11 Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry if You Have Sensitive Skin

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While not all the cheap jewelry on the market is bad on your skin or unsafe, there are many versions of cheap jewelry that are made of unsafe metals, and you have to be careful not o wear them.

Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry

If you have sensitive skin and have had adverse reactions to different kinds of jewelry, especially the cheap ones, it might be time for you to know what metals might be risky for you.

This article guides you on all the cheap metals used in jewelry making that you should avoid.


Metals to avoid in jewelry


Gold, platinum, sterling silver, aluminum, palladium, titanium, steel, copper, iron, zinc, rhodium, iridium, and niobium are all metals that are often used in jewelry making.

These metals are largely safe on the skin, and though they are not all used in jewelry making, you hardly have to worry about skin irritation.But there are many other unsafe metals that will not just irritate the skin but also harm your health.

These metals include selenium, chromium, lead, nickel, arsenic, cadmium, manganese, antimony, chromium, mercury, and beryllium. On top of the list are metal alloys containing a high concentration of metals like brass (high in copper and zinc).

Below is a detailed list of the cheap metals that you want to avoid in jewelry.



Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry

Aluminum is not absorbed into the skin easily, and the lungs and the gut all work great as effective barriers against the absorption of aluminum.  But at very high concentrations, especially when one is exposed to high levels of aluminum dust or powders, aluminum may result in some form of lungs.

And though there isn’t much evidence pointing to aluminum causing Alzheimer’s disease, there are many studies that show that many patients suffering from Alzheimer’s have elevated levels of aluminum. Therefore, individuals should reduce exposure to aluminum, whether through cookware or jewelry.

It’s also important to note that even though aluminum allergies are quite rare, some people are allergic to aluminum. So, don’t let the affordability of this metal tempt you, especially if you have sensitive skin.



Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry

Most of the jewelry on the market today have a cadmium-free tag on them. This is an important tag considering the fact that cadmium is a toxic metal with damaging effects on the body.

Cadmium is believed to cause pulmonary edema, and cadmium oxide fumes are believed to be carcinogenic. And long term exposure to cadmium, even in very low doses, may cause diseases such as kidney disease, emphysema, anemia, liver disease, prostate cancer, among other cancers, and the deterioration of the skin.

So, if the cheap jewelry you are buying has cadmium in it, even in only the solders, you should avoid it at all costs. Essentially, you need to avoid exposure to even the levels of cadmium because, like any other carcinogen, no amount of cadmium is ever truly safe.



Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry

You may have come across jewelry made of a small percentage of chromium. Even though chromium offers a nice, shiny finish for jewelry, the presence of chromium in jewelry is bad for your health.

Chromium plating is quite common in most kinds of cheap jewelry, including pieces of stainless steel, and although it is not always considered an unsafe metal.

Contact with chromium and chromium salts could also be harmful to your health, and you should avoid jewelry with chromium. Chromium and chromate products have also been shown to increase the rate of cancer rates, especially lung cancer.



Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry

Although copper is one of the metals that is commonly used and added to jewelry as a metal alloy, copper is not the safest metal to have around always.

Most of the cheap jewelry alloys, however, are made of copper. A zinc and copper alloy creates brass, and its golden finish makes it one of the most alluring kinds of jewelry.

Bronze is a copper alloy too. But in addition to copper, nickel is also often present in most kinds of copper jewelry. Nickel silver is the other common metal alloy used in jewelry.

When it comes to costume jewelry, these pieces are all mass-produced, and the common material added to them is copper and copper alloys.

But copper is not 100% safe; it can cause allergies. Few people are allergic to copper, though, and the people who have some form of reaction to copper tend to have specific chemical compositions that result in the staining or the discoloration of the skin.

So, to reduce the green copper stain from copper oxide, most of the copper alloyed pieces of jewelry are plated.



Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry

If you are buying cheap jewelry, the other cheap metal that you should be very much aware of and careful about is nickel. Nickel is a cheap metal that is often used in jewelry making because it’s cheap and also because it has powerful bleaching effects.

As a result, nickel is often used as an alloy, and it’s added to most other metals to create more durable metals that are predominantly white metals. One of the metal alloys that result from its alloying with nickel is white gold and also nickel silver.

These alloys often have as much as 5% nickel incorporated in them, and though it’s a small amount, it is enough to cause an allergic reaction.

Unfortunately, nickel is the biggest cause of metal allergies, and it’s why it’s the cheap metal that should be avoided at all costs. Contact with nickel causes adverse skin reactions, while inhalation of nickel fumes harms your health in general.

So, to warn the public against using or exposing themselves to nickel, this white metal has been proven and documented to be one of the most potent skin sensitizers. Contact with nickel makes one highly susceptible to allergies and different forms of allergic dermatitis.

But nickel is not just an allergen, it’s a carcinogen too, and exposure to even the smallest amounts of nickel in the fumes will affect your health and pose a risk of cancer of the nasal sinus and the larynx.


6.Brass and Bronze

Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry
Gold plated Brass earrings

Brass is an affordable, golden-colored metal that results from the alloying of copper and zinc. And it is not just durable and bright but also affordable and a popular metal choice for affordable costume jewelry. Unfortunately, brass is an imperfect metal that tarnishes when exposed to moisture.

One of the interesting things about brass is that there is more than one type of brass. So, besides the golden brass, there’s also a red brass, which is also referred to as red bronze. Red brass has a high copper content, but it has a transparent coat that prevents tarnishing.

Then you have bronze, which is an alloy of the metals copper and tin. It has often been used for coins and statues, though. This version of bronze is different from the bronze used in jewelry making – the jeweler’s bronze or Tombac, which is a form of brass, but with the high zinc content.

Unfortunately, these forms of brass and bronze are not all that safe on your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin and have had metal sensitivity reactions in the past.

The presence of copper, tin, and zinc may cause allergies, and as mentioned above, copper will stain your skin and clothes green when it reacts with oxygen to form copper oxide.


7.Gold plated jewelry

Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry
gold plated earrings

You should also avoid buying or wearing gold-plated fashion jewelry. Most of the gold-plated jewelry have base metals made of metals like nickel, brass, and copper, meaning that once the layer of the plated gold wears off, your skin may react with the base metal.

You’d also want to avoid the gold-filled jewelry because the base metal could be unsafe, and it may trigger an adverse reaction once the layer of gold wears off.  



Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry

Zinc is often present in cheap jewelry as an alloy. It is common with brass jewelry, but zinc is also the alloy that is often added to copper, gold, and silver. Like nickel, zinc is often alloyed with gold and silver to enhance the durability of the precious metal.

However, most pieces of fashion jewelry contain zinc – zinc alloys that are necessary during spin casting in fashion jewelry production.

When alloyed, the risk of zinc allergies is low, but long-term exposure to zinc and breathing in zinc oxide fumes when the zinc-containing pieces are heated is dangerous and may be fatal.




Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry

Most metallic jewelry finishes are made of gunmetal that is an alloy of zinc, copper, and bronze. But despite the uniqueness of the finish, gunmetal is not hypoallergenic.


10.Stainless Steel

Cheap Metals to Avoid In Jewelry

Unless the jewelry is made of surgical stainless steel, the stainless steel jewelry is not always your safest option because the creation of stainless steel often involves the use of nickel as the alloy that is added to the steel for the strong and lustrous stainless steel.

316L surgical-grade stainless steel is hypoallergenic, but other versions of stainless steel like 304L Stainless steel contain up to 12% nickel and aren’t hypoallergenic.



Not all cheap metals are to be avoided, and not everyone has a nickel allergy or will react to copper, but knowing which options are safe for you is important for your health and overall peace of mind.

Thanks for reading! If you want to read more jewelry metal posts, please read here or here!

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