Here we offer a guide to hypoallergenic metals for earrings for sensitive ears including Niobium, Titanium, Argentium Silver, & Surgical Steel. Discover the qualities of these jewelry metals to determine which is the best hypoallergenic solution for comfort for your sensitive ears.
Jewelry Metals We Offer
Pure Niobium. Nickel Free, Elemental. Niobium is ultra comfortable. Often people remark that they forget they are even wearing earrings while they are wearing Niobium. We began offering Niobium as a solution for those with metal allergies whose skin reacts badly to other jewelry metals back in 2009 and in all that time after selling thousands of pairs of Niobium earrings, we have only had 2 customers report back with true allergy symptoms. So it seems in practice that an allergy to Niobium is very rare.
We currently use Commercially Pure Grade 1 and 2 Titanium for ear wires, most stud earrings, and ear nut earring backs. Commercially Pure Grade 1 and 2 Titanium are just that - pure, elemental Titanium. It is therefore Nickel Free. Like Niobium, it is very comfortable to wear. It is also very rare to have a Titanium allergy.
Some Titanium post earrings are made from Grade 23 Titanium, made up of 90% Titanium, 6% Aluminum, and 4% Vanadium. This is the grade of Titanium commonly used surgically in the medical field for Titanium left in the body (for example joint replacements, surgical staples, bone fixation devices, and orthopedic pins, screws and cables). This Titanium is considered hypoallergenic and is nickel free. It is also very comfortable.
Argentium Silver (or Argentium Sterling Silver) is used in our prong set post earrings and as bezel settings in some of our post earrings styles. Argentium Silver is 92.5% silver, 6.3% copper, and 1.2% germanium. It is tarnish free so it will shine for you without the need for periodic polishing. Argentium Silver is nickel free and is very comfortable.
Our Surgical Steel (or 316L "Surgical" Stainless Steel) posts and ear wires are made from the 316L alloy of Stainless Steel. This is considered hypoallergenic but it is NOT nickel free. We offer it for those who know they can wear Surgical Steel (and have allergies to other metals not contained it it). 316L contains steel (which is iron with carbon), chromium (for corrosion and scratch resistance), 8-10.5% nickel (for increasing strength and higher and lower temperatures and reducing brittleness), 2-3% molybdenum (for more corrosion resistance), and trace elements that are approximately 0.75% silicon, 0.045% phosphorous, 0.03% sulfur, 2% manganese, and 0.1% nitrogen. Surgical Steel is dubbed "surgical" because it is used in some instruments used in surgeries because of its durability.
Our Surgical Steel ear nut earring backs are Grade SAE 304 Stainless Steel. SAE 304 contains 18-20% chromium, 8-10.5% nickel, 0.08% carbon, plus iron and trace elements, which include approximately 0.75% silicon, 0.045% phosphorous, 0.03% sulfur, 2% manganese, and 0.1% nitrogen.
How do I know what I am reacting to?
Everyone's body is unique to them. Likewise, metal allergies vary from person to person - so what is considered hypoallergenic for one person may not be for another person. For example, for someone with a nickel allergy, jewelry metals would be considered hypoallergenic as long as they do not contain nickel. For another individual with a gold allergy, the jewelry metals would need to be gold free in order to be considered hypoallergenic.
Here is a chart that we put together showing common jewelry metals and what metal elements they are made of. If you know you have had bad reactions to certain jewelry metals, you can look here at what "ingredients" you are potentially allergic or sensitive to. Keep in mind you could have reactions to more than one!
And, also keep in mind that not all jewelry is marketed / labeled accurately. See here for more on that issue: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/costume-jewelry-found-to-have-high-levels-of-toxins-and-carcinogens-tests-show/