If you are allergic to some metals or just have sensitive skin, your frustration may be growing by the day, especially if all the hypoallergenic jewelry you keep buying is not really getting the job done well, and you still have itchy skin.
But don’t give up just yet. In this article, we’ll tell you more about niobium because this metal promises to be the best metal for jewelry that actually works for you.
So, let’s get right into it!
What is niobium?
Although this metal name is not as popular as gold or silver, it should be your best friend if you have sensitive skin, and you are no longer into the idea of jewelry that leaves your skin itchy and or discolored. After all, jewelry is meant to enhance your appearance rather than make you look like you’re struggling. Niobium could be the perfect answer to your problems.
Niobium, unlike most other hypoallergenic metals used in jewelry making, is not a metal alloy but a pure metal that has no extra added to it.
So, niobium is just that, a simple, plain metal, periodic number 41. It is a beautiful and pure elemental metal that is super-hypoallergenic and perfectly safe for your skin. And the best part about this elemental metal is that it changes color, taking on a stunning color profile whenever electricity passes through it – which is why you may have seen several versions of niobium jewelry in a rainbow of colors.
The bright and beautiful colors don’t result from the plating of the metal, and there are absolutely no dyes added in; niobium is just that stunning, colorful, and simple metal that likes to show off.
Note that niobium is a light-grey crystalline metal that is grouped as a ductile transition metal. This metal is lightweight and also highly resistant to corrosion.
It is also sturdy, durable, and solid, meaning the jewelry will last longer.
And because it is one of the most hypoallergenic metals that causes no reaction when it comes in contact with the human body, it is an idyllic metal and the perfect option for anyone with sensitive skin.
These properties also make niobium the ideal metal used in medical implants, not just in jewelry or for a person with sensitive skin/ ears.
Niobium making process
There are two distinct processes that are involved in the extraction of Niobium and making of niobium – mining of pyrochlore and its conversion into niobium oxide units, forming HSLA ferroniobium, then the aluminothermic reduction process, producing niobium metal ingots, as well as the nickel and Ferro niobium, all these through the electron-beam refining. But there are many other intermediate steps in between.
The niobium-making process starts with the extraction of the niobium ore, which occurs in oxide form, with a high level of geochemical coherence for tantalum. Pyrochlore is the main mineral for niobium, but there is also the columbite made of niobate, iron, tantalite, and some manganese.
The pyrochlore is often in the form of carbonatites, as well as a pegmatite that is obtained from the alkalic rocks that are associated with thorium, titanium, uranium, and zirconium. For the extraction of the niobium, the processes involved include grinding, crushing, magnetic separation processes for the removal of the magnetite, and these are followed by the desliming and the flotation separation.
During extraction and refining processes, ferroniobium is involved, and the pyrochlore concentrates are reduced via the aluminothermic process to form ferroniobium. The ferroniobium alloy is made of between 62 and 69% niobium and between 29-30% iron, 2% silicon, and 1-3% aluminum.
Niobium powder is then formed from a columbite concentrate and tin slags that feature a high content of tantalum. A tantalum-niobium mixture is then made, and through several liquid-liquid extraction processes, and finally hybriding plus dehydriding processes, niobium powder is formed.
Hydriding crated fine niobium powder, which is then mechanically pressed, compacted, and sintered (sintering takes place in a vacuum through indirect heating or direct-resistant heating), then the metal is purified. Sintering not only purifies the niobium it also improves its mechanical properties.
Is Niobium Hypoallergenic?
Yes, niobium is a hypoallergenic metal, thanks to the fact that it is a pure metal in its elemental form rather than a metal alloy that might have some reactive metals added to it.
Niobium is also non-reactive, which is why it is the ideal metal for persons with sensitive skin or if you suffer from metal allergies from time to time.
If you guys want to know more about jewelry metals, please read this full guide: What Metal Jewelry is Hypoallergenic?
Is niobium better than titanium?
Titanium and niobium are both hypoallergenic metals that are not only recommended for use by individuals with sensitive skin but also used in medical implants and surgical equipment.
Both metals are resistant to corrosion, although niobium is not as resistant as titanium. And in terms of color, niobium has a crystalline, light-grey appearance, unlike titanium which has a silvery-grey or white metallic look.
But between the two, niobium is cheaper but with a lower weight-to-strength ratio, unlike titanium which has a much higher weight-to-strength ratio.
So, if you are to choose between the two and the price is not a problem, we’d recommend titanium. But if on a budget and like the colorful nature of niobium, we’d recommend niobium.
That said, titanium is more durable and offers a higher value for money than niobium.
Detailed pros and cons of Niobium used in jewelry
- Niobium sports a nice array of rainbow colors that make for unique pieces of jewelry. These colors come to life when the metal is anodized and/or heated or when electricity is padded through the metal.
- This metal is highly hypoallergenic and nickel-free, which makes it the perfect option for anyone struggling with skin sensitivity reactions. It is also biocompatible.
- Versatile and used in all kinds of body jewelry.
- Niobium is one of the rare metals for use in jewelry and medical applications.
- Niobium jewelry is inexpensive.
- It is durable, high-strength, and scratch-resistant.
- Unique and intricate pieces of jewelry thanks to the high degree of the malleability of niobium.
- It is a lightweight metal that is easy to wear. Niobium is 60% lighter than stainless steel, in the same size.
- Niobium metal jewelry is a low-maintenance piece of jewelry, and you can also keep them shiny and lustrous, wiping them down or washing the jewelry in a warm water bath with mild soap.
- Because of the rarity of the metal, there are limited design or jewelry options in the niobium world.
Should you buy Niobium jewelry or item?
Absolutely. If you are struggling to find jewelry that will not cause skin irritation and you’re on a budget, niobium would be a great option for you.
Niobium is a rare, elemental, pure, and hypoallergenic metal that would be the best option for you if you are struggling with allergies or skin sensitivity reactions. The niobium jewelry is safe on the skin.
Read more jewelry metal posts here or here!
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.