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Allergy to Nickel etc.

Q: Why am I allergic to some gold jewellery?

Every year we get a few customers who believe that they cannot wear gold jewellery because they get an allergic reaction to it. Some believe that they are allergic to gold. We have never yet known anybody who was allergic to pure gold.
The most common cause of allergic reactions to jewellery is nickel contained in the alloy. Nickel is, or was, frequently used in white gold alloys because it is inexpensive, hard, and has a strong whitening effect. Better quality white gold alloys use palladium, which has excellent properties but is more expensive.
An EC directive is due to come into force soon which will regulate the use of nickel in any articles including jewellery, and restrict its use to very low proportions.
The directive has two components:-

  1. Content
    To be considered nickel-directive compliant, an article must contain no more than 500 parts per million of nickel. This applies to articles which may be in contact with broken skin, such as ear-rings.
  2. Release
    This applies to all articles which may be in close and prolonged contact with skin. The release rate calculation is not simple, but items must not exceed 0.5 micrograms nickel per square centimetre of surface per week. The rate applies to all new articles, and they must remain compliant for at least two years in testing.
Commonest Causes
The next commonest cause of allergies for jewellery wearers appears to be detergent or other chemicals which lodge between the jewellery, usually rings, and the skin. Hairdressers are often affected. Rinsing well can help, but it is probably best to remove rings before using any troublesome chemicals, and use a barrier cream.

Other Causes
A few jewellery wearers still seem to be slightly allergic to yellow golds, nickel cannot be the cause because it is not used in yellow gold alloys. In most cases sufferers only experience problems with low gold content alloys such as nine carat, so upgrading to a better alloy such as eighteen carat usually solves all problems.

Higher Carat Gold
The other common components of nine carat gold alloys are copper, silver and zinc. Zinc is usually very well tolerated, it is used in many medical preparations. Silver and copper do not usually cause allergic reactions, but both will form compounds with atmospheric pollutants which may be the cause of some reported problems. When copper and silver are present in high carat alloy such as eighteen or twenty two carat, they are more resistant to attack by chemicals, because they are bound more closely with the gold content, and this will explain why high carat alloys cause fewer problems.

Strange as it may seem, but using anti-perspirants can exacerbate metal allergy problems. It has been found that the sweat of a healthy person in a sauna can contain 20 times the nickel content of blood plasma, this may help to explain why exercise can improve health. Anti-perspirants can reduce the bodies natural way of eliminating heavy metals. Healthy natural lifestyles tend to improve health, whereas unnatural practices can cause problems.

Allergies to Buying Jewellery
Of course some men think they are allergic to jewellery, mostly they are just allergic to buying it for their wife because they would rather put the money towards a new BMW, Jag, Ferrari, or such other toy.

You may wish to visit some of our other pages:-
Gold Alloys by Weight & Volume
Hardness & Durability of Gold Alloys
White Gold Turns Yellow
What is Rose / Red / Pink Gold?
What is Green Gold?

Many laboratories are equipped to test for nickel content using ICP - OES, Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry techniques.
Very few laboratories are equipped to test for Nickel Release under NAMAS (UKAS) standards, because the testing procedure is more complicated, and subject to more variable factors.

We are grateful to Sheffield Assay Office for providing technical information.
Anybody wanting more detailed information about The EC Nickel Directive or on nickel testing should contact The Sheffield Assay Office, P.O. 187, Portobello Road, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 4DS, Telephone (0044) 0114-290-0521

Perhaps we should be flattered, but the content of this page, which is our own original copyright material has been copied by at least two other jewellers in their websites. We have sent requests to them both to desist. The jewellers in question are:-

As a result of our polite but firm request, both these companies have now removed the plagiarised pages from its website. the Lowest Possible Price

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