Nickel Allergy Solutions

Posted on May 12, 2014 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments

Nickel allergies are fairly common—in fact, one in eight people will experience an allergic reaction to white gold alloyed with nickel. Although nickel is non-toxic, the body mistakenly believes it’s a harmful substance. Often inherited, the allergy appears more in women than in men—but this may so because women tend to wear more jewelry than men.  Usually, a reaction occurs 12-48 hours after prolonged exposure to the offending metal.

US Nickel

US nickel coins are only 25% nickel--the rest is copper. Nonetheless, handling them may irritate your skin if you have a nickel allergy. 

Nickel allergy symptoms may include:

  • rash or bumpy skin
  • itching
  • redness around the point of contact
  • dry patches of skin that resemble a burn
  • blisters (in severe cases)

Note: Nickel does not turn skin green. This may be caused by a host of other factors including metal alloyed with copper.

Although nickel is often associated with inexpensive jewelry—mainly clasps and earring posts—it’s not uncommon to find nickel in finer jewelry in the form of white gold.

White gold is a beautiful, more affordable alternative to platinum. With its rhodium plating, white gold shines like a mirror and enhances the dazzle of diamonds. Bezel Set Emerald Cut Solitaire Ring With Rustic Details.

To create white gold, jewelers create a metal “soup” with yellow gold (gold in its natural state) and a combination of white/silver metals, which may include palladium, manganese, and nickel. This blend of metals renders a pale yellow gold.  Using a process called electroplating or rhodium flashing, the jeweler plates the alloyed gold with rhodium—a rare, white-silver metal in the platinum family.  With this plating, the gold is now “white” and shiny. Read more about white gold in this past blog post.

After a few years, however, the rhodium plating can wear away.  (You may notice more yellow areas of white gold where the piece get more wear.)  Once the plating wears away, your skin is vulnerable to nickel exposure (if the gold is alloyed with nickel).  This is why you may be allergic to your ring “out of the blue.” 

Fortunately, there are a few solutions to this irksome problem:

  • If you only wear the piece occasionally, you may coat the area that touches your skin with clear nail polish.  Of course, this isn’t a permanent solution, but it can get you by in a pinch!
  • If you find yourself allergic to something you wear every day, like your engagement ring, you can take it back to your jeweler every few years to have it re-plated. 
  • If you’re looking to invest in a new piece of white gold jewelry, talk to your jeweler about selecting a non-nickel alloyed metal like a mix of gold and palladium or pure palladium. Excluding nickel from white gold has become increasingly common since nickel allergies are so common.  
  • If you're experiencing a reaction to nickel, you can soothe the affected area with a hydrocortisone cream or pop an antihistamine pill. If your symptoms persist, consult your doctor. She may prescribe a steroid cream or pill.  

Most of our jewelry can be made with nickel free white gold or pure palladium. Nickel free alloys are slightly more expensive than alloys containing nickel. Please contact us with questions about making a special piece for you.


Photos: Wikipedia, Barbara Michelle Jacobs.

Posted in Informational, jewelry care, jewelry solutions, nickel, nickel allergy, palladium, rhodium, rhodium plating, white gold



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