At a recent show, a customer asked me whether my jewelry (mainly earrings) is hypo-allergenic. She mentioned that she breaks out when she wears jewelry that isn’t 14k gold, surgical steel or nickel free. I briefly explained the types of metals that are used in my jewelry to help her determine whether or not she could wear them. To my dismay, she could not wear any of my jewelry due to her allergy. After the show I found myself wondering, “Why can some people with jewelry allergies wear metals such as sterling silver without irritation, while others can’t?”
In an effort to better understand jewelry allergies, I did some additional research. In a nutshell, people who suffer from contact dermatitis (an allergic reaction when in contact with certain metals) are most commonly allergic to nickel. Depending on the severity of a person’s allergy, they may be able to wear certain levels of nickel without irritation…or they may not.
The terminology used in regards to precious metals can be confusing. So, here is a list of terms you may run into, and then you can decide what metal is right for you:
Yellow gold – Generally speaking, 14k or higher solid gold will not cause allergic reactions and is virtually nickel free. For extremely sensitive allergy sufferers, this may be the only option.
White gold – The alloys used in white gold and the chemicals used to make it white can contain nickel and can therefore cause allergic reactions more often than yellow gold.
Gold filled – Gold filled metal is created by covering a base metal (such as copper) with layers of actual gold using heat and pressure. Gold filled findings usually have many layers of gold, creating a virtually hypoallergenic material.
Gold Plated – This is the same thing as gold filled, only the layer of gold is much thinner. Allergic reactions may occur more often to this type of metal versus gold filled.
Silver Plated – A base metal is covered with a thin layer of silver. Again, allergic reactions may occur more often with this type of metal.
Sterling silver – 92.5% pure silver (.925) mixed with copper to achieve a hardness and stability level that will hold its shape and resist wear and tear. Generally, sterling silver is a great metal choice for people who are allergic to nickel.
Copper - Pure copper is not mixed with nickel or nickel alloys making it a hypoallergenic material.
Stainless/surgical steel – Steel alloys do contain a certain amount of nickel, however some people with nickel allergies can wear jewelry made from stainless/surgical steel without any problems.
In conclusion, all Natural Beauty Jewelry earrings are made using either sterling silver or gold filled ear wires. The majority of the findings found in my bracelets and necklaces are sterling silver and/or gold filled as well. As of the date of this post, a select few designs contain silver plated or base metal components. Please be sure to read the product information for each piece.