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Metal allergies Solved: A guide to skin-friendly jewellery

Updated: Jan 1

Have you ever had an allergic reaction to your jewelry? It’s a well-known fact that the metal contained in your jewelry setting causes most jewelry allergies. But not many know what metal(s) their jewelry settings contain, and the results may surprise you!

Knowing the type of metals contained in your jewelry is important to prevent any allergic reactions, and can help you care for your jewelry so it can be enjoyed for a lifetime! If you haven’t experienced an allergy before or if you are unsure if you have, here is a little overview.

Symptoms of Jewelry Allergic Reactions:
  1. Itching, redness, tenderness, swelling, and warmth to the exposed area.

  2. Blisters and dry patches of skin resembling a burn may also appear where the metal has come into contact with your skin.

According to the National Institutes of Health, allergic symptoms resulting from exposure to metals typically appear 24 to 48 hours after exposure, but could appear as soon as 12 hours after contact. Here are some tips to help you solve the mystery behind the metal, and discover what metal type disagrees with your skin!

Common Metals to Avoid if You Have Sensitive Skin:NICKEL & STAINLESS STEEL
  • Nickel is the number one allergy internationally. The reaction may appear as an itchy, red rash with watery blisters where the jewelry touches your skin.

  • Stainless Steel can sometimes, but not often, trigger a nickel allergy because it contains trace amounts of nickel and iron. If you have hypersensitive skin it might be best to avoid stainless steel as well.

COPPER & ROSE GOLD (Gold & Copper Alloy)
  • It might be an end to a rose gold era for you ladies with a copper allergy. If you are allergic to copper you may also be allergic to metal alloys that include copper, like the ever-so-popular rose gold, which contains a mixture of gold and copper to achieve its pinkish hue.

  • If you’ve had any reaction to copper before, avoid it altogether and see if lower amounts used in alloy metals trigger any effects. On the other hand, if jewelry set in rose gold doesn’t bother you, alloys might be one of the few ways you can enjoy the look of copper jewelry.

BRASS (Copper & Zinc Alloy)
  • Brass is often used as a base metal that has been coated with either sterling silver, or gold. If your skin turns green after wearing a necklace or earrings, it most likely includes some amount of brass in its metal composition. Brass is actually an alloy of copper and zinc, so if you’re allergic to brass you are likely allergic to copper as well.

  • Stick to what’s pure. Even silver plated jewelry can cause allergies. Look for stamps on the jewelry that indicate it is Sterling 925 (meaning it is 92.5% pure).

  • 14k Gold or higher is also your best bet to avoid any issues. Jewelry is often plated with silver or gold over metals like copper and brass in order to keep prices low.

  • Don’t mistake plating as a foolproof barrier to allergies. Be sure to do your research about what the base metal is before purchasing anything that has been plated.

GOLD (a variety of colors = a variety of alloys)
  • Many confuse all gold jewelry to be a safe option when trying to avoid jewelry allergies. However, certain types of gold jewelry often contain other metals that can trigger a reaction.

  • White gold is usually alloyed with nickel or other common white metals to give it its whitest hue.

  • Yellow gold is often alloyed with silver or copper in varying amounts, unless your setting is made of solid gold (unlikely).

  • Be sure to check the karat weight to see how much gold is actually in the setting. Karat is a measure of the purity of gold. To avoid any potential allergies, opt for 14k Gold or higher which is purer and less likely to trigger any reaction.

  • Any jewelry set in gold 14k or less means that at least half of the setting consists of other metals or alloys, which could include copper or brass.

Also, if you have highly sensitive skin make sure to check out the karat weight of any gold jewelry that has been plated with other metals. Plating can wear away over time and allow metal alloys to come in contact with your skin. Just like with other plated metals, what is underneath the surface, counts. Be sure it is a base metal of 14k gold or higher, and if not, be sure to re-plate your jewelry often to maintain that solid buffer between your skin and what is below the base metal.