What is a Gold Allergy?
Allergies can stem from anything. If you experience a reaction to gold jewelry, you'll find that the area of skin that comes into contact with the piece will become itchy and red. When you take your jewelry out and wash the affected part with soap and water, the reaction should quickly subside. Actual allergies to gold are rare. If you've ever had a reaction while wearing gold jewelery, it's more likely that you're allergic to nickel rather than gold.
Are You Allergic to Nickel?It's a common misconception to believe you're allergic to gold if you've experienced a skin reaction while wearing it. If you've suffered an ear piercing allergic reaction you could be sensitive to nickel. You may, therefore, avoid ever wearing gold against your skin again. It's true that many pieces of piercing jewelry are created with nickel-containing alloys. Gold is a soft metal. For this reason, when creating gold jewelry it's often mixed with other metals to ensure it's hard-wearing enough to be worn time and time again. As a general rule, the lower the purity of the gold alloy, the more non-gold metals (including nickel) it contains. In the majority of EU countries, there are restrictions imposed on the amount of nickel that a jewelry piece can release into your bloodstream. What this means is that an alloy may contain a percentage of nickel so long as it isn't released from the metal.
The introduction of these regulations accompanied by these studies on nickel has prompted the jewelry industry to use readily-available nickel-free alloys.
- Yellow gold – Yellow gold is mostly nickel-free. Many nickel-free gold alloys are available to purchase at a reasonable price
- White gold – Nickel-free white gold often contains palladium rather than nickel. Palladium is expensive, therefore, nickel-free white gold pieces can be costly. There are also nickel-free and palladium-free white gold pieces available. These are cheaper than their palladium-containing alternatives.
Is Surgical Steel a Better Alternative?Surgical steel piercing jewelry is widely considered to be hypoallergenic. When we think of the word “surgical” it perhaps lulls us into a false sense of security as we naturally see a correlation between it and medicine. Let's take a look at its composition. The majority of steel alloys, surgical steel included, have nickel levels of between eight and 12 percent. Current regulations restrict the amount of nickel released from a piece, not the level of the substance it contains. The alloys are trapped in the metal so they shouldn't be released. However, through corrosion of jewelry though cleaning etc, nickel can leach out.
What Does This Mean for Me?
If you're worried about what jewelry choice is best for you, consider the following:
- Gold body jewelry is safe to wear so long as it doesn't contain nickel.
- Surgical steel jewelry contains nickel that shouldn't come into contact with your skin. Bear in mind that nickel can be released if jewelry corrodes.