Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What to do About Metal Jewellery Sensitivity

I often have conversations at markets with customers who have metal sensitivity issues or who are buying for someone who does.  It's an incredibly common thing and one of the biggest culprits is Nickel. 

To look at it's a rather beautiful shiny silver metal, unfortunately it contains properties that cause contact dermatitis with LOTS of people particularly when it's worn in a piercing - ears being the worst. In fact, Nickel was voted Allergen of the Year in 2008 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society!!

Interesting Facts: 1st classified as a element by Axel Fredrik Cronstedt in 1751, it's element symbol is NI and atomic number is 28, Dutch Gilders (currency) were made of Nickel until being replaced by Euros in 2002, and US 5 cent pieces still contain Nickel. Australia has the worlds largest reserves at 24,000,000 metric tonnes
I ran a quick survey on my Facebook Page to see how metal sensitivity affects my followers and only 16% were able to wear any type of metal.  Wow, that leaves an awful lot of people who have to be careful with what they wear!! Nickel is not the only culprit of course - impurities in metal alloys can also cause an allergic reaction, for example cheap brass.

I thought then, you might be interested to know which metals are considered to cause the least reaction:
  • Sterling Silver, Fine Silver, Yellow Gold 14K +, Niobium, Titanium, Silver Fill, Surgical Steel, Argentium, Copper, Jewellers Brass, high grade stainless steel.
And those that can cause reaction:
  • White Gold (contains Nickel), Nickel Silver, German Silver (does not actually contain silver!!), Cheap Looking costume jewellery where the metal is likely an alloy mix of unknown metals, some stainless steel grades.
There are a couple of things you can try if you want to wear jewellery you know you're going to react too:
  • coat the jewellery with clear nail polish - you'll have to repeat this every now and then as the polish will wear off.  Do be aware that nail polish contains chemicals you may not want to go in a piercing - eg toluene and xylene, so it may be better suited to the back of watches, pendants or clasps, depending on your feelings about chemicals.
  • earring post protectors - these are little polythylene clear sleeves that fit over your earrring post.  A nifty invention, they will increase the diameter of your earring post and may take a little getting used to but will form a barrier between the metal and you!
  • liquid bandage - now this one may seem a little odd but I know someone it works for!  She puts a little of the liquid on the front and back of her ear, and once dry, inserts her earring hook - the liquid bandage provides a barrier between the hook at the back and front from touching the surface of her ear and lets her wear her earrings for longer.  Worth a try if you have some in your first aid drawer!!

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