As Jewelry Shopping Guide editors, we write about things that we love and we think you’ll like too. We often have affiliate partnerships, and may generate some revenue from these links at no cost to you.
This is a question that many people with nickel allergies ask but there’s conflicting information out there. Some say that sterling silver has only trace elements of nickel and can’t cause allergies, whereas others say to steer clear of sterling silver.
If you have skin reactions when you wear sterling silver, it’s important to know whether or not your silver has nickel.
What’s a Nickel Allergy?
Nickel allergy is a type of dermatitis that occurs when nickel comes into contact with your skin. This can vary in severity depending on the person, ranging from slight itchiness to pus-filled infections requiring medical attention.
Most people with nickel allergies experience irritation or discomfort around their wrists, ears and sometimes neck. Pierced ears are especially susceptible to irritation can result in infections if the earholes get affected. Necklaces containing nickel can sometimes leave rashes around the neck.
Does Pure Silver Cause Allergies?
Silver itself doesn’t cause allergies. Pure silver, also known as fine silver, refers to silver that is 99.9% pure. It is hypoallergenic and contains no nickel. So, if you are extremely sensitive to nickel this is an excellent option for you. Note that pure silver is a soft, malleable metal and can easily lose shape which is why it’s rarely used in jewelry-making.
99.9% pure silver earrings. See them here.
Because of how soft pure silver is, it’s often combined with other metals to add strength and durability and to make it possible for use when making jewelry. Silver alloyed with other metals is known as sterling silver.
Does Sterling Silver Have Nickel?
Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver with the other 7.5% of the alloy made up of different metals, typically copper. However, sometimes nickel is used in the alloy and this can cause skin reactions for some people. When people say that they’ve got allergies to sterling silver, it’s more likely that the allergy is to the nickel in the silver rather than to the silver itself.
92.5% pure earrings. See them here.
Always check with your jeweler if the jewelry you’re buying contains nickel. They should be able to give you this information.
Tips to Wearing Sterling Silver with Nickel Safely
If you already have sterling silver jewelry that causes reactions, but you aren’t quite ready to get rid of them yet, you can try coating the sections that come into contact with your skin with clear nail polish or a professional jewelry sealant like this one that prevents allergies.
You can also try applying petroleum jelly on the sterling silver to act as a buffer between your skin and the metal. This will need to be reapplied every several hours but it works well if you’re afraid of breaking out in a rash. In short, sterling silver is usually quite safe for most people as nickel isn’t always used in the alloys. However, if you have severe reactions to nickel, check with your jeweler before you buy.