What is Hypoallergenic Jewelry?

Hypoallergenic jewelry does not cause a reaction in most people. As an umbrella term “hypoallergenic jewelry” covers a number of different jewelry products. Any jewelry item made of only one type of metal is hypoallergenic. Jewelry made of these metals are hypoallergenic:

  • titanium
  • platinum
  • stainless steel
  • copper

In reference to these metals, hypoallergenic indicates an item’s metal purity. Pure copper, 100% stainless steel, 100% platinum, and 100% titanium are all hypoallergenic because they have no hidden elements; they are not alloys. That does not mean the copper will remain a bright orange. It will still patina and that oxidation with gather on your skin making it look green or, with enough build-up, very dark green nearing black. The following alloys are also considered hypoallergenic.

  • fine and sterling silver
  • 18k gold or better

Labeling gold and silver items hypoallergenic is especially tricky because 18k gold, sterling silver, and fine silver are not pure metals, yet they are still hypoallergenic. They are high-content alloys. Gold, even 18k+ Gold is an alloy of gold and nickel. Gold is a soft metal and adding nickel makes it easier to work with, better at holding a shape, and somewhat scratch-resistant. Although nickel allergies are well documented, 18k and higher gold are still marketed as hypoallergenic. White gold contains a greater amount of nickel which is why it shines white. Rose gold is a Gold and copper alloy which is why it looks pink. Sterling silver is 92.5% silver mixed with nickel and fine silver is a 90% silver / 10% nickel alloy.  In 18k+ gold and fine silver, the smaller percentages of nickel typically do not trigger an allergic response, however, the nickel in these alloys may still cause a delayed allergic reaction.

Despite the hypoallergenic status of these metals and alloys it is important to note that some people are allergic to silver, and others allergic to gold. Scientists in Germany recently conducted an investigation into alleged gold allergies and discovered that some of the patients who suffered from jewelry and filling allergies were really allergic to gold, and not the alloying elements that have taken the blame for allergic reactions for years. Additionally, hypoallergenic is not a tarnish-free guarantee. Like copper, sterling silver and fine silver will also tarnish and darken over time, and they too may leave residue on your skin. The next time you buy a pair of hypoallergenic earrings read the fine print and decide for yourself if the item poses a threat to your unique immune system. Everybody is different and you know you best.

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