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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 *
Piercing FAQ Manager for rec.arts.bodyart
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.