At Metal Urges Fine jewellery, we often encounter customers who believe they are allergic to gold. To this date we have never actually found an individual who is truly allergic to gold, in its purest form gold is completely hypoallergenic. Pure gold’s main attraction to humans is its stable chemical nature and resistance to all but the harshest chemical environments.
Typically most skin reactions occur with metals that contain nickel. Nickel has in the past been often mixed or ‘alloyed’ (see 9ct gold vs 18ct gold for a better description of alloying) to give metals its particular properties. For instance, nickel was commonly used as a cheap way to whiten white gold. At Metal Urges, our white gold alloys are of the highest quality using palladium, a more expensive but non-allergenic option to nickel. We also manufacture our custom wedding and engagement rings using 18ct gold, which is 75% pure gold. Compare this with 9ct gold which is only 37.5% pure gold, and you can understand why people often encounter skin reactions when wearing jewellery made from it. As a basic rule, the further below 18ct gold, the higher the likelihood of the metal containing some amount of nickel or other alloy which may react with your skin. The real motivation behind 9ct gold manufacturing is to keep cost price low and profit high, it can be very tempting for manufacturers to increase profits further by adding cheap nickel to the mix. Not something you want in fine quality designer jewellery.
The most common allergic reaction caused by nickel is called ‘allergic contact dermatitis’, this results in a red rash and a burning itchy sensation. Although it is possible to be allergic to other metals, such as chromium or cobalt, nickel is the most likely culprit - your dermatologist can perform a simple test to confirm this. From what specialists can gather, a nickel allergy seems to be something we develop one which we are not necessarily born with. An allergy to nickel can be triggered with something as simple as a body piercing being done with poor quality jewellery, and is a result of an immune system reaction within the body. Unfortunately once developed nickel sensitivity can be for life.
At Metal Urges we often encounter customers who state that they have been able to wear a particular piece of jewellery with no problems, but then all of a sudden begin to react to it. This is the unfortunate nature of something like a nickel allergy, as it can become worse with time. Also, some things to consider are time of year and nickel intake. During summer we tend to sweat a lot, this can speed the rate at which nickel leaches from metals, and can even erode plating on cheaper jewellery. Nickel can also be found in different foods such as shellfish, chocolate, beans and milk. Having increased nickel levels in your system can increase the likelihood of a skin outbreak. In some cases, the ingestion of nickel can come from the simplest of actions such as chewing on a paper clip or a pen.
The next most common allergic reaction comes as a result of chemicals, such as cleaning or hair products, becoming lodged between jewellery and the wearer’s skin. To some extent this is unavoidable we recommend jewellery be removed, gloves worn, or at least a thorough rinsing of the hands and jewellery after chemical handling. Often with cheaper jewellery, the inside of rings are hollowed out to save on gold weight. This certainly saves weight and expense but can also create issues with ring strength and also provides an area for water, chemicals and dead skin to build up and irritate the skin. At Metal Urges we ensure our high end jewellery designs provide the least opportunity for this to occur as our rings are hand manufactured with solid shanks thus providing both strength, and minimal area for foreign matter to build up.Metal Urges is proud to offer free jewellery cleaning. This removes any foreign particles that may cause skin irritation at the same time as making our customers’ jewellery look great.
Metal Urges Fine Jewellery also offer materials such as titanium in the manufacture of custom jewellery. Although limited in its uses and best suited for men’s wedding bands, titanium is deemed to be so hypoallergenic that it is often used in surgeons’ tools and surgical implants. In fact one of our regular supplies for titanium is a surgical implant manufacturer in Sydney, specialising in reconstructive bone bracing.
Platinum is also another low allergy option in jewellery design. Please refer to our article Platinum vs 18ct White Gold for the pros and cons of utilising platinum in your custom made jewellery.