Safe Piercing Jewellery Materials
I. Good Jewel, Bad Jewel …
If you’re looking to purchase a new piece of jewellery for your healed piercing or earring, you are always looking for certain properties.
- A beautiful piece of jewellery without breaking the bank,
- A safe piece of jewellery that is durable.
So basically, four things. Four things that initially cannot be combined. In any case, the “cheap” part is often difficult to find in combination with the other criteria. Beautiful, durable, and safe are properties that you get with brand jewellery.
Jewellery from well-known brands is often protected with a guarantee; and they are made by hand so they are also finely finished.
Reliable body piercing jewellery is made by professionals with a love for piercing. Here they are much more and better focused on the quality of the material and therefore also on the safety of the material to wear in the skin for the long term. With certain well-known brands you can assume that these are properties of their jewellery. Brands such as Industrial Strength for example. And there are more.
But What If Your Jewellery Is Unbranded?
Is it bad? Sadly, it often is. If you can check certificates from the supplier and the seller talks openly about the quality and finish, it will often be good (always double-check because making a mistake is human!). But in most cases: if it comes in without a brand name, it is not believed to be suitable for healing piercings or other applications on or inside the skin.
Mass production jewellery that you buy on the market or in accessory stores in the shopping centre will unfortunately not be sustainable, safe jewellery. Far from it, since these have not been checked, just like fashion earrings from the drugstore or clothing stores.
What Are Features To Look For When Looking To Purchase Piercing Jewellery?
It is important that the jewellery for body piercings and earrings meets a few standards.
Standards for implants. Because the composition of a material can be this or that, but how can you be sure?
By consulting the certificates of the manufacturer. If the certificates are valid (because there are many copies going around) and comply with the corresponding ASTM standard, then you are already on the right track. This is because the chemical composition and the density of the material has been verified.
The Material And The Size
In addition, it is important that the jewellery is correctly finished. There should be no sharp edges or edges, especially on the part of the jewellery that protrudes through the skin. This surface must be resistant to scratches and wear for a long time and must not have any edges or patters or other irregularities. These can become a breeding ground for bacteria. And thus, cause irritations that otherwise would never have occurred.
So it is not only about possible nickel allergy (or another allergy such as a carbon allergy, or gold, palladium, platinum …) but about the bio-compatibility of the material in an open wound and later the durability and resistance of the material in the longer term. Otherwise you will still suffer from it in a few months.
The metal must be well polished (preferably by hand) so as not to admit bacteria when worn for a long time.
Much larger, better-known brands for body piercing jewellery such as Industrial Strength and Anatometal, for example, use the so-called “mirror finish”, which basically means that the jewellery is steam-cleaned after manufacturing, then polished by hand and then steam-cleaned again.
You also want the entire piece of jewellery to be finished properly.
The ball, for example, must be nice and smooth and the hole where the screw thread is located (in case of externally threaded jewellery) must also run smoothly inwards.
You also want the solid parts attached to the post to be smooth and without sharp edges. You want the rings to form perfect circles and for the metal to be solid and strong, corresponding to the strength of the metal you choose (gold, is softer than steel, is softer than titanium).
Of course, you also do not want any glue on or in the jewellery, not even for securing the stones.
Brand jewellery is quality jewellery, but as with designer clothes, these are often more expensive.
Also pay attention to the threading.
The threads can be external or internal. This means that the screw thread can be on the post to screw the ball onto it, or the screw thread can be inside the post to screw the ball into the post with a protruding thread.
An externally threaded piece of jewellery can be irritating to the skin when taking it in and out because the thread can then scrape the fistula. A jewel with a screw thread on the inside often does not have this issue. Some jewellery with an external thread has very sharp edges, these are of poorer quality and can cause damage. Good thread, externally or internally, has rounded edges and a smooth finish to give bacteria no chance and to make removing and removing the jewellery easily and harmlessly.
II. Safe And Less Safe Materials For Piercings.
The following materials are used in piercing jewellery. Some are better than others, some are very unsuitable in the long term and I therefore advise against.
PAY ATTENTION! Not All Materials Below Are Suitable.
Hypoallergenic materials: Hypoallergenic means that you can hardly get an allergic reaction from it. It means the allergen quantity is either less than normal or low. An allergen is a constituent of a natural or artificial substance that can cause allergic reactions. Hypoallergenic materials for piercing jewellery are materials that are therefore safe to use, even with sensitive skin or piercings that have not yet fully healed.
Titanium is on top of the list.
- ASTM F 136 Ti6AL4VEli Titanium or
- ASTM F 1295 Ti6AlNb titanium or
- ASTM F 67 Commercially Pure Titanium for example.
Usually if someone has a reaction to a piece of jewellery, whatever piece of jewellery – it does not have to be a piercing jewellery but it can also be a necklace or bracelet – then they often actually have a reaction to the nickel that the material contains. Titanium contains almost no nickel (less than 0.05%).
In Piercings (by Reliable Piercers) usually 6Al-4V-Eli ASTM F 136 Titanium is used.
Titanium can be highly polished, or even polished by hand, giving it a silver shine like that of steel jewellery. It is a strong metal and does not break. It is 45% lighter than steel. The specific difference between these and other Titanium types is the reduction of oxygen content to 0.13% in Ti 6Al-4v-Eli. This gives better ductility and toughness with some reduction in strength.
It can also be coloured by a process called anodizing. Due to current and correct voltage, oxides will form on the surface of the metal and when light comes through this layer, many vibrant colours can be created.
Sometimes So-called “Surgical” Steel Is Used For Piercings.
“Surgical” steel is, in reality, stainless steel with the hallmark 316L. A water cooker is made of stainless steel (SS) 304, to give you an idea. L stands for Lower carbon content. Due to this lower content, this type of steel is insensitive to changes that normally occur with 316 steel when it is placed under very higher temperatures.
316LVM Steel Has Undergone An Additional Process.
316LVM steel is a variety of 316L steel manufactured exclusively by Fort Wayne Metal Research Product Corporation. This is the most reliable implantable version of the 316L steel. Contrary to popular belief, it contains no less nickel than its big brother. But the way it is manufactured greatly reduces the likelihood of the components mixing with impurities during melting.
The letters V and M stand for Vacuum Melting. Really melted under vacuum. After electric melting, it is remelted under vacuum to achieve a very uniform chemistry that contains a minimal amount of impurities. This means that the metal is melted and deposited in a vacuum, which limits external contaminants and thus has a lower chance of ending up in the metal. This makes the metals purer.
In addition, this technique makes it even more resistant to corrosion and micro-cracks that can become nests for bacteria.
Something commonly encountered in surgical steel jewellery sold in malls or on the market is poor workmanship: rhinestones are poorly attached with glue and have sharp edges.
Unfortunately, there is no laboratory test that can be performed to determine if it is a metal that has been vacuum fused.
(Surgical) Steel is widely used for piercing jewellery because it is affordable, durable, and non-corrosive.
Corrosion is the discoloration or decay of the metal over time, or in contact with water or other substances. Some manufacturers finish their jewellery by polishing it again to achieve a so-called “mirror finish”. This “finish” makes the quality even better because it eliminates microscopic imperfections that otherwise with long-term wearing of the jewellery can sometimes harbour bacteria and cause irritations.
Due to lack of contaminants and high resistance to corrosion, 316LVM is often used in temporary and permanent medical implants and body piercing jewellery. 316LVM surgical steel is then used truly little once the piercing has healed. But 316LVM and 316L still contain enough nickel to cause problems for someone overly sensitive to this material.
However, the term “surgical” was coined to inspire confidence. Experienced Professionals Advise Against This Material.
ASTM F138 steel, 316LVM is the best variant for implants, but there is still an amount of nickel that increases the risk of a reaction and therefore all reliable piercers and piercer associations strongly advise against this material for not yet healed piercings.
Nickel Should Be Avoided As Many People Are Allergic To It.
In Europe there is a standard (drawn up by the European REACH regulation for chemical substances) so that the amount of nickel that is released does not exceed a certain amount. The part that protrudes through the skin (wearable surface) must not contain nickel. With the only exception, posts that release a maximum of 0.2 micrograms per cm² per week may be used.
Most people who are allergic to nickel will therefore not have a reaction to jewellery made especially for piercings or piercing studios. But of course, there are plenty of people who still suffer from this.
Gold, In General, Is Not Completely Free Of Nickel, Comparable To Steel Jewellery For Piercings.
The gold jewellery that can be used for piercing is made of nickel-free solid gold (not gold plated or PVD coated), alloyed with palladium or platinum to replace nickel, but is therefore slightly more expensive.
– I am of course talking about gold body piercing jewellery made by reliable brands with internal thread (or no thread – threadless) such as the jewellery from BVLA, Anatometal, LeRoi, Neometal and similar brands. They bear the ASTM F2999 standard –
Pure gold is even softer than zinc. Piercing jewellery that is made of gold (at reliable body piercing jewellers such as the above brands, so not at mass production traders without certificates or ASTM standard) are usually 14 or 18 karats gold so that the it can be made stronger by mixing with other metals.
Yellow Gold (For Body Piercings) Is Alloyed With Silver, Copper And Platinum To Make It Harder.
The purity of gold is measured in karats. Pure gold is 24 karats, 18 karats is 75% pure and 14 karats is 58.3% pure. Softer gold is more prone to bacteria when worn over time because it can dent and scratch more quickly. In the best cases, gold is pierced, the jewel of which is nickel-free 14k or 18k gold. These jewelleries are safer but more expensive. Gold with lower values may not even be called gold officially.
Another option Is Gold plated.
(NOT for healing piercings, freshly placed piercings, irritated piercings, and people with sensitive skin).
This means that there is a layer of gold over another material. Safe white gold piercing jewellery is (often, due to the EU nickel law) processed with palladium and covered with a layer of rhodium to achieve the beautiful white colour.
White gold with palladium is better than with nickel for wearing in body piercing because there are fewer reactions with palladium than with nickel.
Rhodium Is An Inert Precious Metal.
Usually it is alloyed with platinum or palladium. White gold is often layered with a layer of rhodium for the white colour and as protection against oxidation. This metal is very suitable for body piercing jewellery but is not widely used except in the case of a black rhodium coating on white gold jewellery to create a “black gold” piece of jewellery.
Niobium Is A Pure Element, Not An Alloy.
In its natural state it is completely hypoallergenic and easy to bend, making it an ideal material for piercing jewellery. Niobium is the next step up from 316LVM. It is a bit heavier than 316LVM and stronger too. The price tag is also slightly higher, but a happy medium between 316LVM and titanium for many. Niobium piercing jewellery is often anodized. It is not reactive, and most people can tolerate it in both new and healed piercings without sensitivity issues. Niobium is easier to anodize than titanium and with niobium you can even achieve the colour black.
Anodizing does fade over time but can be re-treated without harmful effects.
Sterling silver always carries the hallmark .925.
Pay attention! NOT suitable for piercings other than earrings and NOT suitable for healing piercings or earrings or earrings and sensitive skin.
Sterling silver is only 0.925% pure and contains other metals that can cause irritation and is therefore generally unsuitable for use on parts that are introduced into the body. It also oxidizes (becomes dull or discoloured) when it meets air and body fluids. The softness of the silver increases the risk of small invisible nicks, dents and scratches on the metal that can become a source of bacterial growth. Sterling silver is only recommended for healed piercings and should only be worn on short notice (so take it off at night). Avoid silver in damp areas as it oxidizes more quickly. I mean the nose and mouth for example, these places are moist, always.
Silver is corrosive. If you leave it for a long time, it turns yellow brown and needs to be brushed and sometimes it turns black when it ages, this can be very beautiful but can also be harmful to a healing wound. Gold, on the other hand, is much more reliable.
Either way, use as little sterling silver, nickel, or pure copper as possible in piercings. Many jewelleries contain copper, to prevent problems and reactions do not wear it for a long time, similar to acrylic jewellery. Silver is always silver with copper. Silver turns black in contact with sulphur or chlorine, substances in the air. Black spots that form on the skin as a result do not go away. This is oxidation. These black spots are called argyria. It is not dangerous, but it is permanent. The only way to get rid of that is with laser, just like tattoo removal.
The Aztecs And Egyptians Used Glass Jewelry.
Glass comes in two varieties: Borosilicate Glass and Soda-Lime Glass.
Borosilicate glass is sometimes also known as Pyrex. This is a material which, for example, test tubes are also made from, for laboratories. Borosilicate is a salt of boron and silicic acid. It is mainly composed of silicon dioxide (SiO2) and boron trioxide (B2O3). This is heat resistant glass. This glass has a longer life than most other types of glass such as calcium sodium silicate – the glass from which most normal panes are made. Most laboratory glassware is made from borosilicate. This glass falls under the category “hard glass”. This does not mean that it cannot be broken (it can). But that it takes a lot more heat to melt compared to “soft glass”.
Because the melting range is at a higher temperature, borosilicate is more expensive to produce than ordinary glass. Another disadvantage is that it is not allowed in the glass container: at the temperature that melts ordinary glass, boron silicate forms tough lumps that clog the machines in the glass factory.
Soft glass is the glass from which wine bottles, for example, are made.
In the Netherlands they call this commercial glass or soda-lime glass (known in English as soda-lime glass). Soft glass is usually not sterilizable. There are manufacturers of glass jewelry for piercings who use soda-lime glass that can still be autoclaved. In such a case, special attention has been paid to techniques for annealing their glass. This means that no imperfections remain in the glass, so that it does not break or crack in the autoclave. An example of these manufacturers is Gorilla Glass.
Pyrex Glass Is Hypoallergenic, Can Be Sterilized In The Autoclave, And Is Easy To Clean.
It is super smooth – something especially important for all piercings – and is cheap. Glass is available in many different styles, colours, and shapes. You can wear this material in piercing and stretched piercings, in small and large sizes. Glass is transparent. Partly because of this property, safe and invisible “retainers” are made of it.
There are different types of plastic that piercing jewellery can be made of.
They are not all equal, they are not all equally safe.
Tygon, PMFK (polymer medical flexible plastic) and Bioplast are the same type of material.
Whether it is implantable or not is not entirely clear. Bioplast can be put in the autoclave.
Bioplast, Bioflex or Tygon are smoothly finished but some are very stiff, brittle and have seams and sharp edges. Good PMFK jewellery is only available in transparent and usually beautifully finished. This makes them particularly good to use as retainers for piercings that must remain invisible during work, for example. There are different types and designs of jewellery from Bioplast or Bioflex, so always pay attention to the finish. When in doubt, choose PTFE.
In case of redness, irritation, watery eyes, watery eyes, remove the plastic jewellery and do not use it anymore. Replace it with titanium or glass and go to the doctor.
Polycarbonate Is A Rare Material That Is Not Implantable And So Is Not Suitable For Piercings.
This is a strong material that is heat resistant. But it can leak BPA (Bisphenol A), which can be very toxic if it gets into the body. It causes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and liver damage, among other things. Partly because of this, it is comparable to acrylic, so not recommended. And certainly not for piercings that have not fully healed yet.
PTFE (Polytetrafulorethylene), also known as Teflon, is an abrasion resistant, inert, smooth, and flexible plastic widely used as a component of permanent and temporary surgical implants.
PolyTetraFluorEthylene can be sterilized in an autoclave. It is completely flexible and will therefore move with your body. This contrasts with metal jewellery (this is therefore an excellent material for the belly piercing, for example during pregnancy). This material is also completely hypoallergenic, known for being one of the least allergenic materials. PolyTetraFluorEthylene is used in the medical industry to make heart valves and other surgical implants, for example.
This material is easily cut to size.
A knife is sufficient to adjust the length of the bar for a perfect fit. Thread is also made very easily on PTFE jewellery. Screw the ball on and it creates a thread on its own.
It has been said that it is not true, that it is more difficult to do than it is told. But then we are simply not dealing with PTFE but with Bioplast or Bioflex. This material is less flexible, stiffer, and less reliable than PTFE.
The only drawback of PTFE: it is only available in white transparent. There is a black variant, but it is 25% carbon filled, which makes it slightly stiffer in texture than the original white-transparent PTFE.
Implant worthy PTFE has an ASTM standard, namely ASTM F754. However, this is not suitable for piercing healing in most cases. The only exceptions are when a medical procedure is required, and the piercing has not yet healed enough to allow the jewellery to come out without the risk of the piercing becoming closed.
And yet I will not recommend or use it as easily when placing piercings. Yes, if your piercing has not healed yet, but you need a retainer for one or the other. But that’s only in exceptional cases.
But What About Organics And Other Jewellery For Stretched Piercings For example?
Which wooden or stones should you choose and how are they finished and what should you pay attention to? Which brands can you rely on for reliable jewellery? What should you pay attention to regarding finish? I’ve already talked about that extensively in this article.
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