What’s a Nickel Test Kit and How Do I Use It?

You might not have thought much about nickel, but if you suffer from a nickel allergy, you’ll know how irritating the metal can be. With nickel in many metals and with no known allergy cure, identifying nickel could save you money and keep your skin healthy. A test kit is how to do it. 

What is the Problem with Nickel? 

Nickel is a metal found as a compound in many jewelry items made of metal. Harmless to most, nickel binds and strengthens softer metals like gold and silver and adds a light and shiny texture. 

But nickel can also be an irritant as it’s not hypoallergenic. Problems range from light itching to redness. In more severe cases nasty inflammation like an eczema rash or even blisters can appear. 

While you can purchase nickel-free jewelry, you might be wondering whether the jewelry you already own has nickel. Nickel test kits are designed to determine whether your jewelry item contains nickel. 

Nickel test kit
Nickel test kits allow you to identify if there’s nickel in your jewelry. See it here. 

Is nickel in your ring or necklace? The nickel test kit will identify it.  

Knowing if something has nickel in it will alert you to the need to:  

  • Avoid wearing that jewelry item 
  • Guard your skin with an allergy protector  
  • Inform your pharmacist what you think your rash is   

How Do I Use a Nickel Test Kit?  

Most nickel test kits are simple to use: 

  • Apply a few drops of the test solution to a cotton swab 
  • Rub it against the metal 
  • If the swab changes color (usually to an alarming red), you’ve got a nickel issue 

Some kits come with an extra feature – a nickel protection treatment. Once you’ve discovered nickel in your jewelry item, you can cover it with this anti-allergy solution. This will protect your skin for a limited period. 

How Long Has Nickel Been Around? 

For many, nickel is a harmless common metal. It was discovered in 1751 and was used in coins from early on.  

The American five-cent nickel incorporated the metal in the late 1700s when other metals became too expensive.  

Elsewhere it is used in wiring, and as a compound (mixed with other metals) it can be found in armor, boat construction, and batteries.  

Nickel is abundant, and found in the earth and in the cells of many plants. It’s one of a group of only four metals that is ferromagnetic, meaning it is attracted to magnets and is, itself, magnetic. 

Nickel is a very useful metal. Its position in the periodic table means it has high valency. In short, it’s great for combining with other metals to make them stronger 

But it can irritate. 11% of American adults have a nickel allergy (including 18 million children). The exact cause of this irritation is unknown. 

Why Does My Ring Have Nickel in It? 

Hypoallergenic 18k Gold Hoop Earrings
Hypoallergenic earrings. See them here. 

When you purchase jewelry, the metal options are typically gold, silver, or platinum ring, not a nickel. But often, these precious metals will have tiny bits of nickel in them. Why does your ring have hidden amounts of this cheaper metal? 

The truth is most metals have other components added as plating or compounds. Fine metals like gold and silver are generally too soft to only contain that main luxury substance.  

And while higher karat or purity ratings mean more of the metal you want, it will rarely mean 100% purity. 

Is any metal completely pure? The answer is yes, but more often no. While pure gold, silver, and steel do exist, other composite metals are found in most of them.  

These composites add solidity or provide extra shine. Gold and silver often have composite parts. And one of these will often be a nickel. 

Can I Find Jewelry Without Nickel? 

It’s worth pointing out that many manufacturers make jewelry nowadays without nickel. This trend will increase as customers look for jewelry items that don’t irritate their skin. 

High-grade steel, sterling silver, platinum, titanium (both very strong), and high-karat gold can be used for jewelry that is nickel free. 

Before you purchase a ring or other jewelry item, research or ask your jeweler if the item has any nickel in it. You won’t be able to use a nickel testing kit at the store, but good jewelers can inform you of the relative purity of the metal and of any compound contents.   

Remember that nickel is harmless to most people. But if nickel makes your skin itch, it’s important to know whether there’s nickel in your jewelry or not. Always ask the jeweler whether the metal has nickel – they should be able to give you this information. 

Which Kit Should I Choose? 

Fast and easy to use nickel test kit
Easy to use nickel test kit. See it here. 

Make sure to get the right nickel test for rings and metals, as there are various types of nickel test kits out there. Kits do exist to check nickel in urine or blood (and these are usually quite expensive). Other kits exist to check the nickel contents of tap water. These kits won’t test the amount of nickel in your ring, and you’ll be wasting your money. 

The correct nickel test kits work in one of two ways. One way is by using electrodes to isolate and identify nickel alloy or plating in metals. This type of kit can be quite expensive. 

The more common and cheaper test involves applying a small amount of a chemical compound to a cotton swab. The compound reacts with any nickel present in metal objects, and the swab will change color.  

For jewelry items, this is the kind of kit you want. 

FAQs About Nickel Test Kits 

1. How Accurate Is a Nickel Test Kit? 

Generally, these tests are very accurate and do what it says on the tube or bottle. If it’s nickel that you’re searching for, then your kit will find it.  

With one caveat. 

If your jewelry has already been treated with nickel guard solutions to protect your skin from the metal’s presence, then it will be trickier for your solution to detect the nickel. It should be removed before you run your test 

2. Can I Use the Testing Kit Before I Purchase My Jewelry Item? 

No. It’s highly unlikely that a jeweler will permit you to use a testing kit on an unpurchased item. If in doubt about potential nickel content, ask the jeweler. Mention to them that you have a concern about nickel.  

3. Are Electronic Testing Kits Better Than Cotton and Liquid Ones? 

No. For testing nickel in jewelry, a cotton swab-and-liquid testing kit provides the simplicity, accuracy, and speedy result that you need. A liquid testing kit is also inexpensive.  

4. Will A Nickel Testing Kit Diagnose My Skin Rash? 

No. While your rash or itchy skin could be the result of nickel in your jewelry, you need to check with your doctor if you’re unsure about the cause of your rash. Your nickel testing kit simply tells you if there is nickel in your jewelry.   

Wrapping Up 

Nickel is all around us – in construction, batteries, and a lot of jewelry items. Unfortunately, a minority of people (but still a significant number) have nickel allergies. This means that if their skin is exposed to nickel, it can lead to itching, redness, or even more severe skin conditions. 

Nickel testing kits won’t help with the skin condition. For that, you’ll need to visit your pharmacy, doctor, or even a dermatologist. But what a nickel testing kit can do, and do very well, is find out whether your metal items contain nickel.  

Testing kits are inexpensive to buy and very simple to use, with results given in seconds. So, if you’re unsure about that nasty rash on your ring finger or neck, or if you want to check a jewelry item, a testing kit is a very wise investment. 

And remember, nickel is not a bad metal or even a sign that something is of low quality. It’s a metal that has added strength and shine to high-quality jewelry items for many years. It’s just not for everyone. 

Jewelry Guide