My wife, like many people, develops contact dermatitis when her skin comes in contact with some types of jewelry.
The dermatitis is the result of an allergic reaction to the nickel found in many types of jewelry. Nickel allergies are very common. One out of every seven people is likely to suffer from a nickel allergy.
More women tend to suffer from nickel allergies than men. However, this may be partially attributed to the fact that women tend to wear more jewelry than men and are therefore more likely to be exposed to skin contact with nickel.
Nickel sulfate hexahydrate is a metal frequently encountered in jewelry and clasps or buttons on clothing and is the #1 cause of contact dermatitis.Two factors make self-diagnosis a challenge.
First, contact dermatitis may appear several days after contact. Second, a nickel allergy can appear at any point in one’s life.
One can react suddenly and adversely to a piece of jewelry long-owned and frequently used. If the allergy is due to nickel, it is likely to become a life-long nuisance once it has developed.
Generally speaking, yellow gold (above 14 karat) will not cause an allergic reaction. This due to the fact that in yellow gold copper is usually used as an alloy.
However, white gold may cause an allergic reaction. White gold alloys contain nickel and other “white” metals to produce its silver coloring. One out of every nine people will react to the nickel in white gold.
Typically silver jewelry is made of sterling silver. Sterling silver is by definition 92.5% pure silver. Usually the remaining 7.5% metal is made up of copper. Copper is infused to harden the silver and make it more durable.
Since copper is the normal metal used, sterling silver is a great metal for nickel allergic people. You can typically distinguish sterling silver by a “925” mark found on the jewelry. (this is common on manufactured pieces, but may not be present on artisan jewelry).
Some other metals that are considered safe for people with nickel allergies are:
Copper – Copper jewelry is generally considered pure and not mixed with nickel or nickel alloys.
Platinum – Platinum jewelry contains 95% platinum and 5% of a secondary metal typically iridium.
Titanium – Titanium jewelry is both hypoallergenic and durable. It is a highly recommended metal for those who suffer from nickel allergies.
If you do buy a piece of jewelry and are concerned that it may contain nickel, commercial test kits are available online. These kits contain chemicals that react in the presence of nickel. One such product is Nickel Alert™.
Also other kits are available, that can be applied to a particular troublesome piece of jewelry that will protect you from dermatitis caused by nickel allergies.
A similar product called Nickel Guard™, is designed to coat jewelry and other metal items to protect you from nickel contact.
Nickel Guard forms an invisible micro-bond barrier effectively sealing the metal item.
For more information on this product please visit their website:
Prices start at $16.95 for one product and complete kits containing both products sell for $28.50.
Should you have any additional questions about this or any other jewellery related topics, you can always: “Ask the Jeweller”
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