What Is a Gold Allergy?
There are some people who experience an allergic reaction when wearing gold jewelry. What are the symptoms? Usually, the skin in contact with the jewelry will become red and itchy. In most cases, taking off the gold piece and washing the skin with water and soap will alleviate the problem.
It is worth noting, however, that allergies to gold are rare. If you get a rash from wearing gold jewelry, it is very likely that it is not gold that you are allergic to but nickel.
Are You Allergic to Nickel?
Many pieces of jewelry are made of alloys that contain nickel.
One of the metals most often used to create such alloys is gold. Since it is a very soft metal, it is often mixed with nickel and other metals to make it more suitable for wearing as jewelry.
Generally, the lower the purity of the gold alloy, i.e. the lower the karat of the jewelry, the bigger part of it is made up of non-gold metals, including nickel.
That’s why low-karat gold jewelry is more likely to cause allergic reactions.
There is no hard and fast rule to tell whether a certain piece of jewelry will give you an allergic reaction as different pieces are made of different alloys with varying concentrations of nickel.
So, it is entirely possible to have two 10-karat rings and one of them to contain more nickel than the other.
That’s why sometimes pieces of jewelry that seem similar in the material they are made of can have different effects on your skin.
How to Tell If You Are Allergic to Nickel
Most often, people find out about their nickel allergy after they wear a piece of jewelry that causes the skin in contact with it to break out in a rash.
However, there are better ways to test whether you have such an allergy. For example, you can have a scratch test or a patch test done on your skin by a dermatologist.
What to Do If You Have a Nickel Allergy
If you are allergic to nickel, one of the things you can do is buy gold jewelry that is of a higher karat grade.
Most people with such an allergy cannot wear 10k gold, so if you are in the same situation, you can opt for 14k or 18k gold. Try higher karats until you find the type of gold you can tolerate.
Avoid gold plated jewelry as these pieces are covered with a gold layer that will eventually wear out and expose the base layer, which often contains nickel.
White gold is another material that is not recommended for people allergic to nickel.
The reason is that this type of gold is made from yellow gold mixed with other metals to make it look whiter, and there is often nickel among them.
Jewelry made of white gold is often plated with rhodium, but it will eventually wear down, and the nickel beneath will come into contact with your skin.
What’s even worse, sometimes, the plating itself can contain nickel. So if you’re buying white gold, make sure that it is nickel free.
The Best Solution: Hypoallergenic Jewelry
Perhaps the best option you have if you have an allergy to nickel is to wear jewelry made of hypoallergenic materials, i.e. nickel-free metals and alloys that do not cause skin irritation or other adverse effects.
Platinum is one example of a metal that does not cause allergies, but you should make sure that the particular piece of jewelry does not contain any nickel as sometimes platinum is mixed with it.
If platinum seems too expensive for you, you can try sterling silver or even stainless steel. Click here to see a selection of popular stainless steel jewelry designs (some of these do contain gold and other metals, but you might want to look only at the pieces that are pure stainless steel).
There is also hypoallergenic gold jewelry, which does not contain nickel.
If you want something that is not as soft as silver and requires less maintenance, titanium is another good choice – it is extremely durable and very light.
A Note of Caution
Even if you buy nickel-free or high-karat jewelry, it could still cause an allergic reaction.
If you have your ring resized or repaired and the jeweler uses an alloy containing nickel to solder or rebuild some of the ring’s parts, you may end up with a piece that contains traces of nickel.
So, if you know that you’re allergic and you are having your jewelry repaired, you should ask the jeweler whether any nickel will be used in the process.