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topic 32468

Allergic reaction to 14K white gold band



A discussion started in 2004 but continuing through 2020

2004

Q. My boyfriend purchased me a 14K white gold band with diamonds. I wore it for about a year with no problems. Now all of a sudden I seem to be allergic to it. Its almost as if its burning my finger if I wear it too long. (my finger turns pink and itches like crazy). I have other white gold jewelry that I wear daily with NO problems. Of course I am wondering what this ring is TRULY made of because if I were allergic to gold, all of my jewelry would cause this type of reaction. I am confused. How can I find out what this ring is truly made of? Can I have it dipped in platinum? If so, where?

Michelle D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Hyattsville, Maryland

(note: Michelle has posted a followup below)


2004

A. Your dermatologist can help you by determining whether this is a yeast infection or a nickel allergy, or what. They have a simple test to see if you are allergic to nickel, and it certainly could be that you now are allergic but weren't formerly. This is an acquired allergy, but one that you'll have for life if that's what it is.

You can also check your jewelry for the presence of nickel with a Nickel spot-test kit, available on-line from a couple of places like nonickel.com.

While I'm confident that your ring is gold, remember that 14 k gold is 14/24ths gold, and 10/24ths something else. And in most cases in the USA today, with white gold that 'something else' is largely nickel.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


2004

Q. Thanks for your response Ted. While I am no allergist/dermatologist, I truly don't believe that I am allergic to gold. Here's why: I wear a white gold necklace, white gold bracelet and white gold earrings daily-- with NO reaction whatsoever (albeit these other pieces weren't purchased from the same jewelry store as the ring) Isn't it rather odd that I only have this bizarre reaction on the finger where I where this band? If I were allergic to gold, wouldn't I have this bizarre rash on my wrist, neck and ears too? It's gotta be something else!

Michelle D [returning]
- Hyattsville, Maryland


2004

A. Although the ring is gold, we're talking about nickel. 14 K gold is 10/24ths something else. That something else can be the well known allergen nickel, or it can be a different "whitening" metal like palladium.

I'm not saying it's a sure thing, but your ring may be 10/24ths nickel while all your other white gold jewelry is 10/24ths palladium. The area under your ring, which fits reasonably tightly, may sweat (conductive salt water in the pores of the ring) a lot more than your neck, bringing about far more contact with nickel. The posts on your white gold earrings are probably surgical steel rather than white gold. It may be a little bit of everything: more sweat there, a growing allergy to nickel, higher nickel content in the ring.

Again, your dermatologist can be more definitive, but nickel allergy is a very common problem, and growing (it's estimated that 40 percent of women under 30 have it); and newly acquired nickel allergies are a commonplace too. Paint the inside of your ring with clear nail polish as a temporary measure to see what effect this has on your reaction.

Still, it is not necessarily a nickel allergy or metal allergy of any sort. Many women have responded effusively to letter 33777 , which suggests boiling your ring in vinegar and hydrogen peroxide [affil. link to info/product on Amazon] -- it's worth a try! Good luck.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


2004

A. Ted is right. The only pure gold is 24 karat - anything less contains other metals such as nickel and copper. Pure gold is very soft and these metals are added to improve its hardness and wear resistance. If you have a pure gold ring, it will soon wear away, just by natural abrasion against your skin. To prolong the life of gold jewelry, jewelers use lower karat (or purity) gold alloys. Unfortunately some alloying metals such as nickel can cause skin dermatitis resulting in an allergic response to the metal. In the case of nickel, it is also known as "nickel itch". I suspect you suffer from this medical complaint, but be assured, you are not alone! It is reckoned that as many as 15% of females suffer from this complaint. Until the 1970's nickel dermatitis was reckoned to be a "female disease", but that was only because nickel was used in the clasps of bras and suspender belts and men didn't usually wear jewelry (or bras and suspender belts!); since then there has been an increasing trend for men to wear jewelry and the number of men getting dermatitis is increasing. The downside is that once you have become sensitive to metals like nickel, there is nothing you can do to overcome the problem, you just have to live with it and avoid nickel contact. You may be able to use barrier protection, but this is variable in its levels of success. The only thing you can do to avoid "nickel itch" is to insist on nickel-free jewelry (I'm sure no lady would find that a problem!). I know of some dermatologists who insist that people can become sensitized to gold, but their claims are based only on low karat alloys and they have conveniently forgotten that these alloys contain sensitizing metals. If you lived in Europe, you would not have this problem, because it is illegal to sell jewelry that contains nickel in levels sufficient to cause nickel itch. This legislation initially played havoc with the cheap jewelry industry, but it was soon overcome by the jewelry manufacturers and now both the industry and consumers are much happier and less itchy!.

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



2005

Q. I just read the string regarding allergies to gold. I am currently suffering from a very frustrating skin condition that doesn't fit any clear diagnosis. I am experiencing severe reactions on my eyelids, neck, and folds of my arms/elbows (although the dermatologist thinks the arms may be something different). I have just been through an intensive set of patch tests (skin testing) and the only thing I reacted to was gold- not nickel or anything else. My dermatologist recommended I remove all gold jewelry for 8 weeks to determine whether that could be causing the problem.

Have you heard of this before? Is it possible to have a reaction on your eyelids and neck, even though there is no contact with gold there? My dermatologist claims that the gold can leach through my bloodstream, and manifest itself in areas with the thinnest skin (eyelids & neck).

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. This is extremely frustrating! Thanks so much.

Heather S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Alexandria, Virginia


January 12, 2011

A. Heather S- It is quite possible to have an allergic reaction somewhere other than where the gold is. The residual amounts of gold left on your fingers mix with the moisture on them. If you then touch your eyelids or somewhere else the mixture will transfer and cause a reaction. I am allergic to both nickel and gold (found out today in fact). I never noticed the problem with gold because I would not get a reaction where I wore my gold jewelry, or it was seldom enough that I attributed it to something else. I suspected I was allergic to nickel, however, because every time I wore a cheap ring I would have extreme reaction on my ring finger and the surrounding fingers. Turns out, my family discovered a long time ago that I was allergic to nickel (it's in my medical file), but because I "have so many allergies" they forgot.

Both my mom and sis are allergic to nickel and they use clear nail polish to create a barrier to protect themselves. This should work with gold or other metals as well.

Ailea Merriam-Pigg
- San Jose, California USA



2006

Q. I got married a year ago and after 3 days of wearing my wedding ring my finger started to blister, some-one mentioned skin guard, have you ever heard of this?

Stephen B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
private - Aberdeen, Scotland

2007

Q. Hi

I have just come across this discussion, over a year later, but I am hoping someone might be able to suggest why I am experiencing heavy aches in my left hand when ever I wear my 18 ct white gold wedding ring. When I switch the ring to my right hand I get the same dull ache a few hours later. I have read up on reactions to nickel on various web sites, but these have all been skin reactions rather than the arthritic type dull aches that I get.

Thanks,

Christopher W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- London, England


March 3, 2010

A. To Christopher W - my hand aches from my ring, too.
I have a white gold engagement ring that I am constantly having to take off. After wearing it for a while my ring finger will begin to ache. Eventually the ache seems to spread to the entire hand. I have to switch hands, but after a while the other hand experiences the same problem. I take it off to sleep, so that my hands can get a rest. I haven't been able to find any answers as to why this happens. I'm glad I'm not alone.

Anita M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania



January 17, 2008

Q. I have just come across this site and found it very interesting. I have both a white gold engagement ring and a white gold wedding band with diamonds (about 10 along top). I don't get a reaction when I wear the engagement ring but do get one when I wear the wedding band with diamonds. If this is a nickel reaction wouldn't I get this "rash" when I wear both? Could it have something to do with the diamonds?

Angela M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Astoria, New York



January 21, 2008

Q. My name is Aimee and I am 30 years old. In September of 2007 I had my first child. In March of 2007 my husband bought me a 14k gold engagement ring to replace the one he had previously bought. In April when we got married I also began to wear a 14k gold wedding band. At the time of our wedding I was four months pregnant. I had no problems with either ring until August 2007 when I was eight months pregnant. At this time my finger would become red and inflamed and little water type blisters were present. I would take my rings off for a couple days and it would clear up. As soon as I began wearing my rings again, the problem would return. This is still happening. I spoke to the jeweler who we purchased the rings from and he told me that your pH balance changes during pregnancy which can cause this reaction. He claims that when my son is between six and eight months old my pH balance should return to normal and this will resolve itself. Have you heard of this happening? I'm wondering if the jeweler was just coming up with an easy answer to get me out of his hair or if my pregnancy could really be the cause. Thank you for your time.

Aimee J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Henderson, Nevada

(note: Aimee has posted a followup below)


March 7, 2008

A. Have your white gold ring dipped in Rhodium by a jeweler. It's a hard metal and will whiten up your ring and you will not have sensitivity to it any longer. It will last about 6 months on average. I had the exact symptoms two years after wearing my wedding bands and I did always have my rings treated every six months while being cleaned. Then I moved away from my local jeweler and stopped getting them dipped...this is when my reaction began so it was easy for me to conclude what had been protecting my skin previously. It only costs about $25 to be coated.

Shelly M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Nashville, Tennessee


April 8, 2008

Q. I, too, am experiencing the same inflamed, itchy, small water-blistered skin around my white 14k gold ring. I wore a single engagement band for a year, and it started happening when I added the wedding band to it. I have spoken to several people, but I haven't had a chance to get to the dermatologist. At this point, I am willing to try anything! I will definitely try dipping it in the metal mentioned above (Rhodium?). I heard from various people different theories... one saying to rid of the infection by using an antifungal type cream and the other to use a hydrocortizone. I have been using hydrocortizone, and it seems to be working well enough. I can at least wear my ring throughout the day, take it off at night to let it heal a little, and get it through till the next day. Thanks for the other good ideas!

Lisa P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Fenton, Missouri


April 27, 2008

A. My husband and I have been married for almost 3 years. We re-rhodiumed the ring during cleaning for the first two years but have not gotten the ring re-rhodiumed since last July. Just this month, I have started having a reaction on my ring finger. IT is red and itchy with little bumps. I suspect that as soon as we get it re-rhodiumed I will not have this problem any longer. It also makes your ring look like new....just FYI.
Good luck everyone! I'll let you know if it works!

Brandy Sutor
- Hollywood, Maryland


May 21, 2008

thumbs up signJust a follow up to my comment above. I had my rings re-dipped in rhodium. The jeweler insisted this would not fix the problem but he was so wrong. Ever since I got my rings back I have been able to wear them without any trouble. I have not had any reaction. The rhodium obviously helps. I know it won't last forever and definitely plan on having it done again as soon as it wears off. I definitely recommend it and thank you to Shelly for the heads up!

Aimee J [returning]
- Henderson, Nevada


July 29, 2008

! I got married December 2007 and have a white gold wedding band set. I had no problems until about 3 weeks ago and then my skin under my wedding band started turning red irritated, I would take off my ring and in about day and a half it would go away. but when putting ring back on it would reappear. So after googling I think I got my answer, so I think I am going to see my dermatologist and hopefully can get some solution I definitely don't want to stop wearing my wedding band.

Susan L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Nashville, Tennessee


July 31, 2008

thumbs up signI too experience the same itchy, burning and blistering on my finger due to my wedding ring. I have been wearing my ring for 10 years and it usually occurs right before summer. I typically stop wearing the ring until it completely clears up. I will try the Rhodium dipping. Thanks!

Cynthia C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Whittier, California


August , 2008

A. Hi, Cynthia. Even before trying the rhodium dipping I would suggest you consider the boiling in peroxide and vinegar described in letter 33777. Many women have reported startling success and it costs almost nothing. Good luck!

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


September 10, 2008

Q. I have a diamond & white gold eternity band that began causing redness, itching, and slight swelling on my left hand ring-finger in May 2008. It makes a red stripe in the exact width of the band. It will usually clear up if I go without jewelry on that finger for 3 to 5 days but it comes back as soon as I wear the eternity band again. I know the solution; don't wear the band on my left hand. BUT - what I don't understand is that I have no adverse reaction whatsoever when I wear that same ring on my right hand ring finger. Why would it irritate one hand and not the other?

Monica W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Atlanta, Georgia


November 3, 2008

Q. SAME THING WITH ME, I've been wearing my white gold ring for about 3 years now.
I have always worn it only taking it off when I have a shower or bath. Its white gold it was my mums and she gave it to me iv never had a problem before but a few weeks ago a had a red itchy band around my ring finger I took the ring off for a couple of weeks until it went away.
I assumed it was a burn or something, It looked like a burn it also peeled as it healed. After the rash had totally gone a left it a couple more weeks and last night before I went to bed I put it back on.
I woke up in the middle of the night with my baby boy and noticed the red band on my finger was back. It was really itchy and starting to blister!
I've taken the ring off now and am going to see a dermatologist but I'm googled this and I'm guessing I'm allergic to nickel.
I've also been wearing another gold ring on my other hand for a year (never been taken off) and its fine. I don't understand how I can be allergic to one gold ring and not another but maybe its because one is white gold and one is just gold. The nickel must be higher in the white gold ring. (thankfully my fave ring is the one I am NOT allergic too lol)

Krissi S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Manchester, Cheshire, England


January 1, 2009

Q. I too Got married 2 years ago, I just had a baby boy 9 months ago and Just the last 3 months I removed my white gold band and it looks like my finger has been burned just where the band was and I am wondering what I too should do?

Kim M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Charlotte, North Carolina


February 25, 2009

A. This has happened to me as well, and it wasn't due to a metal allergy, but a buildup of soap and moisture (possibly leading to some bacterial/fungal infection). I'll have no problems with my ring, until one day I find the skin under the ring is red, swollen, and flaky. When the rash was very bad, I would also develop small blisters as well. The rash is painfully itchy, so much that it can wake me up in the middle of the night and makes me want to tear off my ring immediately.

When this happens, I take my ring off and the rash usually goes away very quickly. By the next day, it doesn't itch as much, by day 2 or 3, most of the redness and flakiness has gone away. After a week, the skin looks normal again. Even if the rash is completely gone, DO NOT put your ring back on. Wait at least 2 weeks to ensure every last trace of the rash/infection is gone. Before putting your ring on, make sure you disinfect it. I soak the ring in a mixture of 1 part Hydrogen Peroxide and 2 parts plain white vinegar. Let it soak for at least 15 minutes, and then boil the ring in plain water for another 15 minutes. I usually string up my ring and dangle it from a wooden spoon so that it won't touch the bottom of the pot and get too hot.

Now, the ring is disinfected AND clean. (The diamonds are so sparkly again!) I recommend doing this step every month, to avoid having the rash come back. I got lazy and my rash came back after 7 months.

Here are some conditions that make it likely to be a soap/bacterial/fungal rash and not a metal allergy:

Ring is platinum (though even some platinum can contain alloys that cause allergies, this is much more common in white gold. This infection can easily happen with any type of ring, but allergies are less common with platinum ones.)
Ring fits snugly (I did not have an issue until I got my ring resized to be smaller after almost losing it.)
Stones use a channel, or low-profile, setting. (The holes on the underside of the ring can trap moisture)
Rash occurs on the right side of the finger (towards the middle finger, or on the left side if the ring is one the right hand). This is probably because it's easier to trap moisture on the higher side of the ring.
You don't take off your ring when washing hands, showering, cleaning dishes, exercising, etc.
It seems that many people also start experiencing this issue when pregnant or shortly after giving birth. That didn't apply to me, but I wonder if people start washing their hands much more often after having a baby (all those diaper changes!) or if bloating is making their rings fit more tightly. I wonder also if pregnancy causes the body to react more strongly to potential irritants. No idea, this is just a theory on my part.

Good luck! Try the vinegar/peroxide solution. It worked for me.

Elaine Chen
- Washington DC


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