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Hypoallergenic? Maybe, Maybe Not
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Categories: Instruction and information; Jewelry; Ethics and laws

Word count/read time: 514 words; 2 minutes

According to the National Institute of Health, allergic symptoms resulting from exposure to metals typically appear 24 to 48 hours after exposure. They can include itching, redness, tenderness, swelling, and warmth to the exposed area. In more severe cases, dry patches and blisters may occur.

Truthfulness in the chainmaille community is a rarity. Reference the handmade and corrosion-resistant laws as proof. Both terms have legal definitions yet nearly all who make those claims do so illegally (a felony). Fraud, deception, call it what you will. Laws shouldn't be necessary because common sense and honesty should dictate the actions of intelligent people with integrity.

Therefore, terms without legal definitions will show how deeply entrenched the deception is. Hypoallergenic has no legal definition, thus it's interpreted however the buzzword is most flattering to a seller's products. Basically, anything can be claimed to be hypoallergenic regardless of the science. Maillers (and jewelers to a lesser degree) are particularly adept at denying science and truth, I'll give them that.

They are definitely not artisans creating beautiful products but they are artists...con artists.
Or how one defines quality. Inferior and dangerous materials like pinch- and shear-cut rings, or poor assembly practices that leave bad closures, cannot and never will make high-quality products. Since "quality" is relative, people can say whatever they want. They are definitely not artisans creating beautiful products but they are artists...con artists.

It's the bottom line that speaks, not facts. Even if sellers don't "know" better, why buy from someone who is totally ignorant of the science, much less the laws? What else have they overlooked since they can't even assure the safety of their products, which should be the number one priority? These dangerous oversights can actually hurt someone!

For instance, basically every stainless steel alloy contains nickel, which is the most common metal (jewelry) allergen. The European Union has a legal threshold for how much nickel may leach from the metal. While select stainless alloys meet EU guidelines, even those will cause allergic reactions for some. Stainless as a whole is NOT hypoallergenic.

Copper is probably the second most problematic. It is sort of paradoxical since it is a powerful anti-microbial and anti-viral material. It is much more palatable to the skin than nickel. Most of the time it discolors the skin before it causes any allergic reactions, but it's disconcerting nonetheless.

Rounding out the who's who of problematic metals are zinc, cadmium (which is also poisonous), lead (also poisonous), steel alloys, brass/bronze, aluminum, and the lesser ones like tin, pewter, and other pot/white metals. None of these are corrosion-resistant - every one will tarnish and oxidize - and none are hypoallergenic.

Realistically, the following pure metals or alloys made solely with them are hypoallergenic:
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum
  • Palladium
  • Rhodium
  • Osmium
  • Iridium
  • Ruthenium
  • Tantalum
  • Niobium
  • Titanium

Freak genetic conditions aside, as more people wear jewelry made from exotic metals, more cases may come to light.

It's unfortunate that some sellers will misrepresent their products when a sale is at stake. Luxury products are especially susceptible. Facts can be found here:
National Institute of Health
Nickel-free information

Posted by M: January 8, 2020

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