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Nickel allergy? 5 ways to stay safe while buying body jewellery.

Advice Cat's Top Tips FAQ Nickel Allergy

Do you find that cheap silver body jewellery irritates your piercing? Does it make you itchy, or even have a weird smell if you wear it in your nose or septum? The Center for Disease Control estimates that 10 to 20 percent of people have a nickel allergy, and you could be one of them. Your skin is the largest organ in your body - read on to find out how to keep it safe!


I never buy cheap “fashion jewellery”, always hallmarked sterling silver 925, but I still have an allergic reaction. Could I be allergic to silver?


Sterling silver is required by law to have at least 92.5% silver content, which is why it is sometimes known as 925 silver. Unfortunately for those of us with a metal allergy, that means 7.5% of the alloy is unaccounted for and could include any number of allergens like nickel, copper and even lithium. Silver allergies are extremely rare, and it is much more likely that you are allergic to the nickel content in the sterling silver alloy. Try fine silver jewellery before you rule out silver altogether - fine silver is 99.9% pure silver and completely nickel free. You’ll most likely find that any irritations completely disappear!

I’ve worn sterling silver body jewellery before and had no issues, surely I don’t have to worry?

Each manufacturer uses a slightly different blend of metals to make their sterling silver, so even if you have worn sterling silver piercing jewellery in the past and had no reaction, it doesn’t guarantee that you never will. Be aware of your body and its signals and if you begin to sense any signs of irritation, switch to nickel free body jewellery made from fine silver, titanium or niobium and see if your irritation subsides.

I wore sterling silver jewellery for a few months with no problems, but then I started getting a rash! Can you develop a nickel allergy over time?

Many mass producers of silver jewellery often coat their pieces with rhodium to make it look extra glossy and white. Rhodium doesn’t stick to silver very well though, so nickel is used in between the layers of plating to help it adhere. Over time, the rhodium wears away and develops tiny cracks, releasing the nickel into your skin. Prolonged wear can cause itching, a red, raised rash, and in extreme cases even blistering of the skin. If you think you might have a nickel allergy you should always buy your jewellery from a reputable silversmith, and be sure to ask the maker about the nickel content of their alloys and whether nickel is used in the manufacturing process.

Isn’t it illegal to sell body jewellery with such a high nickel content?

As of 2000, EU regulations forbid retailers from selling any piercing jewellery that releases nickel at a rate of over 2 milligrams per week, per square centimetre. However, even this level of nickel release can cause irritation in those with a strong nickel sensitivity, which is why you may have found your piercing getting itchy even when wearing sterling silver jewellery bought and manufactured inside the EU. Any jewellery sold outside the EU doesn’t have to conform to these regulations at all, and could have an even higher nickel content!

But I love silver jewellery! How can I stay safe and keep the look I love?

Body jewellery is available in many gorgeous, totally nickel free metals such as titanium and niobium. And if, like me, silver is your first and most lasting love, fine silver is a great option if you have sensitive skin. Fine silver is at least 99.9% silver, the 0.01% being made up of tiny, unavoidable impurities introduced during the smelting of the ore. It is as close to pure silver as it is possible to get, and is completely nickel free. In the hands of a skilled silversmith it can be made just as sturdy as sterling silver and far less brittle, it is much slower to tarnish and holds a beautiful glossy shine, making rhodium plating completely unnecessary.

All body jewellery from Cat’s Curiosity Shop is handmade specially for you from the purest fine silver and gold available. It is hypoallergenic, 100% nickel free and completely customisable. Cat designs and makes each piece to order in her UK studio - click here to shop for gorgeous nickel free body jewellery now!


Get in touch if you have any questions, we love to hear from you!

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