Are Gold Earrings Hypoallergenic? | Tini Lux

Are Gold Earrings Hypoallergenic?

By Jacqueline Burke
It is basically considered common knowledge that gold earrings are safe for sensitive ears, and if earrings regularly cause your piercings to react you should save up and buy a pair of nice gold earrings. But, is actually it true that gold earrings are safe for sensitive ears? Are gold earrings really the most "hypoallergenic" option for people that can't wear earrings?
It is important to understand that "gold" can mean many, many different things. First of all, you have to consider the "fineness" of the gold, which is measured in karats. Karats measure the parts per 24 that are pure gold. So 24k gold is 24 parts per 24 which means that it is 100% pure gold. Anything less than 24k is therefore not 100% pure gold, which means that it is an alloy, or a mixture, of gold with other metals. 18k gold is 18 parts gold out of 24 or 75% gold, 25% something else. 14k gold is approximately 58% percent gold, 42% other metals. 
While pure gold (aka 24k gold) itself is safe and nonreactive with the body. There are more things to consider. First of all, gold is a very soft metal. Gold higher than 18k is too soft for body jewelry because it can easily be scratched or nicked. Since anything less than 24k gold is an alloy, meaning that it is mixed with another metal, the other metals that gold is mixed with may not be safe for sensitive ears and skin. 
Gold is only approved by the Association of Professional Piercers as safe for the human body if it is 14k or higher, nickel-free, and alloyed for biocompatibility. However, it is rare that a company will tell you what the alloyed metals are, and for that reason it is risky to purchase gold earrings if you have sensitive ears.
Another thing to consider, is that many jewelry that is labeled "gold jewelry" is actually gold plated, gold-filled, or gold-vermeil. All of these are other ways of saying that a layer of gold is coated on top of a base metal.  In most cases the base metal is brass, which is a highly reactive alloy that is not safe for people with sensitive skin. 
Gold plated, gold filled, or gold overlay/vermeil jewelry is not acceptable for sensitive ear piercings because the gold surface (which is very thin—measured in millionths of an inch) can wear or chip off, leaving your piercing exposed to the reactive metal underneath. 
To summarize, it is possible to find gold jewelry that is safe for sensitive ears, however it is not easy. The only gold jewelry needs to be solid gold (not gold filled, gold plated, or gold vermeil) and it needs to be 14k or higher, nickel-free, and alloyed for biocompatibility. Finding the information about what metals the gold is alloyed with is challenging because that is rarely reported by companies. Additionally, real solid gold jewelry is very expensive! The cost alone prohibits many people from purchasing, especially for jewelry for young girls. 
For more information about what metals are safe for sensitive ears, visit our resources page


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