearing them again.

Part of the riddle was this... why would I ever want to wear earrings again when my skin rejected them every time I tried since I was 8 years old? So I set out doing some research on the best metals to wear in earrings, in order to get past the sensitivities and to additionally use the safest quality materials in the earrings I make for others.

Here is what I found-

The culprits:
  • Nickel is one of the most allergenic metals to humans in the world. 
  • Nickel is found mixed into almost all metals unless they state that they are nickel free. For example, sterling silver (ie 928) is 92.8% silver... and nickel is one of the other things often mixed into the other 7.2%. Same goes for surgical steel, though a fine polish is supposed to seal the surface from risk of nickel exposure.
  • Arsenic, obviously bad for creatures of all kinds, is found in some metals. 
How to stay clear:
  • Bronze has risk of arsenic in it at times.
  • If you don't mind a little risk, just buy nickel-free sliver or gold plated jewelry. Usually this is plated over something like copper. 
  • If you are annoyed that the plating wears off, use safer metals. Gold is especially easily scratched and is not allowed, according to US standards, in piercing studs. 
  • Generally, if you are the sentitive type, then wear metals that are used for piercing studs because they are proven safe with the tender layers of skin. 
  • Copper and brass do not have nickel, but some people have a reaction where their skin turns green. Apparently sweat can cause this reaction.
  • These metals are A-OK: Titanium, gun metals, and Niobium 
  • Several non metals are good too if you have large gauge holes: wood, amber, porcelain, bones, gems, glass, and certain non-leaching plastics. These all need to be cleaned more thoroughly though because of the porosity. 
Taa dah!

a pair of sophisticated bohemian earrings created for a a gypsy on a professional day

Some good sources of more information:

1 comment:

  1. Good research, Mead! I could have sworn that my piercing studs were gold-plated. However, I had my ears pierced in another country, so that could be the difference. I wonder how long it's been a no-no in the U.S.

    Anyhow, I love earrings and wear them nearly every day. I hope you find the right kind for you so you can enjoy them too!

    : )


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