Many people experience allergy caused by original or artificial jewellery and this is known as either nickel dermatitis, contact dermatitis or nickel allergy. Essentially it is a ‘contact allergy’ meaning that it occurs on contact with something rather than having to eat it or breath it in, and can develop in anyone at any age. The interesting thing is that every single person actually reacts in some way to nickel, though the amount to which this occurs simply varies according to the individual’s tolerance dictated by their unique body chemistry.
Signs of jewellery allergy might be bleeding, itchiness, redness and soreness which will be local to the jewellery. If you experience an itchy face, neck or ears after wearing jewellery then this is one possible sign, particularly if there’s no obvious cause such as a rash. Alternatively this might take the form of a blueish-black patch around the ring finger, face or ears.
In the cases of piercings you might see swelling and pus. This is particularly bad for those with an allergy to jewellery as piercing artists will use a thin piece of gold often in order to make the piercing. This then contacts with the open wound resulting in a longer lasting and more itchy reaction. Thus if you experience an itchy face or ears after a piercing – even if you are not wearing any jewellery in it – then this can cause such a reaction.
You should be able to identify the cause of the irritation as the jewellery or piercing due to the location and duration of the problem, you will find it reoccurs wherever you wear certain jewellery (however in some cases the itch might not be precisely local to the jewellery – for example you might get an itchy face from a necklace). You might have to carry out tests by seeing whether you can induce the reaction with jewellery or nickel.
Most pieces of jewellery include nickel. The reason for this is that pure gold and silver are too soft in order to mount. Jewellers then include other metals in the mixture which usually involve nickel but can also be zinc or copper.
In some cases however the individual will still be allergic to the gold or silver itself, as these too are reactive metals, though this is less common. Allergies can also be exacerbated by perspiration. Here if the jewellery is on for a long period of time the skin beneath it will start to sweat and when this comes into contact with the metal it will dissolve the nickel and creates nickel salts which affect the skin. Another unrelated cause for allergy is that soap or water get caught underneath a ring for example which dries out the skin leading to ecsthma or cracking skin.
Any allergy to a material like this will be exacerbated if you get a piercing. This tends to use a very fine piece of gold which when stamped through the skin can affect that exposed flesh particularly angrily. Ensure that you speak to a jeweller or piercing artist before the procedure.
If you do experience an allergy to jewellery of some kind then there precautions you can take that will help. It is possible to find jewellery that leaves out nickel for those that experience a serious reaction though this will drastically limit the amount of jewellery available to you. Speak to your local jewellery designers and see if you can have jewellery made without the nickel. Here palladium will likely be used which does not cause any allergies but is unfortunately more expensive. Similarly jewellery for the allergic should be lacqured, coated or plated with palladium which allows you to make old jewellery wearable.
Additionally wearing talcum powder beneath the jewellery can help prevent moisture and sweat. Jewellery should be worn loosely and piercings should be avoided. There are some medications that physicians can provide to help lessen the discomfort but these will only be temporary measures.