Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Safe materials for earwires?


#1

Does anyone have any advice on what materials should or shouldn’t be
used for earwires? I’m concerned about what will be irritating to
ears.

I have always used sterling silver for earwires and metal components
but am now about to add other materials and metals, such as copper,
bronze, etc., to earrings. Because of that some of the color
combinations may not have any sterling color or may not work well
with sterling silver earwires and will look unmatched.

There are many earwire colors and materials I would like to work
with but am concerned if I use some of them such as base metals it
will cause allergic reactions or even maybe even turn ears green.

Any ideas from anyone what type of earwires to use when silver
earwire can’t be used?

Thanks,
Sheila


#2

I only use gold or silver for earwires - I’ve never seen a rule
banning the combining of metals and I rather like the look of copper
and silver - what I don’t like is green ear lobes.

Barbara


#3
Any ideas from anyone what type of earwires to use when silver
earwire can't be used? 

Sheila, don’t use copper, bronze, brass, nickel silver or other
copper based metals for ear wires. The chances that they will cause
problems are high.

You should try use metals that are essentially non reactive with skin
and perspiration. Silver, as you know, is one of these. So are most
gold alloys, although some people have trouble with nickel based
white golds or low karat golds. You can use palladium based white
golds without problems. Platinum is perhaps the ultimate in precious
metal that is hypoallergenic and inert. You can also use gold filled
wires, if you are careful in working it, that you don’t polish or
otherwise cut through the gold layer to the base metal underneath.
These, however, won’t last forever. Eventually, your customers might
wear through the gold.

If these are out of your price range (and from your post I’m
guessing they are), then consider surgical stainless steel, though
this is not dramatically different in color from sterling. Darker,
but still white. But it’s a more subdued white, and may work for some
of your needs, and they’re inexpensive.

The next option, one which may offer considerable merit for your
color needs are the reactive metals, titanium and niobium. You can
anodize these metals to a useful range of colors that can coordinate
with almost any other metal you might be using. If you don’t wish to
anodize them yourself, you can buy earwires already made and colored,
or wire already colored from which to make your earwires. Titanium
and niobium are almost completely hypoallergenic, and are durable as
well as affordable too. Check Reactive Metals Inc.'s web site

Peter


#4

Hello Sheila, It is best practice to avoid copper, bronze and nickel
for the earwires or posts - all of them can cause reactions in
sensitive individuals. Surgical stainless steel, sterling in any
alloy combination including argentium and palladium contatining
alloys, fine silver and vermeil ( 24 karat plating over fine silver-
also called gold d’ore) niobium and titanium, anodized or not are
safe. Some ultra sensitive individuals react to 14 karat gold, and
in particular 14 karat white gold due to the percentage of nickel
added to give the white colour to the percentage that is not fine
gold (applies to any findings or components for that matter)… Hope
this clarifies it for you…rer


#5

You might want to try niobium ear wires. I’ve had very good luck with
thes e for people who are sensitive to other metals, and the anodized
versions come in a number of colors that might work for your designs.
Rio Grande carries these.

Caren Johannes
The Amethyst Rose


#6

Sheila,

I use brown niobium ear wires for copper, brass and bronze jewelry.
Niobium is supposed to be one of the least allergy causing metals
for ear wires. I also buy brown niobium wire and make my own ear
wires. I tape my pliers so the anodized color does not come off as I
am forming my earwires. Niobium is pretty stiff so it works pretty
well for ear wires.

You can also patina Sterling Silver ear wires to a brown color. I
have heard some folks use clear nail polish to cover the surface of
brass or copper ear wires, but that seems like a lot of work. No one
has ever returned or complained about the brown niobium ear wires so
those are what I stick with.

Monica


#7

Sheila- Your concerns are legitimate. Copper and brass will turn
ears green and irritate the piercings.

Many folks are allergic to nickle as well. That’s why we sometimes
have to go with platinum for white ear wires.

Best to stick with noble metals for ear wires and posts.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#8

Hi Shiela,

I would use nothing but precious metals - sterling or gold or
stainless steel at a pinch. I expect titanium would also work but
this can only use cold connections. Anything else causes stains,
reactions with the skin and infections. I would use nothing else but
precious metals, titanium or stainless for the metal part of any
jewellery comes in contact with the body.

I even have a relative who can’t wear sterling silver because they
react to the 7.5% copper.

All the best
Jen


#9

You could go with anodized niobium or titanium. You can find them in
a brassy and coppery color and they are hypoallergenic. I use them a
lot and have never had anyone report a problem.

Donna in VA


#10

It was said surgical steel is safe. Surgical steel has nickel in it.
Skip it. There is a difference in plain stainless steel and surgical
steel. Surgical steel has nickel and molybdenum added for strength.
Some people are sensitive to sulphates also. Sulphates form when
silver and copper oxidize (tarnish). Some people are able to wear
clean shiny silver (and copper), but not if it is tarnished (even
barely tarnished). White gold usually has nickel in it.

Silver can been alloyed with nickel. Usually not, especially nowadays
with as many people becoming sensitized to nickel.

Val


#11

Val,

Thank you for letting me know that surgical stainless steel has
nickel – I am hypersensitive to nickle. It is one thing to have a
rash on my hand or wrist that drives me nuts scratching - I can only
imagine what it might be like implanted somewhere where I couldn’t
scratch!!! Goes on all my charts everywhere tomorrow!

Barbara


#12

Peter, you said “Titanium and niobium are almost completely
hypoallergenic”.

The word almost in that sentence is important. I heard from a friend
yesterday who is very allergic to nickel, and can’t wear silver or
gold earrings either. She decided to try some titanium ear wires
advertised especially for allergy sufferers and, you guessed it, is
allergic to titanium as well. I plan to send her a pair of Argentium
silver earrings I’ll make myself (so we’ll know exactly what it’s
made of) and see how she fairs with that. Hopefully her problems with
silver were because of the other metals in the sterling and not the
silver itself.

Mary Partlan
White Branch Designs


#13
Thank you for letting me know that surgical stainless steel has
nickel -- I am hypersensitive to nickle. It is one thing to have a
rash on my hand or wrist that drives me nuts scratching - I can
only imagine what it might be like implanted somewhere where I
couldn't scratch!!! Goes on all my charts everywhere tomorrow! 

Do you eat with stainless flatware or cook in stainless steel pans,
those items have nickel in them too. Kitchen ware is typically made
from 18-8 stainless, the 18 refers to the percentage of chromium
content and the 8 refers to the percentage nickel. It is not whether
there is nickel present but how bio-available it is. If surgical
stainless is properly passivated most nickel sensitized people will
not have a reaction to it.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#14
It was said surgical steel is safe. Surgical steel has nickel in
it. Skip it. There is a difference in plain stainless steel and
surgical steel. Surgical steel has nickel and molybdenum added for
strength. 

All the austenitic stainless steels (200 and 300 series and the
common 18-8 stainless steels) have nickel in them (as much as 35% ).
The austenitic varieties are by far the majority of stainless steel
in use, it is used for everything from kitchenware to medical
instruments. There is no real definition for what surgical steel is
but often it is 316 stainless which does indeed have molybdenum but
it is added for increased corrosion resistance over 304 stainless
which is the most common of the 300 series steels. The majority of
the 300 series have about 8% nickel in them but the remaining
chemistry however determines how much nickel is available on the
surface to be bio available. For example 302 will not pass the EU
nickel release tests and 304 and 316 will pass the test and all 3
have 8% nickel in them. For the vast majority of people 316 will not
cause problems but there are some folks that will have a reaction,
but there are actually a tiny number of people who have allergic
reaction to fine gold so there are no guarantees of a universal safe
metal.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#15

I believe there is nickel in stainless steal.

Jo
shiftingmetal.com


#16

Mary, That is very curious. In over 30 years I have yet to see a
confirmed case of allergic reactions to titanium or niobium for that
matter.

Bill
Reactive Metals Studio, Inc


#17
The word almost in that sentence is important. I heard from a
friend yesterday who is very allergic to nickel, and can't wear
silver or gold earrings either. She decided to try some titanium
ear wires advertised especially for allergy sufferers and, you
guessed it, is allergic to titanium as well. 

As Jim Binnion pointed out in another post today, there are some
people who will be allergic to virtually any choice you can find,
even if it’s a tiny proportion. The reactive metals are unusual
because skin is not in contact with a metal surface. Rather, it’s in
contact with the highly durable and generally inert oxide coating the
metals form. (this is why things like surgical implants, pacemakers,
etc, are often made of titanium alloys) That makes them generally
react differently than do metals for people allergic to metals. Thus
they are a solution for many. But as you note, for virtually any
choice you try, there will be some people who cannot tolerate it, and
that’s not just metals. Plastics and other jewelry options too, will
be unwearable for a small number of people.

As to argentium, don’t be too sure about it being different from
sterling. Silver itself is a biologically active metal. Generally
fine for humans, but well known as a bacterial and fungal inhibitor
(one reason it’s used for food utensils and vessels, or in some
cases, water canteens and the like). If it can do that, you can bet
some people too will react to it. But hopefully, you’ll get lucky.

If that doesn’t work, try platinum. As with other choices, some
folks can’t wear it (some people simply can’t wear any pierced
earrings, no matter what the material), but often, people may be
reactive to some things, but not all, and you need to find what they
are not sensative to. I’ve found most people I know who’ve had
trouble with metal sensitivity can wear platinum. I recall only one
customer of mine who couldn’t wear it (and she did OK with
titanium).

Peter


#18

I will add that some of the people who are allergic to everything can
have a chronic infection (be it bacterial or fungal) of the piercing
itself. As long as there is nothing in the hole there may not be any
visible symptoms but put something (Anything) in the hole and it
allows air in plus there is mechanical irritation and it flares up
causing redness and pain, but because it is chronic it never has pus
or appears infected.

Kay


#19
Silver itself is a biologically active metal. Generally fine for
humans, but well known as a bacterial and fungal inhibitor (one
reason it's used for food utensils and vessels, or in some cases,
water canteens and the like). 

Also fillings. When I used to make crowns and bridges the dentist in
whose office I worked used to marvel at how little decay there would
be around silver fillings that were so loose as to rattle in the
teeth. He attributed it to the antibiotic properties of the silver or
its oxide.

A


#20

For those that aren’t sensitive to nickel and think that it is a
whole bunch of malarky… Even the nickel industry believes it is a
true health problem. Some things cause more reactions than others
(read below). SO yes I can cook with a stainless steel pot, BUT the
hooks on the back of my bra really drive me up the wall where
sometimes I even put tape on my back! And they are covered with
material… but sometimes the material slips and they just touch my
skin. Some stainless steels contain nickel and some do not. Nickel is
added for strength and to increase the anti-corrosion property. As
for medical implants/surgical steel… the medical industry is
actually making other types of medical implants due to this problem.
So if you are CONSCIOUS and have a nickel sensitivity, be sure to let
them know at the hospital. I have it listed on a card I keep in my
wallet with all my medical

This is taken from
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ss

“transient, short-term contact with nickel-containing articles such
as coinage, keys, handles, tools and other equipment does not appear
to be a factor in the induction of an allergic contact dermatitis
within the general population. If the contact is of short duration
and infrequent, the risk of sensitization is negligible, and the risk
of the elicitation of dermatitis is limited.” and it cites its
source.

earlier in the site it states

The development of nickel ACD requires that an individual become
immunologicaly sensitized to nickel. This is termed the induction
phase or sensitizaton phase and takes from 1 to 3 weeks of INTIMATE
skin contact (emphasis mine) with a form of nickel that can provide
sufficient amount of soluble nickel ions to the skin primarily via
sweat. The quantity of nickel ions that is sufficient to induce
sensitivity varies with the individual. If the skin is already
damaged, the sensitization will be induced more quickly and by lower
amounts of the solubulized nickel. Temperature, the presence of other
allergic conditions, race, sex and age may also be determining
factors on the susceptibility for the speed of the sensitization to
nickel. Induction of ACD is ore common if exposure is combined with
skin irritants and/or moist skin.

A sensitized individual, when re-exposed to nickel ions on the skin
in sufficient amounts, may have an allergic response within a matter
of hours.

Val