Ever put on a stunning piece of jewellery, only to be met with red, itchy skin just a few hours later? This common dilemma is frequently caused by nickel, a silvery-white metal with the power to provoke allergic skin conditions – usually in the form of a reddened rash on the skin.
In this article, we’ll unravel the mystery behind nickel allergies, explain the EU regulations around this common metal, and provide insights to help you make informed choices on your jewellery selection.
The Nickel Dilemma
Jewellery is more than just a fashion statement; it’s an expression of our personality and style. That’s why it can be disappointing when these beautiful adornments lead to allergic reactions.
The culprit behind these skin irritations is often a nickel allergy, with side effects varying from slight discomfort to harsh skin rashes.
On average, nickel allergies affect around 12-15% of women and 1-2% of men. According to a study by the Nickel Institute, one reason why more women may find themselves affected, is the widespread trend of ear-piercing!
European Regulations to the Rescue
The EU Nickel Directive was introduced in 1994 to reduce the prevalence of nickel allergy and dermatitis in EU citizens. It came into force in 2000, with full enforcement from 2001 onwards, setting maximum amounts of nickel that can be used in jewellery.
Specifically, these regulations primarily focus on the amount of nickel that a piece of jewellery can release when in direct contact with the skin over a week – a pivotal benchmark for ensuring the welfare of consumers and for maintaining high-quality standards across the European jewellery industry.
Watch Out for Other Allergens
While nickel remains the primary culprit when it comes to allergies caused by jewellery, it’s important to remember that other metals can also induce allergic reactions.
Elements like cobalt, chromium, and even certain gold compounds, when combined with other metals, can sometimes irritate sensitive skin. That’s why it’s always essential to be well-informed when making a choice on new jewellery.
Jewellery Types and Their Nickel Content
Different jewellery materials can have varying nickel contents.
Here’s a breakdown:
- Gold Alloys: Predominantly safe, but be wary. Some gold pieces, especially of lower carat ratings, can be alloyed with metals that contain nickel.
- White Gold Alloys: White gold can get its silvery hue from either nickel or palladium, so be sure to enquire about the metals used when buying.
- Platinum Alloys: Platinum is dense and durable, and it’s rarely if ever mixed with allergenic metals.
- Silver Alloys: Sterling silver is an alloy of silver containing 92.5% by weight of silver and 7.5% by weight of other metals, often copper. While it’s usually a safe bet, it’s wise to confirm that no nickel was introduced during manufacturing.
- Costume Jewellery: This can be tricky. Since it’s designed for short-term wear and to be affordable, nickel is often used during manufacture. Always consult with the seller before purchasing.
Once you understand the potential pitfalls of certain metals, you can also then better select pieces that don’t just look good, but that also feel right. However, remember to always seek reputable jewellers who can offer clarity on the materials used in their items.
Looking for Nickel-Free Jewellery?
Choosing jewellery, especially with concerns about allergies, doesn’t need to be daunting. At Martin Gear Jewellers, we believe in more than just selling exquisite items — we’re committed to ensuring our customers are well-informed and comfortable with their choices.