Sterling silver jewelry is at the top of the list of the best fine jewelry thanks to the timelessness and the elegance of the jewelry, as well as the high-quality materials that makeup sterling silver.
Unfortunately, jewelry may look perfect but not feel good on your skin because of potential allergens. Sterling silver is one of the metals that may or may not cause irritation or allergies, and this article looks at its properties, more specifically, whether it contains nickel or not.
What’s a Nickel Allergy?
Nickel allergy can be defined as one of the most common causes of contact dermatitis, which is an itchy rash on the area that your skin touches the jewelry.
If you have sensitive ears and have had to deal with metal allergies before, the allergy will manifest as redness, swelling, oozing, crustiness, itchiness, and in other cases, you may experience bleeding, as well as pain. Therefore, to avoid or lower the risk of allergies, you may want to choose jewelry made of hypoallergenic materials.
That said, it isn’t always easy to find and identify jewelry that is completely free of nickel, and in most cases, jewelry that wouldn’t otherwise have nickel as the main metallic component will still have traces of nickel, which means that the jewelry would still cause allergies.
Note that the nickel allergy represents the body’s natural but adverse immune reaction/ response when the body is in contact with materials with nickel. The immune system’s role is to defend your body against harmful substances or intruders such as bacteria and viruses, warding off diseases. However, if you struggle with nickel allergies, it means that your body mistakes nickel for a rather dangerous element, launching an immune reaction. The body then produces chemicals that will fight off the intruding substance, which triggers an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions to nickel are the most common reasons for skin rashes and itchiness, blistering, or redness.
What Does A Jewelry Allergy Look Like?
An allergic reaction to jewelry looks like the allergic reaction your get from Poison Ivy. What this means is that you’ll notice some redness, a rash, bumps, and in other cases, blisters. It would also result in itchiness and some irritation, depending on the severity of the reaction.
Jewelry allergies will look like any other allergy, and the rash appears at exactly the same place that the piece of jewelry touches the skin. What this means is that if you are experiencing an allergic reaction to your ring, you’d see a rash in the shape of the ring around the area the ring sits.
The other symptoms of nickel allergies include dry patches resembling a burn and other changes in the color of the skin.
In case of severe allergic contact dermatitis, the other symptoms would include severe itching, discolored and rough skin, tender skin, warm skin, as well as fluid-filled blisters. And in severe cases, nickel allergies would present with respiratory problems like asthma, sneezing, nasal inflammation, or a runny nose.
Does (925) sterling silver contain nickel? And why?
Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s take a look at sterling silver jewelry and whether jewelry made of sterling silver contains nickel and if it will cause allergies or not.
To do that, it’s important to note that there are three main grades of the sterling silver used for jewelry – pure silver jewelry, sterling silver, as well as silver plated jewelry. Pure silver is made of 99.9% silver. Unfortunately, pure silver is a super soft precious metal that is highly malleable, meaning that it cannot be used to make jewelry. Here we explain why silver alloy is better for jewelry.
To ensure that we get to wear jewelry made of this precious metal, 92.5% of the pure silver is alloyed with 7.5% copper, forming sterling silver. While copper is the most common metal alloy added to sterling silver, other metals would find themselves in the mix. One of the metals that makes its way into sterling silver is nickel, albeit in trace amounts.
Note that the nickel often finds its way into the sterling silver during the manufacturing process, and though it may play a role in hardening the sterling silver.
The last option is the silver-plated jewelry which features a base metal made of other metals. The silver-plated pieces may also have some nickel that is plated over a fine layer of the silver alloy.
What this means is that the sterling silver jewelry will often contain traces of nickel, which means that you risk allergies when you wear the jewelry if you have sensitive skin.
You should also avoid silver plated jewelry because they often contain nickel, which would cause a skin reaction. And even in cases where the jewelry is silver plated with non-allergenic materials, the base metal may cause allergies if it contains nickel.
Does Pure (999) Silver Cause Allergies? And why?
The pure silver jewelry may cause allergies, although it isn’t always the case. Pure silver or .999 silver is almost 100% silver, but it may have a small amount of nickel or copper.
Copper and nickel are two of the biggest skin irritants in jewelry, and some of the pure silver may have a little more nickel or copper than others, which means that if there’s more nickel in the silver, you may develop an itchy rash.
How to Wear Sterling Silver jewelry with Nickel Safely
Here are some of the things you could do to manage sterling silver-related nickel allergies.
- First, you should stop wearing the piece of jewelry you suspect causes the allergic reactions, albeit temporarily and until you are sure that it’s the reason for the allergy. If you remove the jewelry and the allergic flares reduce, it means that something in the jewelry is the problem. That said, it’s important to think about irritants like dirt and bacterial buildup because these may also cause irritation manifesting as an allergy. In case of irritation, cleaning and drying the skin and the jewelry thoroughly will ensure that the problem is resolved.
- Use steroid creams. Option 2 is to apply corticosteroids or other forms of anti-inflammatory steroid creams to prevent rashes and to heal the inflammation.
- If the rash goes away after some time, wear the same jewelry again, and if it still causes a rash, then you will know that you are allergic to the metal in the jewelry.
- Apply clear nail polish on the earrings. The polish will coat the earrings’ posts, and with two or three layers of polish, your earrings will be safer on the skin. The layers of polish may also be a great buffer between the ears and the metals. You could also opt for the professional jewelers’ sealant to prevent nickel allergies. Just keep in mind that you will have to reapply two or three layers of clear nail polish each week.
- Alternatively, you could apply Vaseline on the metals to protect your skin. Note that just like nail polish, Vaseline works as a great protective barrier. Keep in mind that the Vaseline trick is temporary, and it may have to be reapplied every few hours.
Sterling silver contains trace amounts of nickel, which means that it may cause allergic reactions. Therefore, if you are buying sterling silver jewelry, you should be aware of the risk of allergies.
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Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.