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Earrings for Nickel Allergy?

Q. I have a serious nickel allergy and am not sure what it limits me to in earrings. Is it possible to find white gold made with palladium and not nickel? Or will the rhodium plating be enough if there is nickel in the earrings to protect me? (I'm thinking no since it wore off everyone's rings) Is there any combination that works out in white gold or do I have to move up to platinum? If someone could someone please explain this to me I would really appreciate it.

Lindsay [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Pgh, Pennsylvania

A. Hi, Lindsay. Hoover & Strong has a catalog of earrings and piercings that are palladium based white gold instead of nickel based white gold. A mail-order sources of nickel-free hypoallergenic jewelry is no_nickel.

I agree that rhodium plating will not fully protect you if the white gold has nickel in it. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A. Silver and stainless steel are two alternatives.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


thumbs up signThanks for that....I have had surgical steel earrings and also titanium. I am now looking for something that isn't just a basic post. I'm off to hunt for nickel-free white gold. Wish me luck!

Lindsay [returning]
Pgh, Pennsylvania


A. Hi,

I manufacture custom jewelry and use REAL surgical steel. If you have a nickel allergy, surgical steel should not affect you if it is properly manufactured and finished. Have you had a nickel sensitivity test? I ask because a lot of body jewelry is not surgical steel, even though the manufacturer claims it is. I know for sure that jewelry made in Asia is mainly 302-304 grade stainless steel, according to samples tested at my metal suppliers lab. Even 316 L stainless steel can be the cause of your "nickel allergy" as it must be chemically passivated before it can be worn, or autoclaved.

Genuine surgical steel is used by only three body jewelry manufacturers that I am aware of, as I sell this alloy wholesale. I am one of them, the spec is that the alloy is in annealed condition, conforms to ASTM F138 [affil link], being 316 L vacuum-melted, and has 14% nickel, low carbon, sulphur, and phosphorus. The higher nickel content actually makes the alloy more resistant to "in vivo" corrosion. If the steel is correctly finished your body WILL NOT be able to metabolize any nickel from the surface of the jewelry, as it has a thin, clear layer of chromium oxide which prevents corrosion. This is the result of proper passivation techniques, which few companies actually bother to do. I have sold jewelry to hundreds of "nickel sensitive" people that have had no reaction whatsoever to my A.S.T.M. F-138 316Lvm surgical stainless steel.

I truly believe that you are likely yet another of the millions of people that have been sold fake surgical steel, and/or titanium if you are reacting to these alloys. Either that or the stuff is very poorly finished. There are many stainless steels available that do not contain nickel, if you really are allergic. As for your white gold, I do not know of any standards for it in respect to nickel content, unless it is dental gold.

Good luck, and I hope this helps you make an informed decision.

Jeff Swayze
- Kelowna, B.C., Canada

Q. Hi,

I recently bought a white gold bracelet without realizing it contained nickel. Unfortunately I am allergic to nickel but I have been told that there are 'anti allergy' coatings which can be painted on jewellery, providing a temporary solution. I am desperately seeking such a product but have had no such luck-please has anyone else heard of this? Does anyone know the name of this product or where it can be bought?

Thank you so much!

Cathy L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- London

A. Hi. People do use clear nail polish or clear urethane coatings to achieve this goal, but whether that offers hope depends on the style of the bracelet. If it's a band, it probably will work; if it's links, maybe not. is one place that offers both the nail polish coatings and the urethane.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. It is illegal (and has been for some time now) to sell jewellery in the UK, and indeed in Europe, that contains nickel. Take the bracelet back to the jewelers and tell them to change it for a legal one. If they will not do so, report them to the local Trading Standards Office

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK


A. Trevor,

I am with you on your option. In the states we are sorry and behind. Properly finished SS maybe OK but one cannot tell if it is so. Better to avoid it altogether. In titanium I am amazed that Grade V is OK in the states and a lot of the world but that in general to get a CE mark it needs to be a chemically pure grade. But then again we still hold on to Hex Chrome.

Jon Quirt
- Minneapolis, Minnesota


A. Jon,

Thanks for your submission and comments. I just thought it may be worth reiterating the current EU regulations regarding nickel release as it may shed some light on how and why some alloys in the USA induce allergic responses. Firstly the regulations only relate to articles that are " direct and prolonged contact...." with the body; presumably this means both skin and through-body piercings. Secondly, in general the articles must not contain more than 0.05% nickel. Thirdly the articles must not release more than 0.5 µg/cm**2/week of nickel, as determined by the specified tests. Fourthly, any coated product must not release more than 0.5 µg/cm**2/week and the coating must remain fit for purpose for at least two years under normal use. The regulations come under Article 94/27/EC and have been in force for about five years. The EU's main stumbling block was having a suitable nickel "corrosion" test, but this has now been resolved. Interestingly Denmark have prohibited all nickel containing articles that release more than 0.5 µg/cm**2/week since 1991, as determining the nickel by dimethylglyoxime. There is some concern that people who develop full blown allergies to nickel may be pushed into a reaction at levels lower than the 0.5 µg, but the lowest threshold level for an allergic response that I have come across is 40 ppm.

Fear not residents of the USA and Canada, where some coins contain high levels of nickel- the good news is that there is (as far as I know) no confirmed case of nickel allergies being brought on by normal use of coins. There are a few cases where exposure to coins has been greatly and deliberately enhanced and this has caused a problem, but these cases are only examples induced in the laboratory. Further information on nickel allergies can be found on the website. I hope this is of use to nickel sufferers and to anyone else interested in the problem.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK

A. Trevor - Funny note for you, I have a severe allergic reaction to nickel. I cannot hold loose change in my hand for more than 5 mins before I start to itch. As for my wedding bands, they are white gold and continually have them dipped to keep myself from having a reaction. My husband and myself have been researching titanium and tungsten rings. But unfortunately, we have not found any settings we both like. And we are not quite ready to have custom ones made.

Rhonda Lackie
- San Antonio,Texas
July 26, 2008

August 19, 2008

Rhonda - Since you've been researching, you may have stumbled across it already, but I got my titanium engagement ring from Titanium Era. I liked a lot of the choices they had and they regularly come out with more. Just thought I'd post in case you haven't seen it yet.
Happy hunting!

Erica L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Fort McMurray, AB, Canada

Ed. note: Thanks Erica. But readers, please just offer the source name not a testimonial ... because what often happens is salespeople see such postings then feel obligated to post (with a fictitious name, posing as a satisfied customer) why their company is even better :-)
Before you know it, it's a race-to-the-bottom spam fest :-)


Q. My engagement/wedding ring set is white gold. Since I have had it, it has caused a terrible red, itchy rash on my finger. I had it plated with Rhodium first, but it still caused the allergic reaction. I just got it plated with Palladium, and it's starting again.

Does anyone have any other solutions to this problem? I can't just exchange it. It's my wedding ring!

Sarah M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Bloomington, Illinois

Q. Sarah, I have the same problem ... inherited my grandmother's 3.5 carat diamond and white gold ring, and have had this itchy scaly rash on my finger. I knew that I had an allergy to nickel, but until today, didn't know that there was nickel in the ring! I NEVER take it off! I am also hoping someone has the answer!

Heather E [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Grass Valley, California

A. Hi, Sarah and Heather. Before despairing, please see letter 33777 wherein a number of women found out that they were not actually allergic to the metal of their rings after all; rather, that boiling in vinegar [adv: item on eBay & Amazon] fixed the rash.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. It could be the solder, ya never know. Ask what solder was used and check the chemical make-up.

Zack Allen
- Silver Peak, Nevada

A. You should consider the possibility of psoriasis as well, wherein a rash appears on the skin when it is stressed. I get a rash from *any* metal rings, and mine are all sterling silver. No nickel here!

Kate Setzer Kamphausen
- Chicago, Illinois

A. Rhodium is not a safe plating. According to several published articles in the medical community, Rhodium has no effect on preventing nickel from getting into your bloodstream. Please be aware.

Marina D'Artagnon
- Washington, DC, USA


You're certainly at least 75 percent correct, Marina, because Rhodium is usually too porous and too thin to keep the skin away from the underlying nickel. Going to a professional plating shop rather than having a jeweler do the plating in a teacup may help somewhat though. But can you name one of those published articles so I can understand what you are saying? Because, despite skin allergies, nickel is widely used medically -- even in stents and such -- and I've never heard of this issue of "nickel in the bloodstream" that you are alluding to. Thanks.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Does the higher nickel content explain why I have a reaction to a new Rolex [affil link] watch that is 904L stainless? The jewelry store assures me the watch is non-allergenic, but I get a rash from wearing it.

Donna Cooper
- Andover, Massachusetts

A. The stainless Rolex should not release nickel. Your rash is probably due to perspiration, heat, or some other irritant.

Amber C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Los Angeles, California, USA
February 2, 2008

Q. I have an allergy to Nickel and unfortunately both my wedding ring and engagement ring seem to contain it. Is there an alternative metal that I can get a ring made from, or purchase, that absolutely will not contain nickel?

Kathy Gonza
buyer - Calgary, AB, Canada
January 31, 2008

September 5, 2008

Stainless steel is 14% Nickel for medical devises such as heart Stents. They are implanting these products directly into the blood stream. Nickel is a danger to humans much like lead. Who would ever assume they would put into the blood stream. Nickel has never had human testing, just a CDC study with rats. I had a stent 4 years ago and I have all the same problems. A German stent manufacturer published studies in 1999, still these products get FDA approval.

Anyone with stent related problems feel free to comment. Have a few ways to help.


Kevan Holmberg
- Mound, Minnesota

September , 2008

Hi, Kevan. What material do you feel that stints should be made of? Can you give a link to that 1999 article? Thanks.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. If your allergic to nickel does that mean you can't be tattoo'd either?

Chloe Montague
- England
January 13, 2009

May 20, 2009

I have had psoriasis for 30+ years. I began to notice 3 years ago that, after playing guitar for several hours, my eyes would red up and itch. It got worse as the months went by and they soon began to swell and itch like poison ivy burns. It was lasting longer and longer up to two weeks to return to normal. I had a patch test and discovered I have become extremely allergic to nickel after years of regular contact. My doctor told me a slight nickel allergy can advance to extreme with more and more nickel contact. I changed all frets, strings and other hardware to from nickel to stainless steel on all my guitars. I can now play a full show with no ill effects from nickel. As a side benefit about six months after the changes to my guitars my psoriasis is now clear.

I found out there is a lot of nickel in this world. My office chair, belt buckle, snaps on jeans, some door handles, tools, fixtures, glasses, dirt, golf club shafts, key rings, jewelry, lots of musical instruments, and many many other things. This substance should be outlawed. If you have psoriasis it may be a nickel/bronze allergy. My psoriasis generally covered my elbows, knees, and torso and was never gone until now. Age Event

@10.Play guitar sometimes
@15.Began cleaning golf clubs for my dad and his friends.
@18.Diagnosed with psoriasis
@19.Started playing guitar and golfing weekly
@45.Noticed fingers itch after a gig
@46.Noticed fingers itch and peal after a gig right wrist itch also
@48.Eyelids slight burn and itch during a gig
@50.Eyes swell and itch uncontrollably (discovered nickel allergy)
Changed guitar strings and hardware and can now play.
Avoid nickel (not a easy task) it's everywhere.
@51.psoriasis gone for the 1st time since age 18!
@53.Telling Somebody!

I still come in contact with nickel once in a while and my eyes will swell and itch for 2 weeks after the contact. It is difficult to avoid nickel.

I know several guitar players with psoriasis and have informed them of my experience. I play guitar for live events and half the stuff on stage is nickel and I must avoid.

Some buildings have nickel in the air (from HVAC systems I guess) and within ten minutes my eyelids will begin to burn. I have to leave the building and wash my hands and face. Guitar Center is one of these buildings. When I go there I must make a plan to get in and out fast.

I use D'Addario XLS and XL Prosteels and Ernie Ball Stainless Steel strings for electric. They take some getting use to as far as eq-ing for tone. They sound best on my fender twin, HRD, and Mesa mark III simul class and not so good on my SS amps. I use to use GHS Boomers nickel coated and those strings are pure poison to me now. I use martin silk and steel for my acoustics. They always sound old and like they need to be changed. I had to paint the latches on my guitar cases. I had to change from Wwitchcraft to Neutrik ends. Had to change frets to stainless steel. I had to change tuning keys on one of my guitars. I put a piece of electrical tape on my bridge where my right wrist rest while playing. I had to switch to graphite shafts on all my golf clubs. I no longer shake hands with other guitar/bass players. I now, never let anyone play my guitars or carry my equipment. I never touch the guitars,amps,cables,tuners, etc.. of others. The guys in my band have seen me with my red swollen shut watering eyes and understand.

Curtis Barker
- Midland, Texas

Q. I am currently searching for my wedding ring but I have had terrible psoriasis for years and cannot wear any jewellery whatsoever without causing a reaction but I'm getting married and of course I want to be able wear a wedding ring. I have talked to a jeweller and they have suggested maybe palladium or platinum, does anyone know if this will be ok?Or is there a better metal that I could get my wedding ring made in? My wedding is fast approaching and desperately do not want to tell my soon to be bride that I cannot wear my wedding ring.

Harry Kilgallen
Plumber - Galway, Ireland
April 12, 2010

May 29, 2011

Something like the coronary artery stents discussed, I'm having a nasty reaction to a stainless steel captive bead ring, which is used in a body piercing. This is stainless steel that passes internally a short distance. I've had them before, but this piece of stainless is causing a serious burn and something that looks like an infection. Soaking in warm saltwater twice a day helps a lot. I find the discussion about an acquired nickel allergy to be pertinent and valid.

Chris Davis
- Scottsdale, Arizona

July 1, 2013

Q. Hi, I hope it's ok for me to ask on this thread. I have had some sensitivities to metals in the past and I'm beginning to wear and make jewelry again. I have been trying to research the best safest metals. I have found it hard to find true honest resources. It seems many claim to have surgical stainless steel but do not or it may be what Jeff Swayze, you mentioned, about finishing. I have only really been able to find a few sources, many on etsy for surgical stainless steel flat posts and ear wires which I use to make my earrings, but they don't specify if it is 304, 316 etc. Also have looked for titanium which is even harder to find. Trying to find even surgical stainless steel ear black clutches (the kind to really hold bigger stud earrings) have been almost impossible except for 1-2 resources for a ton of money and again really don't know the quality. Jeff you mentioned you sold true stainless steel that is finished properly. Do you sell the components that I mentioned or can you give me any reliable resource to get that from. I want to be sure of my materials.

Thanks for any help and feedback,


Sybella Owens
- Marstons Mills, Massachusetts

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