Sterling Silver Jewelry Guide for Nickel Allergy Sufferers

July 25, 2019 1 Comment

Sterling Silver Jewelry Guide for Nickel Allergy Sufferers

For those who struggle with a nickel allergy, finding jewelry that does not irritate your skin can be a challenge. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10 to 20 percent of the population is allergic to nickel. Nickel is the most common type of metal allergy and the likely culprit for any type of allergic reaction associated with wearing jewelry. People with nickel allergies develop contact dermatitis, a rash which causes the skin to become irritated and itchy when exposed to direct contact with this metal.

Allergic skin reactions to nickel usually begin within 24-48 hours of exposure. Skin rashes caused by a nickel allergy are not life-threatening, but they can be highly uncomfortable. Symptoms of nickel allergy include:

  • Rash or bumps on the skin
  • Itching, which may be severe
  • Redness or changes in skin color
  • Dry patches of skin that may resemble a burn
  • Blisters and draining fluid in severe cases

If wearing jewelry causes you to develop a skin reaction, remove it right away and allow your skin time to heal. You may apply an over the counter antihistamine or hydrocortisone cream to the affected area to reduce discomfort. Nickel allergy rashes usually begin to clear on their own once the jewelry item containing item has been removed.

Nickel allergies can develop at any age, however, once a nickel allergy has developed, your immune system will continue to be sensitive to nickel for the rest of your life. Repeated exposure to nickel can worsen the allergic reaction to the condition. There is no cure for a nickel allergy, so the best way to avoid symptoms is simply to avoid wearing jewelry that contains nickel.  

Ears and wrists are the most common trouble areas for people who have nickel allergies. Nickel free jewelry is designed to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction. Sometimes the words "nickel free" and "hypoallergenic" are incorrectly confused as interchangeable terms. The term hypoallergenic means "below the normal level" of allergenic. It is important to note that "hypoallergenic" does not mean that an item is nickel free. 

Unfortunately, there are no US government standards or regulations for using the terms "nickel free" or "hypoallergenic." Jewelry can be misleadingly labeled as “nickel-free” or “hypoallergenic” because these terms may also be used to describe only the silver plating portion of a design. Keep in mind that the actual base metal used to create the design may still contain nickel.

Use caution when purchasing silver-tone jewelry that has been silver plated. Silver plated jewelry contains a thin layer of silver bonded over a base metal, such as brass, nickel, or tin. The thin layer of silver on silver plated jewelry will wear away, flake, or scratch off over time, exposing your skin to whatever type of base metal that lies underneath the plated surface. 

Likewise, silver filled jewelry is created by bonding silver plating over a base metal. The difference between silver plated and silver filled jewelry is simply in the amount of plating used to cover the base metal. Although silver filled jewelry contains a much thicker plating, and is a significant step up in quality from silver plated jewelry, this thicker layer of silver plating does not guarantee that you will not develop an allergic reaction to the base metal underneath. 

If you are allergic to nickel, your best bet is to select solid sterling silver jewelry. Sterling silver is quality stamped with ".925" and must be comprised of at least 92.5% pure silver. Pure silver is too soft for use in jewelry because it bends and stretches easily which would cause designs to become quickly misshapen. To improve the strength and durability of pure silver, jewelers create sterling silver by mixing 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% copper.

This can be where it get's tricky...technically the 7.5% of metals used to create a sterling silver alloy can be comprised by many different types of metal. Reputable jewelers use copper for the remaining 7.5%. Copper is ideal to alloy with pure silver for the creation of .925 sterling silver because it is a non-allergenic metal. By comparison, nickel is an inexpensive metal well suited for mass production. Nickel is rarely used by US jewelry manufacturers to create sterling silver, however, it is commonly used in sterling silver jewelry produced overseas as the use of nickel, instead of copper, creates a significantly less expensive sterling silver alloy. 

All sterling silver jewelry available for purchase at Clothed with Truth is guaranteed to be nickel free. Our jewelry is created from solid sterling silver and every piece of sterling silver jewelry contains the artist's makers mark as well as the .925 stamp. We offer a wide variety of faith-based sterling silver rings, bracelets, and necklaces for women and sterling silver rings and necklaces for men that have been skillfully handcrafted in the USA. We hope you'll visit us online and welcome you to reach out to us with any questions that you may have.

1 Response

Linda Lee Boyle
Linda Lee Boyle

March 14, 2021

very informative article. thank you!

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