Many assume that skin irritation
from a piece of jewellery is automatically the result
of an allergy. But first check if you really suffer from
reactionaries and social networking busy-bodies...
Internet health forums are teaming with such alarmists
and this has led to many, who were otherwise searching for sound advice,
to instead jump to conclusions about about all kinds of itches,
rashes and pains - from the top of your head to your little
toe. Cyberspace alarmism suggests
that allergies to precious metals - particularly palladium
- are far more common than they actually are.
With such inaccurate information spread far and wide, we highly recommend that you do not give
yourself undue worry by browsing the subject on forums,
but instead discuss with Atelier Laibach any concerns
you may have during ordering of your handmade jewellery
piece, whereby you'll be given professional goldsmith
metallurgic advice - and options that can be offered to put your mind
If you do have a proven
allergy please notify Atelier Laibach before ordering
your jewellery. A recycled precious metal alloy that excludes
metals you may be sensitive to will be used to make your
Note: Kerstin Laibach can often alter your current jewellery
(such as earrings) at skin contact points with alternative
precious metals that you are OK with.
With proven hypoallergenic
reactions or severe reactions to jewellery it is highly
likely that your sensitivity response is different to
the next person. Some people can react to any form of
metal, whether it is precious or not, while others show
almost no reaction and don't even realise they have an
The vast majority of the population however confuse precious
metal allergies with irritation from some other source.
Below Atelier Laibach dispels some of the myths and guides
you through a self-check while providing clear information
about metallurgic allergies.
First, eliminate other
potential problems which are often overlooked. More often
than not skin irritation turns out to be caused by dirty
or ill-fitting jewellery.
1. Keeping your
jewellery clean frequently solves irritation problems.
Ensure that any jewellery you currently own is properly
cleaned and disinfected before wearing. Make sure that
all dirt (which includes bacteria that could trigger
discomfort) is completely removed from inner ring areas
such as hallmarks, diamond setting holes and engravings
etc. A soft toothbrush is usually ideal for this. It
is important that you thoroughly rinse off disinfecting
cleaners with water and completely dry your jewellery
before wearing. Residue of antibacterial sprays, gels
and soaps may cause skin irritation with prolonged contact.
Therefore, if you wash your hands with harsh cleansers,
including antibacterial gels, take off your ring so
that cleansers aren't trapped in-between your finger
and the ring.
(This information also particularly applies to earrings.)
2. Long-term comfort
also needs to be taken into account: A new pair of shoes
may feel comfortable walking up and down the store when
trying for size, but with everyday wear they might begin
to rub or itch in unsuspecting places. This is often
down to poor finishing on edges and joins. The same
can happen with jewellery; protrusions and sharp edges
can cause irritation if the piece has not been properly
finished. Swelling or soreness with rings could be triggered
by the finger rubbing on roughness inside where an engraving
is protruding or diamond setting holes have not been
smoothly polished in. (Or, as previously mentioned if
there are still foreign bodies such as dirt (bacteria)
and gels in crevices.) So, make sure that your ring
engraving feels smooth, or if your ring has diamonds,
check that the holes inside are completely smooth to
the touch. If not, the interior may need polishing to
smooth out protrusions. Also check inner ring edges
for excessive sharpness. It's worth noting how the body
reacts to the tiniest splinter or prickle, so relate
this to how the smallest protrusion from jewellery might
trigger off irritation.
Also remember that unrelated intermittent physiological
events such as hot weather, menstruation etc., can cause
swelling and sweating; feeling prominent where your
finger contacts an inner ring surface.
3. Check if your
jewellery has been plated. (We explain more about plating
and why Kerstin Laibach never plates jewellery here).
If your jewellery has been plated, it may be that the
plating metals are causing an allergic reaction, not
the precious metal under it. For example, some rhodium
and gold plating has a barrier-plate of nickel - a common
metal which can trigger allergies. You may have an allergic
reaction to the nickel content in a layer of the plating
but not the precious metal underneath it.
4. Only after all
other possible causes of skin irritants have been removed
and you still notice reactions to any precious metal,
get a professional allergy test (patch test) for precious
metals (without nickel). But first see below how Atelier
Laibach clearly defines potential reactions to precious
CAUSES OF POSSIBLE ALLERGIES
AFTER CONTACT WITH PRECIOUS METAL ALLOYS
Here we should explain that
it is often not the pure precious metal component in your
jewellery which can cause an allergic reaction, but instead
the necessary (and non-necessary) metals which are alloyed
(mixed) with it.
The key to recognising a possible metal allergy trigger
is to understand a little about the "alloying" of metals
in your jewellery.
This is most easily described
with silver as a first example ...
Although there are rare
anecdotal claims of pure silver allergies, extensive medical
research has yet to find any evidence of adverse immune
response to pure silver. In fact pure silver is shown
to have excellent antibacterial qualities.
The confusion regarding "silver allergy" has arisen from
people not understanding precious metal "alloying". Alloying
is when a precious metal is mixed with various proportions
of other metals. This can initially grade its value (as
with the gold "carat" scale). But essentially, alloying
also affects colour shades and strengths for use in practical
jewellery crafting. For example, with pure silver or pure
gold (24ct) the metal would be too soft to be used as
the main structure of a typical piece of jewellery, therefore
alloying with other metals changes its malleability and
colour (as well as its value in terms of how much of the
pure metal is in the alloy mix).
With silver, the main contention regarding an allergy
is because of a metal called nickel being alloyed with
pure silver. Some people say that they are even allergic
to Sterling silver, believing that Sterling silver must
be "pure". However, Sterling silver is "alloy" based,
of which 92.5% is pure silver and the remaining 7.5% of
the alloying made of other metals. This is why a Sterling
silver hallmark can read "925", meaning (at least) 925
parts of a 1000 parts. It is this ratio of 92.5% pure
silver and 7.5% other metals which essentially enables
silver to be hallmarked "Sterling".
Although not legally used by goldsmiths in countries where
nickel is banned in jewellery, global sources of Sterling
silver jewellery can still sometimes contain nickel within
that 75 parts of its 1000 parts alloying. The main problem
with Sterling silver is that nickel was once commonly
used even in older jewellery and is still circulating
in various forms. A lot of early silver was also made
at a ratio of 800 to 1000 which could lead to even more
nickel possibly being mixed into the alloying.
Because there are so many people claiming to be allergic
to silver, and although silver alloyed with nickel is
banned, for example in Europe, there is little doubt that
there are many grey-market suppliers and traders selling
silver jewellery imports containing copious amounts of
nickel, while advertising it to customers as "pure" Sterling
silver. "Pure" Sterling silver it may be, but as mentioned,
because the silver alloying ratio of at least 925 parts
pure silver within 1000 can be labelled Sterling silver,
it doesn't mean that it is nickel-free.
It's worth noting that the European directive on nickel
restriction in jewellery still allows a tiny percentage
of nickel to be present, which roughly sums up to a release
rate of nickel onto the skin of no more than 0.5μ
g/cm² per week. The tiniest percentage of a percentage
of people with extreme hypersensitivity to nickel might
possibly react if this trace amount is present in their
jewellery, either in the plating or its main metal, and
this could explain why some people still claim to be allergic
to "silver" even if they have been sold jewellery advertised
as "nickel-free". The problem is when that one-in-ten-million
person who does happen to be super-super-responsive to
even a trace element of nickel mentions it on an internet
forum, the "allergy alarmists" jump on it and raise the
issue so disproportionately to the point whereby many
mistakenly think they share the exact same form of sensitivity.
Kerstin Laibach recycled Sterling silver is alloyed only with copper
and nothing else. There is absolutely no risk of a nickel
NICKEL (See also
First, please note ...
A. If you are wearing
old jewellery it may contain nickel. Nickel allergy
is common and can develop after frequent contact with
items containing nickel, whereby a dermatitis rash commonly
known as "allergic contact dermatitis", will appear
on skin contact with metals alloyed with nickel.
B. If you suffer from
a nickel allergy, please do not confuse this with a
possible allergy to other metals alloyed in some precious
metals, or even pure precious metals.*
As mentioned, Laibach does
not use any precious metals containing nickel. All Laibach
recycled precious metals are of a very high quality and
nickel plays no part in the alloying process. In parts
of the world where the use of nickel is not restricted
it can still be used in silver alloying and even in white
gold to increase its white looking colour.
* VERY IMPORTANT: Medical
research indicates that once you have developed an allergy
to nickel, your body's immune system can occasionally
(rarely) mistakenly identify palladium and cobalt as nickel
whereby your body reacts as if these metals were nickel.
In almost all cases of skin-surface reactions to palladium
or cobalt it should be noted that this misidentification
by the immune system is likely to be the reason. Please
also see palladium and cobalt below.
Reminder: Before assuming
that you may be allergic to certain precious metals such
as silver (with or without nickel), first ensure that
of your jewellery is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected
before wearing. (See above)
Copper is commonly used
in precious metal alloys.
If you have been clinically tested which shows you are
sensitive to copper with prolonged contact, Kerstin Laibach
offers a choice of precious metals with either none or
very little copper well below a threshold which is likely
to trigger copper reaction. Depending on your sensitivity
there are suitable options in gold, platinum and palladium.
NOTE: In some circumstances
Kerstin Laibach alloys her own yellow gold, which also
allows for special mixes in its alloying content, greatly
reducing or eliminating potential allergic reactions.
There are a very small number
of people who have shown allergic reactions to palladium.
It is important to understand that reaction to palladium
is most likely due to the body's immune system mistaking
palladium as nickel - if you already have a nickel allergy
(which you may or may not be aware off). (See Nickel above.)
Analysis by the Department
of Dermatology Mayo Clinic was based on a 10 year retrospective
review of patch testing 910 people to see how they reacted
to palladium. Of the 110 patients who showed some sensitivity
to palladium, most were only affected orally. Oral sensitivity
has been shown to be a problem through palladium-based
dental applications. A remaining small fraction of people
with extreme sensitivity reacted with direct external
skin contact. These overall results generally suggest
that reaction to palladium on the skin surface, such as
wearing palladium rings, is a rare occurrence. Atelier
Laibach has to date not encountered any customer reactions
to jewellery pieces containing palladium. This also takes
into account one or two customers who have had adverse
reactions to palladium-based dental applications (and
also nickel allergies) but have had no subsequent reaction
to wearing palladium on their skin. This doesn't mean
that it's not possible to have allergic reactions to palladium
jewellery, but medical research suggests that genuinely
proven cases are rare. The tiny percentage who are allergic
to palladium on their skin may be more likely to show
rare reactions to all kinds of metals.
COBALT (in Platinum)
Cobalt can be present as
an alloy in platinum. The type of platinum it can be found
in is mainly but not exclusively used for casting jewellery.
(Making multiple identical pieces from one wax or resin
Kerstin Laibach does not cast her jewellery and instead
makes each piece individually by hand. The recycled platinum
she uses does not contain cobalt.
It is important to understand that hypoallergenic reaction
to platinum jewellery (alloyed with cobalt) is most likely
due to the body's immune system mistaking cobalt in as
nickel ... if you already have a nickel allergy. However,
it is also worth noting that some medical sources claim
that people patch-tested for cobalt and nickel have had
stronger allergic reactions to cobalt than nickel. As
with palladium, numbers of people directly affected by
cobalt in jewellery is extremely low. (See also NICKEL
As we have explained on
this page, there is a wise path of elimination you can
With a practical solution found through discussion and
advice by Atelier Laibach ... it should be possible to provide
a piece of handmade jewellery which will give you a lifetime
If you wish to order a piece of jewellery with customised
solutions from a metallurgical / allergenic perspective,
please get in touch.
allergy disclaimer please also see
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