Where to start?
Titanium and niobium are two of the safest metals you can wear. Some people like to start with medical plastic or bioplast jewellery while their piercings settle down.
Medical plastic is made from a hardened version of the material used in surgical sutures.
Titanium is strong, lightweight and highly biocompatible (non-toxic and not rejected by the body).
Titanium is an excellent choice for anyone with sensitive skin, especially for those allergic to nickel, silver or gold. Allergic reactions to titanium are extremely rare even in people sensitive to other metals.
Titanium can be anodised to create a range of colours. Anodising creates a thin oxide layer which is just as biocompatible as polished titanium. The colour produced depends on the thickness of the oxide layer. There are no other materials added and there is no plating or painting.
Titanium is suitable for both initial and healed body piercings.
It is important to remember that the main difference between these grades of titanium is mostly in the manufacturing. All are suitable for initial and healed piercings.
Grades 1 - 4 (CP/commercially pure titanium) are slightly softer so are best for making earring hooks and other shapes. Mostly used for earrings.
Grade 5 (Ti-6AL-4V) is stronger and less malleable and is used for most body jewellery.
Grade 23 (Ti-6AL-4V ELI) is slightly more malleable than grade 5. Mostly used in body jewellery.
Ti-6AL-4V ELI ASTM F-136 is a refined version of grade 23 used in Industrial Strength (brand name, not a description of the titanium grade) body jewellery. Also known as implant grade titanium.
Black PVD Titanium, Niobium and Surgical Steel
Black PVD titanium, niobium and surgical steel have a coating of Titanium Aluminum Nitride (TiAlN) applied using physical vapour deposition (PVD) to create a hypoallergenic, long-lasting black colour.
Gold and Rose Gold PVD Titanium, Niobium and Surgical Steel
Gold and rose gold PVD titanium, niobium and surgical steel have a coating of Zirconium Nitride (ZrN) applied using physical vapour deposition (PVD) to create a hypoallergenic, long-lasting gold or rose gold colour without using any actual gold.
Niobium looks very similar to titanium but is an element rather than an alloy (a mix of metals), it is ideal if you are allergic to nickel, silver or gold.
Like titanium it can be anodised, changing the surface colour of the metal to create a range of colours. Niobium used in a jewellery has to be as pure as possible and is sometimes know as 999 Niobium or 99.9% niobium.
Surgical Steel and Stainless Steel
Stainless and surgical steel are an alloys which contains a small amount of nickel. Please be aware that this can cause a reaction in people who are very sensitive to nickel.
However it is the rate of release of nickel (rather than nickel content) that really matters. The specific composition of 316L steel (also known as implant grade steel and surgical stainless steel) allows for very little exposure to the nickel molecules which reduces the risk of allergic reactions.
Nickel Release Rates
316L surgical steel (used in earrings and body jewellery) - around 0.02μg/cm2/week
304 stainless steel (used in earring hooks) - around 0.08μg/cm2/week
430 stainless steel (used in earring hooks) - less than 0.5μg/cm2/week
Surgical steel is suitable for use in healed piercings but is not recommended for initial piercings.
24 carat gold is the purest form available. Gold that is less than 24 carat is an alloy and it is the other metals in the alloy that usually cause allergic reactions to gold jewellery. 24ct gold is too soft to use on it's own so it is alloyed (mixed) with other metals to make it stronger or used as a plating.
The higher the number of carats the purer the gold is. Dividing the number of carats by 24 gives you the purity percentage of gold.
24ct/24 = 100% (or 99.9%) pure gold
18ct/24 = 75% pure gold with approximately 15% silver and 10% copper
We only have 18ct and 24ct gold jewellery but for comparison
9ct/24 = 37.5% pure gold with approximately 42.5% silver and 20% copper
Carat or karat? Carat (ct) is the UK spelling of karat (kt). So in this case it's the same thing.
PVD gold coated jewellery does not contain any gold.
What does hypoallergenic mean?
The word hypoallergenic means having a decreased tendency to provoke an allergic reaction. It should not be considered a guarantee that no one will react to an item of jewellery since it is possible to be allergic to anything.