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Can pure gold jewelry cause a nickel allergy reaction?

Audrey Kunin, MD
Dermatology
While it is true that you may own "good" jewelry, not the costume variety, all metallic jewelry still contains some small percentage of nickel. Purity is a pretense. There simply is no such thing as pure gold jewelry. While no one is surprised if they break out to their $9.95 pair of earrings, they are horrified when it happens with the real thing. The longer that you wear a good piece of jewelry, the more the microscopic "good" metal molecules are worn away, exposing the nickel molecules to the skin. This is how you can suddenly become allergic to an object you've worn "forever."

For most, nickel sulfate contact dermatitis is confined to objects with a high concentration of nickel, associated with costume jewelry or watchbands. For finer jewelry, prolonged contact with the object is typically required to cause the rash. Gold and sterling silver molecules invisibly wear away over time allowing nickel to come into contact with the skin. Twenty-four karat gold jewelry may have a hardener added due to the softness of the gold, making it more suspect than its 14 and 18K counterparts. Gold plating with 24K is less likely to result in this as it does not require the hardeners that a solid ring or bracelet may require.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.