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Extreme allergy to gold

Dear Reader I have a client who recently developed an extreme allergy
to gold and all metals except stainless steel. She wore a pair of
earrings which literally fell through her ear lobe eating its way
down leaving two parts. There was no blood at all. She had to have
plastic surgery to knit them together.

Has anyone heard of anything similar? or are there any solutions?

Claudia Martin

This is truly sounding extreme. This person must see an allergist or
medical specialist right away. It is odd that the earrings were not
removed until such a strong reaction set in for so long. In theory
no one is allergic to pure gold. It is likely this person is allergic
to another element in the gold alloy such as zinc or copper.
Stainless steel varies in content quite a lot. This unfortunate
person must ID their allergies and act accordingly.

Daniel Ballard


Gold is very un-reactive. I have never heard of a gold allergy (I am
far from worldly). Perhaps since gold is rarely pure, it was the
alloyed metal that gave an allergy? I have had a piercing do exactly
what you describe, but it was not in my ear. It was a stainless bar
the was rejected. I had 9 other piercings that didn’t grow out, but
one did exactly as you describe over a 72-48hrs period. Just my

Brian Barrett

You can fashion some ear wires from titanium wire. See for examples.


We have a teenage girl in our church that has serious allergic
reactions to eyeglasses, jewelery, furniture, etc. I once found an
article on titanium being non allergenic or at least help for
glasses and perhaps some other uses… Several years ago some one else
wrote in about metal allergies. If anyone has more please
post it; I know this girl is always looking for new

Hi Claudia,

I don’t know about an allegry to gold, but some years ago, some
radioactive gold caused some problems. It seems that a nuimber of
cases of people having cancer in their left hand ring finger were
showing up in hospitals. Their fingers were eaten away to the bone.
Because of the similarity of these cases, their wedding rings were
examined, and a geiger counter indicated that they were radio
active. All the rings had come from the same distributor, and it
seems that the gold in them had come from gold that had been
reclaimed from some hospital. I don’t recall all of the details as
this was quite a number of years ago. Since then, hospitals are
required to follow strict measures before of disposing of metals.
Perhaps some other Orchid member has more specific
about this matter. Alma

I don’t that I would recommend this for the extreme case of
someone’s ear being ripped apart but here is a link to a process
that has proven successful w/ many allergies. Crazy as it may
sound, it certainly is worth considering as an alternative solution
to the suffering.

Allergies to alloys are very common. I myself had to have caps in
my mouth replaced because my gums were purple from the nickel used.
My ears turn black from the 14K wires once a month (if you know what
I mean.) I had a customer who had extreme reactions to 14k on his
left hand, but not on the right. Usually 18k works for most
allergies afflicted. For sure platinum will cause no allergies.


Cary -

I had a friend some years back that had the same problem you
describe. When he wore anything of metal, it would first start to
become etched from his sweat

  • for example a wristwatch band. Then glasses - the earpieces would
    start to deteriorate.

He mentioned rashes. He used to joke that he must have “alien

One time I was talking to him, and he was fiddling with a coin - and
the next day he showed me where he had left a thumbprint etched into
the coin! At some point, they started making glasses frames out of
titanium, and he is able to wear these with no problems. I don’t have
any solutions, and I have since lost touch with him, but it does
sound similar.

He went to a Dr. who somehow did tests on his swat, and determined
it has a high amount of some sort of acid.

I’m not sure what type - perhaps this girl could see a Dr. about it.

  • Mary Beth

Hi Claudia,

Unusual, for sure. Don’t blame the gold, though. It is very likely
the alloys in the gold causing the problem. If she were to wear a
higher karat (you didn’t say whether the posts were yellow, white,
10k or higher) there would likely not be any issues.

Gold is, in a pure or purer state, hypoallergenic, and my clients
who have told me about nickel allergies have successfully worn my
nickel-alloyed white gold because the nickel is present in a ratio
of less than 20%.

If the earrings in question were unusually heavy, it could be that
the client’s earlobes could not handle the stress, and simply wound
up getting sliced through in a slow process.

David Keeling

niobium is supposed to be non-allergenic as well.


Claudia, One major solution that I can see is for the client to
remove the earrings at the first sign of an allergic reaction. For
the metal to have eaten it’s way through her ear would have taken
some time and, in most cases, such a severe histamine response would
almost certainly have produced itching and/or burning in a most
serious way. My own wife has extreme sensitivity to a great many
metals and alloys and, when she starts having a reaction, it is very
evident because of the itching, burning, and visible blistering. She
is able to wear sterling and fine silvers as well as gold.

If you manufactured the rings that affected your client so
drastically, I would suggest that you test the wires or posts used
for purity. It seems likely that they may not be as pure as they
were represented to be when you purchased them. Another possibility
would be to test out surgical grade titanium because it has a
reputation for being hypo allergenic.

This poor lady may have to find other means of adornment and should
let her doctors/dentists in on the fact that she had such an extreme


Does the allergic person live in cold country or did she recently
return from a snow ski trip? If the person is exposed to extreme
cold, the awful reaction you describe could be due to severe
frostbite. With below zero Fahrenheit temperatures, even 3 minutes
of exposure on ear lobes with metal earrings can “burn” at the point
of contact (ear wires). This type of damage looks the same as the
inflammation seen with allergies. Maybe?


It sounds like it could be nickle that’s bothering her. It is not
hard to get eye glasses that are nickle free.

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Studio 925; established 1992