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This is a question that many people with nickel allergies ask but there’s conflicting information out there. Some say that sterling silver has only trace elements of nickel and can’t cause allergies, whereas others say to steer clear of sterling silver.
If you have skin
reactions when you wear sterling silver, it’s important to know whether or not
your silver has nickel.
What’s a Nickel Allergy?
Nickel allergy is a type of dermatitis that occurs when nickel comes into contact with your skin. This can vary in severity depending on the person, ranging from slight itchiness to pus-filled infections requiring medical attention.
Most people with
nickel allergies experience irritation or discomfort around their wrists, ears
and sometimes neck. Pierced ears are especially susceptible to irritation can
result in infections if the earholes get affected. Necklaces containing nickel
can sometimes leave rashes around the neck.
Does Pure Silver Cause Allergies?
Silver itself doesn’t
cause allergies. Pure silver, also known as fine silver, refers to silver that
is 99.9% pure. It is hypoallergenic and contains no nickel. So, if you are
extremely sensitive to nickel this is an excellent option for you. Note that
pure silver is a soft, malleable metal and can easily lose shape which is why
it’s rarely used in jewelry-making.
99.9% pure silver earrings. See them here.
Because of how soft
pure silver is, it’s often combined with other metals to add strength and durability
and to make it possible for use when making jewelry. Silver alloyed with other
metals is known as sterling silver.
Does Sterling Silver Have Nickel?
Sterling silver is
92.5% pure silver with the other 7.5% of the alloy made up of different metals,
typically copper. However, sometimes nickel is used in the alloy and this can
cause skin reactions for some people. When people say that they’ve got
allergies to sterling silver, it’s more likely that the allergy is to the
nickel in the silver rather than to the silver itself.
92.5% pure earrings. See them here.
Always check with your
jeweler if the jewelry you’re buying contains nickel. They should be able to
give you this information.
Tips to Wearing Sterling Silver with Nickel Safely
If you already have sterling silver jewelry that causes reactions, but you aren’t quite ready to get rid of them yet, you can try coating the sections that come into contact with your skin with clear nail polish or a professional jewelry sealant like this one that prevents allergies.
You can also try applying petroleum jelly
on the sterling silver to act as a buffer between your skin and the metal. This
will need to be reapplied every several hours but it works well if you’re
afraid of breaking out in a rash.
In short, sterling silver is usually quite safe
for most people as nickel isn’t always used in the alloys. However, if you have
severe reactions to nickel, check with your jeweler before you buy.