What Does Hypoallergenic Jewelry Mean?


People with allergies often have to be careful about what they wear and come into contact with, as even the smallest amount of an allergen can cause a reaction. If you're looking for jewelry that's hypoallergenic, but you don't quite know what that means. Read on for a definition of hypoallergenic jewelry and what materials are best to look for if you have metal allergies.


First, What is a Jewelry Allergy?

An allergy is a negative response that occurs when your body comes into contact with certain metals. These allergies are relatively rare, but they still exist and can cause a range of symptoms, including rashes, itching, and swelling.

If you think you may be allergic to a piece of jewelry, it's essential to see a doctor or allergist to get tested. Once you know what you have an aversion to, you can take steps to avoid exposure and keep your symptoms under control.


What are the Signs of a Jewelry Allergy?

Allergies can cause a range of symptoms, including:


  • Rashes
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Blisters


If you experience any of these symptoms after wearing a piece of jewelry, it is a sign that you are allergic to the metals used in the worn piece. Nickel is a common allergen found in many jewelry components. If you have an allergy to nickel, you may react to gold, silver, etc., because they contain nickel.

If you have an allergy, avoid wearing pieces that contain the offending material. If you must wear them, coat the inside of pieces with clear nail polish or another barrier. You can also ask your jeweler to coat the metal with a special lacquer designed to block allergens.



What Causes a Jewelry Allergy?

An aversion to jewelry stems from exposure to low-cost base metals (nickel, lead, etc.) You can also be allergic to other unexpected components, such as resin.

If you have a metal allergy, you may be more likely to develop an allergy to other metals. For example, if you're allergic to nickel, you may have a hypersensitivity to cobalt or gold..


What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?

There are no established tests or medical definitions for "hypoallergenic." The use of this term varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. This confusion makes it difficult for shoppers to find authentic hypoallergenic jewelry.

Hypoallergenic jewelry generally consists of materials less likely to cause an adverse skin reaction, such as itching or red blotches. Sterling Silver, rhodium, titanium, tungsten carbide are some of the most popular hypoallergenic metals.

Most of the time, if you have a jewelry allergy, it is due to an aversion to (nickel, lead, and other inexpensive alloys, etc.). Avoid wearing jewelry with these alloys, which is easier said than done! Surgical stainless steel, for example, includes 12 percent nickel, and 18k gold can have up to 25% of anything!


What are Hypoallergenic Metals?? Are any Better than Others?

Tantalum, titanium, and niobium are the least likely to cause allergy symptoms and are used in medical implants for this reason. Some items marketed as "hypoallergenic" may be borderline, such as stainless steel. These items may not cause symptoms in most people, but they can cause problems for those with severe allergies.


If you have a severe allergy, it's best to stick with solid gold or rhodium plated items. Unfortunately, these metals are more expensive, but they're also the least likely to cause allergy symptoms.


What is the Best Jewelry for Sensitive Skin?

Niobium and titanium are rare and not commonly used in jewelry and are expensive to produce but are ideal for those looking for hypoallergenic jewelry.


Which Metals are More Likely to Cause an Allergic Reaction?

Please note, that any metal may cause an allergy, although nickel, cobalt, and chromates are the most common offenders. Manufacturers frequently combine nickel and cobalt with other more expensive metals to make alloys. These metals are frequent in low-quality pieces, such as costume trinkets.

When you wear jewelry, if you have an aversion to common allergens (such as nickel, cobalt, chromium, etc.), it is essential to replace inexpensive jewelry pieces with higher-quality metals. Metals less likely to cause allergy symptoms include:


  • Rhodium.
  • Stainless steel.
  • 24K Yellow Gold.
  • Pure Silver.


If you like gold, go for yellow gold that is 14-karat or higher. The higher the karat weight, the more gold there is in the alloy, and the less likely you react to it.


If you prefer sterling silver, make sure it's genuine sterling silver. Some costume jewels consist of "silver-plated" metals, which may contain nickel.


Also, avoid white gold and plated items, as these sometimes contain nickel or cobalt.


Is Rhodium Hypoallergenic?

Rhodium is resistant to corrosion, does not tarnish, is highly reflective, and is long-lasting. Rhodium production is rare, with only 3 tons per year in circulation. Because of its rarity, rhodium does not affect the environment.

Rhodium is not malleable and would break in its pure form, so you will not find 100% pure rhodium pieces; instead, a rhodium layer is used to coat to items. Rhodium is frequently used to plate white gold and silver, where it increases durability, prevents scratching, and improves brightness.

The rhodium layer is hypoallergenic and is commonly used as a protective covering for white gold ( which often contains nickel.) 15% of the population suffers from a nickel allergy, so a rhodium coat prevents irritation.

It is common to see a rhodium topcoat on less expensive items such as steel. Rhodium is an expensive, excellent protective coating. However, it is essential to note that rhodium plating will fade over time, so it is important to have your items re-plated periodically. Otherwise, the base layer underneath will make contact with your epidermis. This can cause problems.


Is Rhodium Plated Silver Hypoallergenic?

Rhodium is a great anti-allergenic plating material. Rhodium plating is non-reactive, forming a barrier between the nickel alloyed white gold and the epidermis. Over time, this plate fades away, no longer shielding the alloy and possibly nickel from creating allergy symptoms. This can cause allergy symptoms in sensitive people if not dealt with promptly.

If this happens to your white gold, the color will alter to a yellowish tint. You can remedy it by visiting a jeweler and having a new layer of rhodium plating applied. This is usually a low-cost and speedy process. Replating usually takes 1-2 days to complete.


Is Platinum Hypoallergenic?

While several metals are said to be anti-allergenic, platinum is considered to be the only true hypoallergenic metal. Jewelers recommend it as a totally safe, nickel-free metal to wear, especially for highly sensitive people.

Unlike gold or sterling silver, which have significant percentages of other alloys mixed in, This nickel-free metal is 95% pure. It is also extremely resistant to corrosion and tarnishing. It is also highly unreactive, meaning it doesn't oxidize, nor is it affected by common acids.


Is Palladium Hypoallergenic?

Yes, palladium is anti-allergenic. It is a relatively new valuable metal that resembles platinum but is substantially more inexpensive. Because it belongs to the same family of metals as rhodium, it has many of the same qualities. It doesn't tarnish and is usually alloyed with ruthenium or iridium, both of which have a purity of 95%. The biggest difference between palladium and platinum is that palladium is lighter and harder.


Is Aluminum Hypoallergenic?

Yes, aluminum is non-allergenic.

It's not a material that comes to mind when thinking about beautiful jewelry, but given how light it is and how easy it is to cast and work with, why not? Aluminum is the world's third most plentiful element, and its most significant advantage is its fantastic lightness; it is lighter than titanium but not as strong.


Is Copper Hypoallergenic?

No, copper is not nonallergenic. It is a pure element utilized for wire wrapping since it is an exceptionally soft material. Once it is exposed to air, it develops a patina and darkens. The green stains result from copper oxidation when combined with sweat and other substances. Your body chemistry determines how much and how quickly the epidermis layer goes green.

If you don't want it to stain the epidermis, spray it with a clear UV stable lacquer, but this isn't a nonallergenic layer because all lacquers fade away, especially when they come into contact with acidic sweat. If reapplication of the lacquer does not occur, this will cause the wearer to suffer from irritation such as itching and red blotches.

Copper reacts with sensitive skin, resulting in an ugly green/black coloration, especially when exposed to acidic elements.


Is 14k Gold Plated Hypoallergenic?

No, it is not. 14k gold is an alloy made of gold and additional metals such as nickel, zinc, etc. When these alloys come into contact with sensitive skin, they can cause an adverse response in people with hypersensitive people.


Because it is not an alloy, only 24k gold is truly anti-allergenic. Due to its exceptional softness, pure gold is not acceptable for jewelry use. Higher karat golds, such as 22k and 18k gold, are thought to be safer than 10k or 14k gold since they contain a lower amount of mixed metals.


Is Silver Hypoallergenic?

Pure silver is anti-allergenic, that is rarely used in jewelry due to its extreme softness.

Because pure silver is too soft, it is combined with other alloys to make it easier to work with and improve durability. Sterling silver is 92.5 percent silver, as shown by the 925 mark, combined with additional metals such as zinc, which might cause allergic reactions in some people with sensitive skin.

The silver's alloys may react, giving it a peculiar green/black hue. Severe reactions can lead to inflammation and dryness, resulting in blisters.

Silver tarnishes due to alloys reacting with the air and other elements. It's possible that the tarnishing will even rub off, creating black marks.

Keep silver clean and polished to prevent tarnishing, and you shouldn't have any problems.


Is Stainless Steel Hypoallergenic?

Please note that stainless steel is borderline allergy-free. There are around 150 different grades of stainless steel. It's long-lasting, won't tarnish, and polishes easily.

316l or 316lvm stainless steel, a.k.a. medical-grade steel, is often used in jewelry since it does not react to the epidermis....well, for the most part. Although 316 contains just about 12% nickel, it can nevertheless induce symptoms in some sensitive people.


Is Bronze Hypoallergenic?

No, bronze is not allergy-free. Instead, it's a blend of copper and tin, with little amounts of additional ingredients like aluminum or nickel thrown in for good measure.

Bronze reacts when it comes into contact with acids from the epidermis for any long or short period. These alloys cause an oxidation layer to form, turning parts of the epidermis green.


Is Tungsten Hypoallergenic?

Yes, tungsten is considered allergen-free because of its low nickel content.

Tungsten is highly strong, thick, and tough; due to its density, Tungsten rings appear to be quite hefty for their size. Tungsten rings are more likely to include the element cobalt, which can cause allergic reactions in certain people.

Typically, tungsten alloys with carbon, which make it even tougher. This alloy is called tungsten carbide. One significant benefit is that tungsten carbide is extremely scratch resistant. Because some Tungsten carbide alloys with cobalt, it's advisable to double-check the composition before purchasing.

Tungsten has a downside: it contains roughly 15% nickel as a binding agent.


Is Brass Hypoallergenic?

No, brass is not allergy-free. Instead, it is a mixture of copper and zinc. The alloys will cause allergy symptoms and turn the epidermis green if not correctly plated. Unfortunately, as this plating fades, an allergic response can occur.

This means you should replate brass to avoid irritation. If its not replated, you may experience symptoms over time as the alloys react with acidic elements in your body, such as sweat.


Is Nickel Free Brass Hypoallergenic?

Nickel-free jewelry is a great choice for people with delicate skin. Nickel-free metal is less likely to cause an allergic reaction, and it's also more durable than other metals.

However, nickel-free brass is not an anti-allergenic metal. Instead, it contains copper, which can cause a bad response in some people. If you're unsure whether or not you react badly to certain metal types, it's best to consult with a doctor before wearing certified nickel-free items


What is Cadmium Free or Lead Free Jewelry?

Cadmium is a soft, bluish-white material usually found in the earth's crust as a mineral combined with other elements, like oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. Cadmium is a common top layer in plating. Cadmium makes the piece shiny and adds weight to it. However, cadmium is also toxic and a suspected carcinogen. Likewise, lead makes pieces heavier and brightens colors. Lead is harmful, which doesn't break down in the environment and accumulates in our body. High levels of lead are commonly in inexpensive jewelry pieces.

So, avoid these problematic metals when shopping for jewelry.  


What do I do if I Suspect my Jewelry is Causing Symptoms?

If you are wearing a ring, the ideal approach is to remove the object and clean it thoroughly with a germ-killing antibacterial wipe before switching hands while the afflicted region recuperates. If you're wearing a watch, keep your straps loose enough so that they can move freely; instead of strapping them on too tightly because air needs to circulate. After showering or hand-washing, take an extra moment to dry well under the band, ring, or bracelet, and then create a moisture barrier with unscented glycerin-rich hand cream. This will act as a protective barrier, repelling water and retaining moisture.


Wrapping Up

Finally, there is no one-size-fits-all rule because everyone's body chemistry is different. You'll need to test different pieces against your skin to see which ones cause the fewest problems. With a little bit of experimentation, you should be able to find the perfect piece that won't cause any irritation.