Updated: Jul 11, 2021
Silver is an elegant metal that carries with it an air of extravagance. It is hypoallergenic, meaning that it will not cause any allergies or adverse reactions.
In its purest form, silver is unfortunately too soft to be used on its own in jewelry making. To obtain silver jewelry, pure silver is alloyed with other metals, often copper. Alloying enhances the functionality of the silver by creating sterling silver, which is harder, stronger, and more durable.
Regarding its properties and whether it is hypoallergenic or not, it all depends on what metals are mixed with the silver.
What is silver or 925 sterling silver made of?
Silver is a precious metal with a silvery-white appearance. Sterling silver also has a silvery finish, but it’s different from the pure silver metal because it is the alloyed version of pure silver.
Sterling silver is also known as 925 sterling silver because of its composition – 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% metal alloys, commonly silver. The 925 hallmark on sterling silver pieces results from the 92.5% silver.
While copper is the most common metal alloy added to silver, it can be very susceptible to tarnishing, the primary reason for the fast oxidization noticed in sterling silver jewelry. The good news is that copper is a pure, hypoallergenic metal, and you won’t have to worry about allergies.
Some jewelers and individuals don’t like the fact that the sterling silver version with copper tarnishes fast, and they opt for sterling silver alloyed with other metals. These other metals that sterling silver can be alloyed with include zinc, germanium, platinum, and in other cases, nickel. These metals are often preferred because they not only enhance sterling silver’s strength they also make it more durable while reducing its susceptibility to tarnishing.
Is there nickel in silver or sterling silver?
When all is said and done, a number of people shy away from sterling silver jewelry because of the possibility of nickel being one of the metals alloyed with pure silver. And since most metal allergies are caused by the presence of nickel in the metal, it makes sense to be a bit more careful.
So, the answer to this question would be – Yes, and no. There is no nickel in pure 999 silver, but there could be nickel in 925 sterling silver.
If you are wondering if there is nickel in silver or sterling silver, know this: silver has no nickel whatsoever, but sterling silver may contain some nickel. The keyword is ‘maybe,’ meaning that it’s not a guarantee that the sterling silver will have nickel.
If you have a severe sensitivity to nickel and experience nickel allergies that are ridiculous, then you may want to steer clear of sterling silver – there may be a negligible amount of nickel in the silver, but it may still cause some issues.
Can you be allergic to silver or sterling silver?
While you cannot be allergic to pure silver, you may be allergic to sterling silver. That said, it’s worth noting that some forms of sterling silver would be rhodium plated, meaning that they will have a protective rhodium plating that helps to not only keep the nickel from your skin but also improves the reflectivity of the sterling silver.
How do you know if you are allergic to silver?
Can you easily tell that you are allergic to silver? While you would be able to tell when you are having an allergic reaction to something in metal, it’s important to keep in mind that the signs/ symptoms of the allergy will appear 12 – 48 hours after contact with the allergen/ nickel. During this time, you may notice itching, a rash, redness on the affected area, swelling, and in case of a severe nickel allergy, there might be some blistering too. The blisters would break to form crusts and scales, especially as they dry out.
And if the allergic reaction isn’t treated or if you keep wearing the sterling silver jewelry, the affected areas may be darker, cracked, and leathery. That said, a rash is the most common symptom after the itchiness and redness.
Severe cases are characterized by the spread of the rash, with sweating worsening the rash. And if the area affected gets infected, it may become warm, redder, and in the worst-case scenarios, the infected areas of the skin may be filled with pus. To be safe, don’t let your situation get this bad. Seek medical attention early.
What to do if you are allergic to silver
Silver allergies often result in contact dermatitis, which presents with symptoms like rashes, swelling, and pain. The allergies often result from the presence of nickel in the metal.
If you have an allergic reaction to your sterling silver jewelry, you should consider doing the following:
Fine jewelry made of safer metal substitutes– instead of wearing jewelry made of sterling silver, you may want to opt for safer metals like titanium. Though most substitutes cost more money, they are worth the risk of zero allergies. If you are on a tight budget, you could opt for the pieces made of silicone.
Add a temporary barrier to the sterling silver jewelry– some of the best options for barriers include 2 or 3 coats of clear nail polish. This is a go-to remedy for most people because it creates an effective barrier between the skin and the sterling silver. Just remember to reapply fresh coats of nail polish after some time, depending on how frequently you wear the jewelry.
Buy hypoallergenic jewelry– hypoallergenic jewelry options are the nickel-free jewelry options. Examples include jewelry made of platinum, titanium, nickel-free sterling silver, surgical stainless steel, niobium, or 18k gold. And though enticing, be careful to avoid the plated jewelry options or the ones made of mixed metals, for example, white gold.
You could be allergic to sterling silver jewelry if it has nickel. And since pure silver is free of nickel, you wouldn’t expect allergies from it if it could be molded into jewelry – pure silver is too soft and malleable, and your safest option would be nickel-free sterling silver.