Are sterling silver earrings hypoallergenic? Am I allergic to sterling silver? by Sundrop Jewlery

Are sterling silver earrings hypoallergenic?

by Tawny Reynolds on Jan 25, 2017

Are sterling silver earrings hypoallergenic?"Am I allergic to sterling silver earrings?" you ask?   Like so many things, the answer is, "it depends."

Is sterling silver hypoallergenic?

Sterling silver must be at least 92.5% pure silver, with the remaining 7.5% filled in by another metal. Most of the "fill" is copper (another soft, but non-allergenic metal), with a tiny bit of something else to help the soft metals keep their shape and not get damaged. Sometimes, that other metal is nickel. Quite a few people are allergic to nickel. However, often the other metal is something benign to most people - zinc, tin, boron, lithium, germanium, platinum, or indium.  But, unless the product states, “Made with nickel-free sterling silver”, or “Made of hypoallergenic sterling silver,” you can’t be certain whether or not the piece contains nickel.  (And sadly, sometimes, those labels are lying.)

If I'm allergic to some sterling silver earrings, what can I wear?

If you’ve had allergic reactions to some sterling silver earrings in the past, nickel is probably the culprit, and you should stick to nickel-free sterling silver.  Or, even better, make the switch to Argentium sterling silver!  Argentium is hypoallergenic because it uses germanium for a hardener.  I have never heard of anyone having an allergic reaction from Argentium - germanium is even used in some medicines to treat food allergies. (WebMDThere are some reports that even people who have allergic reactions to non-nickel sterling silver and lower-karat gold can wear Argentium silver with no problems! (I don't have any metal allergies, so I can't test it personally.)

Using germanium leads to a slightly whiter, brighter silver that is somewhat tarnish resistant.  And the next best thing (after being hypoallergenic) is that Argentium sterling silver is certified 100% recycled, reducing demand for mining virgin silver ore (and all the pollution, emissions, and extra energy use that goes with mining and refining)!

Hypoallergenic Argentium sterling silver

Other "silver"

That’s the good end of silver, hypoallergenically speaking.  On the bad end for those with allergies, is "silver plated.”  Silver plating is just a thin layer of silver coating over a layer of base metal (nickel, copper, tin, etc.).  That thin layer of silver can easily flake off, exposing your skin to whatever is underneath.  That’s why some cheap jewelry can turn your skin green - it's copper tarnish.  (It’s also why the edges of Grandma’s silver serving dishes look a bit pinkish along the edges - the silver plating has worn through from use and polishing over the years - because polishing actually removes the silver.)

In the middle (although still not acceptable for allergy-sufferers) is the maximally-confusing term: “silver-filled”.  You’d think with a name like that, the silver was in the middle, covered by something else, but it’s not.  Instead, silver-filled is essentially just a much thicker layer of silver plating, thick enough that it won’t flake or wear off.  Silver-filled can be used to balance cost and durability, but I would certainly never recommend it to anyone who has ever had an allergic reaction to sterling silver earrings.

Are Sundrop Jewelry's sterling silver earrings hypoallergenic?

For Sundrop Jewelry, I use only two types of silver.  Argentium sterling silver, which is naturally nickel-free and hypoallergenic (since it always uses germanium instead of nickel) and is also 100% recycled. All ear wires are Argentium sterling silver. Occasionally, if I can’t find the pieces I need in Argentium for chains and other parts of earrings, I will use nickel-free sterling silver. So, no matter what you have your eye on, you can be sure all of Sundrop Jewelry’s sterling silver earrings are hypoallergenic and nickel-free!

Go browse the shop and find your perfect (and allergy-free) piece!
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