I use metals that meet the EU (European Union) Nickel Directive or are naturally nickel free. You will always know from my product details what materials were used.
(Note for those who need to know: I work in a 100% never had any smoke, smoke-free environment. I do have cats and dogs, but they are not allowed in my workshop.)
What is "Nickel Free"?
The term "nickel free" can be confusing since jewelry marked nickel free is still allowed to contain a very small amount of nickel ... but it is such a tiny amount that it takes extremely sensitive instruments to measure it.
There is no US standard for nickel in jewelry. There is no legal or medical definition of "nickel free" or "hypoallergenic" jewelry in the US, jewelry can be sold with those labels, but still have nickel. Therefore, to be safe, I only use jewelry components that either have no nickel by definition (e.g., copper) or meet the EU Nickel Directive (see below). You will know what metals are used in the product description for everything I create.
The European Union's (EU) Nickel Directive limits the amount of nickel that may be released onto the skin from jewelry and other products. The EU Directive's type of measurement is different than measuring the percentage of nickel that exists in an alloy's composition, it measures how much nickel will actually migrate to your skin - which is what you want to limit. The Nickel Directive's migration limits are as follows:
- 0.2 micrograms per cm per week for post assemblies inserted into pierced ears and other pierced parts of the human body
- 0.5 micrograms per cm per week for other products intended to come into direct and prolonged contact with the skin.
Jewelry marked as "nickel free" must meet the strict EU Nickel Directive to be sold in the European Union. If you are sensitive to nickel, this is the best standard for you to use when purchasing "nickel free/hypoallergenic" mixed metal (alloys, plated) jewelry that may have some nickel in it.
What is "Hypoallergenic"?
The term hypoallergenic means "below the normal level" of allergenic. The term was coined by the cosmetics industry in the 1950's, and became a popular marketing term for jewelry soon afterwards. Sometimes "nickel free" and "hypoallergenic" are confused as being synonymous, but this is not true. Hypoallergenic does not mean nickel free, nor does it have a legal or medical definition for use in jewelry. This is why I use jewelry components that either meet the EU Nickel Directive or do not have any nickel.
Surgical Stainless Steel used by most jewelry makers does contain a small percentage of nickel. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, it's generally well tolerated by those with a nickel allergy. If you are very sensitive, however, you may want to avoid surgical stainless steel (and stainless steel) unless stated that it specifically complies with the EU Nickel Directive. Jewelry that complies with the EU Nickel Directive has a much lower amount of nickel than regular "surgical" stainless steel.
Nickel Free Metals
These are metals or combinations that by definition do not contain any nickel. Jewelry I create is made from either these nickel free metals, or meets the EU Nickel Directive. The nickel free metals are:
Sterling silver (925) is an alloy that does not contain any nickel, so is wearable by virtually everyone. Sterling silver is made of at least 92.5% pure silver, thus the term "925 Sterling Silver" or ".925". Typically the remaining 7.5% consists of copper. The 92.5% of pure silver is why you sometimes see "925" stamped on sterling silver items (or "999" for fine silver, which is 99.9% pure silver). If you have an allergy to copper (very rare), be aware that sterling silver may be an issue for you.
- Also, be aware that a stamp of "925" does NOT guarantee you are getting a pure sterling silver item. I have seem many silver PLATED items that are plated with 925 sterling silver (that is the what is meant by silver plated) stamped with the "925". That is a misleading practice, the stamp should not be used on plated items. If the price seems too good to be true, then the item is probably plated or silver filled, not full 925 sterling silver.
ARGENTIUM® - THE FINEST SILVER is an alloy that does not contain any nickel, so is wearable by everyone. ARGENTIUM® is a more pure version of Sterling Silver that is also tarnish resistant. As mentioned above, standard "Sterling Silver" is an alloy composed of 92.5% silver. ARGENTIUM® has more silver, being made with 93.5% silver and 6.5% other metals, including germanium and copper (no nickel), This gives ARGENTIUM® additional beneficial properties for jewelry makers. For my jewelry, the biggest benefit of using ARGENTIUM® Sterling Silver instead of regular Sterling Silver is that it is anti-tarnish. It is also never plated or used as a plating, it is 100% ARGENTIUM® Silver - so there is no worry about plating rubbing off. In addition, ARGENTIUM® is responsibly manufactured – it is ethically sourced, and certified to be made with 100% recycled silver.
Copper is an element and thus naturally nickel free. Tarnish free (non-tarnish) copper is protected with a coating that keeps it from darkening or reacting with your skin to turn green. If it is not protected, it will darken and get a (possibly dark, possibly green) patina over time. This un-protected copper can discolor your skin when worn as snugly fitting rings or bracelets, this is not an allergic reaction. (An allergy to copper is rare, but if you are allergic to copper, it's important to know what metal alloys may contain copper.) For all of my copper jewelry, I state clearly in the description if it has been coated with a tarnish protectant so you know what to expect. Some pieces are not coated because the beauty of the copper patina is part of the piece. Other pieces are coated to keep them shiny and bright or to keep the created patina or colors from darkening.
Titanium is an element and thus naturally nickel free. Titanium is frequently used in medical implants.
14kt yellow gold is commonly made of the following materials: 58% pure gold, 25% pure silver, and 17% pure copper. Be aware that white gold commonly contains nickel (added for both color and strength). I don't use white gold for any of my jewelry.
Possibly Nickel Free Metals On The Market (but definitely nickel free from me)
Alloys or plated items may contain nickel, so you need to be aware of what is in the alloy or under the plating if you buy plated or mixed metals.
I only use metals that meet the EU Nickel Directive explained above, or that are naturally nickel free. You will always know from my product details what materials were used.
Here are types of metal that may have nickel if purchased elsewhere:
Silver filled wire is made by applying a "thick" layer of 925 sterling silver over a base metal, usually brass (but it could be some other metal or an alloy from other sources if they do not say they are nickel free or meet the EU Nickel Directive). The layer of sterling silver for silver filled items is hundreds of times thicker than silver plate and stands up to wear very well over the years. Silver filled wire is used extensively in jewelry to keep costs down (compared to using sterling silver). In the jewelry market, most jewelry marked "silver" uses either silver filled or silver plated components. If the piece is sterling silver, it will clearly say so and be more expensive. My jewelry descriptions will clearly state if the piece is made with ARGENTIUM® Silver, sterling silver, silver fill or silver plate.
Silver plated items have a thin coating of 925 sterling silver over a base metal or alloy (mix of metals, some may contain nickel unless they state they are nickel free or adhere to the EU Nickel Directive). Silver plate is used extensively in jewelry to keep costs even lower (compared to silver filled). In the jewelry market, inexpensive jewelry (particularly mass-produced) is usually silver plated if it says only "silver". Silver plate will wear off if the item experiences a lot of "wear and tear" - e.g., a silver plated ring would be a bad choice for longevity. A silver plated necklace that is worn daily would also get a lot more "wear", but as a piece of your collection that is rotated, the wear will be much less. Silver plated ear wires do not experience high "wear and tear", but they will wear down over time. If you have allergies, be aware that for silver plated items the protecting layer of silver will wear off eventually and you may be allergic to the metal or alloy that was plated. For silver plate, I typically use items that are silver plated over copper or brass to avoid nickel allergy issues. However, if I do use ear wires that are silver plated over an alloy (mix of metals), they will always comply with the EU Nickel Directive so they will be hypoallergenic. You will always know by my product descriptions what you are getting.
Gold plated items have a very thin coating of gold over a base metal or alloy. All the gold plated components I use are plated over brass or copper and are nickel free. Be aware that many gold plated items on the market (but not all) have a nickel plate under the final gold plate, so gold plated items may not a good choice if you have a nickel allergy unless you are sure of the metal(s) under the plating. FYI - many hand lotions will accelerate tarnish on gold plated jewelry, and can result in a black color within days of handling.
Regarding earrings: If you have an allergy to nickel you should be safe buying any of my hypoallergenic earrings per the information above. But, feel free to contact me about swapping out ear wires to your preferred metal, if you wish. I will let you know if that is possible for the piece (the majority of earrings it is no problem). If after reading the information here you still aren't sure about your allergy, titanium is a 100% safe choice (safer than surgical stainless steel). If you are certain you are allergic to nickel, then ARGENTIUM® Silver or Sterling Silver are also very safe choices. The color of titanium is darker than ARGENTIUM® or Sterling Silver, but still looks good with the earrings. Of course, if you are choosing gold items, then alternatives to gold plated ear wires are copper and brass.
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