Costume jewelry sales are on the rise, with accessories such as bracelets, necklaces, and earrings being must-have items for everyone. From professionals working in office settings to night-club goers, to school teachers, to stay at home parents, costume jewelry adds a little bit of flair and sparkle to the day, transforming any outfit and helping to achieve a cohesive and pulled-together look. But what do you do if you have an allergy to one of the most common elements in the metal alloys used to make this jewelry?
Nickel is used not only in costume jewelry but in fine jewelry as well. Trace amounts of nickel may even be found in surgical steel, a metal often used to make “nickel-free” jewelry. Nickel may be used in silver and gold alloys due to its hardness, cheapness, and abundance. An allergy to this metal is found in about 18% of the North American population, including 11 million children in the US. Nickel allergies are so common that they are the second most likely cause of contact dermatitis after poison ivy. Nickel allergies can develop over time and may be genetically inherited. Women are more likely to have nickel allergies. The rash may appear soon after contact, or several days after contact and, in some cases, takes several weeks to resolve completely.
With such a vast percentage of the population having an allergy to nickel, it is a wonder that it is still so commonly used in the production of items worn by so many people. However, the cheapness of the material is a very attractive option for manufacturers, which means nickel is likely here to stay. Even for those who may choose plastic jewelry as an option, the clasps and connectors used are typically still metal and therefore can still bring about a rash. People who have nickel allergies must seek out specialty options to safely and comfortably wear jewelry for any length of time.
Jewelry that sits close to the skin is at highest probability to impart nickel and cause a rash, with earrings causing the most issues due to the degree of constant contact they have with the skin. Special care should be taken when choosing earrings and considering a nickel allergy. Best earrings for sensitive ears should contain no nickel at all. Titanium, 18 karat yellow gold, sterling silver, and even specialty medical grade plastic are all good choices for sensitive ears and those predisposed to nickel allergies in general.
Luckily, increased awareness to nickel allergies is bringing forth more and more retailers who either offer nickel-free options alongside their other products or retailers who specialize in making jewelry for even the most sensitive consumers. Surgical steel is usually one of the least expensive and most common options for those having allergies to nickel but it still contains trace amounts of the metal. Someone with a higher sensitivity should steer clear of any alloy with potential for nickel contaminants and opt for the specialty retailers that will provide better jewelry.