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Allergy to Nickel Silver

This is only my second posting to the list and I’m very much a
beginner, so forgive my ignorance. I bought some nickel silver to
practice with, just trying out techniques without wasting
sterling and so on. Anyhow, I was wondering if the nickel content
is likely to cause allergy problems. Does anyone have any
experience of this? I hadn’t actualy realised it was a
nickel/copper allot. At least now I understand the strange
colours when I’m heating it!

I’m really enjoying the content of this list. Thanks to everyone
who participates. Oh, and to anyone who replied to my posting
about Dremel vs Como drills. In the end I was talking to our
electrical workshop about them and they gave me an old hooby
drill motor with a collet attached to it. It’s got no speed
control and is a little rough in its action, but at least I can
now play with my burrs!


Alex Ball
Electron Microscope Unit
The Natural History Museum
London SW7 9BD

Tel 0171 938 8973/9348
Fax 0171 938 9268

I don’t know about allergy, but I heard in a workshop recently
that nickel silver is soon to be regulated by the state of
California because of its “toxicity”. I don’t know what about it
is supposedly toxic, but I got the impression the regulation had
something to do with classroom use. So maybe there is something
in it that some people have an adverse reaction to. Has anyone
else heard anything about this proposed regulation?


Nickel is probably the most likely of all metals to cause
allergies, dermatitis and eczema I believe it has been banned in
Europe for making jewellery. OSHA in USA should be able to
provide you with more

While I don’t know about the proposed regulation I can attest to
some people having extreme reactions to nickel silver. My wife
breaks out in large blisters if she happens to wear anything made
from nickel silver. I have always told her that was just an
excuse to buy gold instead.


Hi Alex,

recently I started working with nickel silver as well. As I am
very allergic to nickel, I was wondering about this issue, too.
But 'til now nothing happened and I’m working with this material
since about two weeks. Also I’ve been wearing a sterling and
nickel silver ring for a few days and there was no allergic
reaction to my skin. Maybe I should keep wearing it for a longer
time and see… Since nickel is known for causing allergies, I
doubt, nickel silver causes no allergy problems.

Concerning the nickel content of nickel silver: it usually lies
between 8 and 20%. Don’t know, from which percentage onwards one
has to expect allergic reactions.


sabineas virtual gallery:

I don’t know about California, but I’ve heard that nickel and
nickel alloys cannot be used for jewelry in Europe. Many of my
own customers are very careful to purchase only sterling or 14K
or higher gold because any nickel or nickel based alloy will
cause them to break out in a rash. In fact, I wonder if this is
a growing problem with toxicity to non precious metals (are
people becoming sensitized to base metals over time). In the
last few years I’ve noticed many more of my customers request 14K
earring posts to replace sterling posts and many claim they
cannot wear any non precious metal even if the piece does not
touch the skin as in a brooch or pendant.

Nancy <@Nancy_B_Widmer>

ICQ# 9472643
Bacliff, Texas US on the Gulf Coast just blocks from Galveston Bay

Hi Folks, There are a great number of people who are
allergic/sensitive to nickel. There is a simple test you can
perform to find out. Take an American 5 cent piece called,
amazingly enough, a nickel! Tape it with adhesive tape to the
inside of your upper arm. If after three days you have a rash
you are nickel sensitive/allergic. Remember that when your
dentist wants to put a nickel chrome crown in your mouth.

About 15 yrs. ago a friend of mine who ran an industrial plating
operation was telling me that the jury was still out whether in
some cases nickel could cause difficulties similar to mercury in
people only not so intense. They were also, if memory serves me
right, attempting to link it to Alzheimers.


Skip Meister
N.R.A. Endowment &
Certified Instructor
in all disciplines
Certified Illinois D.N.R.
Hunter Ed, Instructor

Anyhow, I was wondering if the nickel content
is likely to cause allergy problems. Does anyone have any
experience of this?

Nickel silver is the worst. I’m allergic to most metals except
sterling or better silver, and 14kt or better gold (and sometimes
the 14kt will break me out) - but I had a jeweler friend who made
some bracelet strips out of titanium and rhodium that did not
break me out either, and I am extremely allergic. I have to wear
band-aids on the back of the rivets in my jeans, so brass,
copper, etc. are all out of the question for this type of
contact allergy.

A metallurgical engineer once told me that it sounded like the
more inert metals caused the least problems. ?? Don’t really
know, but it sounded good to me.

Coincidentally, today’s Johns Hopkins Health Letter on the Web
has an article on nickel allergy, which is said to be “the
leading cause of allergy in America”…and once you have a
nickel allergy, it lasts for life. The article, from Reuters
Health, states that people already afflicted with eczema,hay
fever or asthma are at increased risk for nickel allergy.The
article also notes that the rise in prevalence of nickel
allergies coincides with the current body-piercing craze. It
quotes Dr. David Cohen ,Assistant Professor of Dermatology at
New York University School of Medicine :"…surgical-grade
stainless steel and titanium probably represent safer
materials." So, if that bauble bestowed on you by your beloved
causes your body to break out in blisters, chances are that it
has a high nickel content! …D.

Titanium and rhodium are both chemically inert to the body.
Titanium is often used for surgical implants for exactly this
reason. So they are not likely to cause you problems. high
carat gold, especially if alloyed mostly with silver, and less
copper, is less likely to cause problems, and you should have no
problem with platinum alloys either. A white gold can be made
with just gold and palladium, which will also be inert and cause
no allergies, but you do have to be careful in jewelery made from
it, because the solders used to fabricate these alloys will still
contain nickle. You’d need solid single casting pieces that did
not contain solder at all. The two most common problem metals
are nickle and to a lesser extent, copper, and trace metals used
in some alloys, especially solders, such as cadmium, zinc, and
tin, can also cause problems. Very few people are actually
allergic to the gold or silver content.

One thing to keep in mind with things like those rivets, is that
very often, copper based alloys like brass/bronze, etc, are used
with electroplated finishes. Commonly a nickle plate is part of
the process, often as an underplate to the final finish. so it
may be that in those rivets, it’s again nickle causing the

Peter Rowe

Nickel as a component of the base metal used for a lot of cheap
silver plated findings available here in England is the main
source of irritation caused by the components. Not everybody
suffers but for those who do (my wife is one) the effect is most
unpleasant. There is now an EEC directive requiring these
compnents to be made of a ‘low nickel’ formula. Nickel Directive
76/769/EEC 14th amendment. No product may contain more than 0.05%
of nickel. No product may release nickel at a rate of more than
0.05ug/cm2/week for a duration of at least 2 years of normal use.
To be classified as ‘nickel free’ the nickel content must be
less than 0.01% (UK trading standards definition)

Sterling silver and ct gold all usually comply. Andy Parker,
Agate House Lapidary Ulverston, Cumbria, England

I don't know about California, but I've heard that nickel and
nickel alloys cannot be used for jewelry in Europe.

Hmm, I’m from Germany, but I’ve never heard of that. But it
really could be, that nickel and its alloys must not be used in
jewelry anymore. Is anybody around, who knows something about


sabineas virtual gallery
metal-design, jewelry & silverwork

Hi Sabine, when I lived in Berlin, there was a metal alloy
called “Neusilber” it translates as german silver or nickle
silver. Back then I used to make wire name pins and the wire I
used was nickle silver. Take Care. Vince LaRochelle. Eugene,

My understanding is that the EU has banned the use of Nickel in
jewelry that is sold in the EU. This is causing any company that
wants to sell in the EU to quit using nickel in their
manufacturing processes. there have been a couple of references
to this in AJM in the past several years. I am not sure when the
ban takes effect or if it is already in effect.


James Binnion Metal Arts
4701 San Leandro St #18
Oakland, CA 94601

Concerning the regulations of nickel use in jewelry in Europe,
you might want to take a look at this address:


sabineas virtual gallery
metal-design, jewelry & silverwork

Sabina, Thanks for the pointer to the MSJA website. The webpage
says that it is current as of Feb 1995 it also makes reference
to a uniform EU decision by summer 1997. Do you have any info on
the curent state of regulation in Europe concerning nickel? Jim

James Binnion Metal Arts
4701 San Leandro St #18
Oakland, CA 94601