Allergic client


My client wants a special pendant for a friend who is allergic
to some metals, (in particular, copper) but not gold. I have
been asked to push the gold content to the max - 18K or higher.
The client also wants the “traditional” look of gold - strong,

  1. I’m concerned with the strength of the piece. Does anyone
    know of an alloy formula that is fairly strong, yet omits
    copper? All the formulas I have use it. I’m assuming that
    my choice for strengthening the gold is silver. Yes or no?

  2. I would like to be a bit more knowledgeable about allergies
    and metals. I’ve cruised the web, but can’t find a good spot.
    Anyone know of one?

Thanks much


Cathryn In New Zealand we find the modern alloys of 9 and 18ct
are very similiar hardness only 3-4% difference although you can
buy a hard gold or work harden your piece after soldering.

It is very rare to have an allergy to 18ct . Sometimes I make an
alloy of pure gold and sterling silver this is nice to work a
beautiful yellow gold and low in copper. Hope this is of some
help to you.

Best wishes
Arrowtown opals & Jewellery
ph 64 3 4421288 fax 64 3 4421488
trade site

I frequently make pieces with 22k gold (91.66%). I buy a special
alloy which makes a good hard (like 18k) metal. The color isn’t
traditional 14k or 18k, but it is very pretty 22k color. If she’s
highly allergic to copper, this might not work either.

gold alloyed with silver is very very soft, and quite greenish. I
don’t have an answer at this time for a non copper bearing gold
alloy. Copper is used to strengthen the gold alloy.

2.   I would like to be a bit more knowledgeable about allergies
and metals. I've cruised the web, but can't find a good spot.
Anyone know of one?

Sorry, but perhaps you could do an advanced search on Alta-Vista
using the words ‘allergy & metals & copper & jewelry & nickle &
gold & rings’ or something like that. I’ll give it a try and let
you know the results.

         Jeffrey Everett

Handmade 18K, 22K, and platinum gemstone fine jewelry.
Diamond setting, rubber/metal molds, casting, lapidary
Die and mold engraving, plastic patterns for casting.
Cad jewelry design, cad/cam milling scroll filigree…
P O Box 2057 Fairfield IA 52556 515-469-6250

Contact a refiner.They will be able to advise you.Sometimes green
golds have very little copper in them.

You may be able to solve the problem by rhodium plating the back
side of the pendant.Rhodium is very nonreactive,so few people are
allergic to it.

Most of the “allergies” to gold that I have seen are actually
reactions to something on the gold.It is far more common to
react to perfume,shampoo,hairspray,makeup,ect…Explore all

                     Scott Hepner

Cathryn wrote:

I would like to be a bit more knowledgeable about allergies and
metals. I’ve cruised the web, but can’t find a good spot.
Anyone know of one?

It seems that my Mom developed and allergy to nickel during her
third pregnancy. Wearing rings makes her fingers break out, and
her pierced ears are now slotted where the earrings “ate” through
the lobe and fell out the bottom! She determined it was a nickel
allergy… I’m not sure how she arrived at this conclusion.

I have never really read anything official about metal

The disadvantages of using gold are clear. The price is high and
in its pure form it’s so soft it wears quickly from the purely
mechanic rubbing of your skin and of other jewelry.

The common solution, however, is not without its flaws. Alloying
the gold with cheaper metals can mean dramatic savings in
material cost and highly improved resistance to wear. But it
also changes the other special property of gold - its resistance
to corrosion. The more "impurities2 (alloys) in the mixture, the
greater the possibility that some of it will “escape” and be
absorbed into your body. 14 K gold is frequently unsafe for those
who have developed “nickel allergy” - a hypersensitivity to
nickel. 18 K is generally safer, except for white gold where
nickel is frequently used in dangerously high amounts in order to
achieve the silvery color. There exist non-nickel white gold
compounds such as palladium white gold but they are more

Nickel is a metallic element, number 28 in the periodic system.
It is silvery in color and has a number of properties that make
it attractive from a metallurgical point of view. It is quite
orrosion-resistant and adheres very well to other metals, making
it excellent for protective or decorative plating. It is also
frequently used as an intermediate layer to improve adhesion
between other metals, such as when electroplating gold on silver
or stainless steel, and as an alloying metal, like in many
varieties of stainless steel and low- karat gold.

The problems when using nickel in jewelry stem from the one
notable exception of its “quite corrosion-resistant” attribute.
Nickel reacts very easily with a number of nitrogen compounds and
unfortunately the proteins in our bodies are among them.

2A.1c Nickel-allergy and Body Jewelry2 by Thor Because the
author prefers to remain anonymous, please forward all
responses to edited by Anne Greenblatt

When a nickel-plated needle is inserted into the skin, the body
senses the intrusion and opens up the capillary walls in the
surrounding area to allow plasma and antibodies in to kill any
bacteria and start repairing the damage. Assuming you used
proper sterile piercing procedure, there are no bacteria present.
However, some of the nitrogen compounds in these fluids will
dissolve nickel from the surface of the needle and react with it.
This is the danger, because the nickel atoms may change the
composition of the cells sufficiently that your immune defense
system will decide that they’re no longer “you” and hence they
are an infection and need to be fought. If this happens, the
tissues swell up more, becoming inflamed, and even more plasma
and antibodies is sent in to fight the “infection”.
Unfortunately, they will just dissolve more nickel and the
process becomes cyclical.

The term “nickel allergy” is, strictly speaking, a misnomer
since the problem is more of a hypersensitivity. The immune
defense system is simply doing its job. It’s just a bit
overzealous. Nevertheless, the problem is real and can become
very acute. Once the “allergy” is triggered, the sufferer will
react to much lower concentrations of nickel than before.
Jewellery that was previously safe may become unwearable. Some
will react to the nickel in coins, railings, cutlery and other
household items as it gets dissolved by their perspiration and
permeates into the skin. Not to mention the nickel that can
dissolve from stainless steel sinks into the dishwater and then
be absorbed into the skin of any person sticking his/her hands
into the water.

What can be done to avoid nickel exposure? First and foremost
you must avoid nickel in jewellery that is inserted in fresh
piercings or in moist places (oral, nasal, and genital
piercings). The issue is not the pressence of nickel in a certain
alloy, but whether or not it will STAY there. Gold, for example,
has a tendency to “bind” nickel so that in alloys of at least 18
K a small amount of nickel is usually “safe”, except for “white”
gold which often contains (and releases) too much nickel. In 14
K Gold, the amount of nickel released is often dangerously high
for those who are already sensitized. Stainless steels frequently
contain nickel. The “hypoallergenic” varieties of steel (ie.
316L and 316LVM) are frequently those that “bind” their nickel so
thoroughly that little or none of it is released.

In extreme cases the sufferer can find even the most pure metals
impossible to wear. Even 24 K gold (nominally 100%) can contain
traces of nickel or other contaminations, but this is extremely
rare. Most find a marked improvement by simply switching from 14
K to 18 K.

Other metals are now finding their way into the jewellery
business. Titanium and niobium are rapidly gaining a
well-deserved reputation for “body- friendliness” because they do
not contain alloys. The oxide layers on their surfaces are
sufficient barriers against corrosion and wear. Otherwise, inert
plastics (Nylon, Teflon) work well.

Other alloys, such as chromium, may trigger similar but less
severe effects. However, many nickel-free alloys contain very
high amounts of chromium instead and hence they may release
enough chromium to trigger “allergic” reactions.

                        * Ardvark *
                      Anne Greenblatt
          Piercing FAQ Manager for rec.arts.bodyart
                     Piercing Exquisite

Sorry this is so long, but I thought the info was relavent. I
looked ar und a few body pircing sites and found this info. I’m
sure their is more on other piercing sites, but I must CAUTION
anyone who wants to dig deeper, some of the sites show grafic
pictures that might offend or discust sertin individuals.