Nickel Free Jewelry FAQ
Vanity Fashions Limited through its overseas partners manufactures and imports a complete line of quality nickel free jewelry. Over the years we have done a considerable amount of research in our quest to provide reliable and safe products. Many of our customer have asked us to share our findings and our views, hence the following information. We hope it is helpful.
IS NICKEL REALLY HARMFUL?
Approximately 15% (some say much higher) of the female population and roughly 3% of the male population suffer from what is known as nickel dermatitis. Those affected suffer red, itchy rashes on their skin that is caused by prolonged contact with products containing nickel.
A person must become sensitized to nickel during his/her lifetime to suffer from nickel dermatitis. This sensitization is thought to occur primarily during the healing process following ear or skin piercings with posts containing nickel. Nickel sensitization can also be caused by years of wearing products containing nickel.
WHY IS NICKEL FREE JEWELRY SO IMPORTANT?
The term nickel free is used by retailers to indicate to the customer that a particular product contains no nickel and, therefore, would not cause a nickel related allergic reaction. To extrapolate, retailers can attract people formerly unable to wear fashion jewelry by eliminating the nickel.
Nickel, however, is a natural element and is found, at least in trace amounts, in virtually every metal compound. It is almost impossible to completely eliminate nickel. The question then becomes – At what level is this trace amount significant.
WHAT IS GOING ON IN EUROPE?
The first to officially recognize nickel allergies as a problem, the European Community (EC), has drafted a Nickel Directive to regulate the use of nickel and standardize its use within all member countries. The regulations were established to reduce the amount of nickel used, thereby eliminating the incidence of nickel sensitization and nickel dermatitis.
WHAT DOES THE DIRECTIVE ACTUALLY SAY?
In skin piercing products, nickel may not be used….
“In post assemblies which are inserted into pierced ears and other pierced parts of the body during epithelization (healing) of the wound caused by piercing… unless the post assemblies are homogeneous and the concentration of nickel is less than 0.05%”.
In products coming in direct and prolonged contact with the skin, nickel may not be used…
“If the rate of nickel released from any one part of the product contacting the skin is greater than 0.5 micrograms of nickel per square centimeter per week (0.5 ug/cm2/week)”
Nickel may not be used...
“In products which have a non-nickel coating unless the coating is sufficient to ensure that the rate of nickel released does not exceed 0.5 ug/cm2/week for a period of at least two years normal use of the product”.
WHAT ARE MEMBER COUNTRIES DOING ABOUT NICKEL FREE JEWELRY?
Sweden – The Swedish Board of Health and Welfare will not allow jewelry to be sold by manufacturers or importers if the nickel content exceeds 0.05%
Denmark – According to the Danish Ministry of the Environment, manufactures or importers cannot sell products coming in to direct and prolonged contact with the skin, including pierced posts, if the rate of nickel content exceeds 0.05% ug/cm2/week.
Germany – Ear post assemblies used for piercing must comply with the Directive. Piercing posts containing more than 0.05% ug/cm2/week are prohibited. According to the German government, other jewelry coming into direct and prolonged contact with the skin must carry a warning label in German if it releases more than 0.05% ug/cm2/week. Germany is interpreting the Directive’s ruling on piercing posts as meaning that products containing less than 0.05% nickel can be labelled “nickel free”
WHAT MATERIALS ARE THE SAFEST TO USE?
Contrary to what some people believe surgical stainless steel (#304) does contain relatively high levels of nickel. However, one particular grade (#430) can be obtained as a special melt and can be certified to contain less than 0.05%. Other nickel free choices include special gold-filled, 70/30 brass, phosphorous bronze and aluminum.