Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Expensive Tastes - the woes of a nickel allergy.

You want it.
You need it.
You just have to have it.
But when you wear it, your skin starts to itch and burn and then blister!

Sound familiar? Unfortunately for you (and one is seven people from across the globe) you have a nickel allergy. Nickel is the root cause of the most common jewellery allergy and it can often mean that funky fashion jewellery is off limits.

When I was a teenager, I loved wearing the most outrageous (and in some circles obnoxious) vintage earrings - all cheap and all costume. From large pastel coloured disks to 70's inspired gold toned chandelier earrings - the bigger the better.

Then, almost overnight it seemed, while wearing my favorite pair of mint 80's art deco/Miami Beach inspired studs - my ears began to get hot, red, and frankly vengeful. From that moment on, try as I may, no earrings seemed to sit right in my now very exclusive ear lobes.

It was only after I came to 18Karat did I realize the toll some base metals can take on our bodies - and costume jewellery is all base metals. It is not that our bodies are allergic to the metals themselves, but they are allergic to the salts created through a chemical reaction between your skins natural oils and perspiration and the metal. As our body actively corrodes the metals away, we are left feeling sore and entirely unfashionable.

A nickel allergy is not something we are necessarily born with, and can often develop as we get older - as your body's chemistry evolves throughout the years and can especially effect women during and after pregnancy.

Not only is nickel found in stainless steel, it is also a key metal used in the alloy for white gold - nickel is actually the bleaching agent that turns yellow gold white. Low-karated gold, 10k and below, are especially problematic as they contain a more substantial percentage of nickle, making it more irritable to sensitive skin.

A nickel allergy can be especially upsetting if you begin to notice discomfort when wearing your white gold wedding set - especially if you have had the rings for year beforehand.

Luckily there are solutions. If you believe you are beginning to develop an allergy to one of your precious gems, bring it into your local jeweller. You should first ask for them to thoroughly clean the item. Overtime, chemicals can accumulate in the nooks and crevices of your gems - especially if you wear them everyday. These chemicals, such as soaps and lotions, can start to wreak havoc on your skin.

If this does not work, you can get these gems rhodium plated - providing a barrier between your skin and the nickel within the item. Rhodium is a member of the platinum family of metals and is rarely a source of allergic reaction.

If you have questions about metal allergies and what you can do to start wearing your jewellery again, contact a knowledgeable jeweller.

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