Wondering about metal allergies?

Let's talk about jewelry, skin, and metal allergies. We frequently hear these concerns!

Skin discoloration

To begin with, not all skin reactions are actually allergies. Some metals, particularly copper or metals that contain copper, such as bronze, may cause skin that is in contact with the metal to turn green or greenish. The residual copper chloride is due to a chemical reaction between the metal and natural acids in our skin or cosmetics. Tarnish on silver may also rub off and leave a blackish residue on the skin but neither of these indicate an allergic reaction, and the color will easily wipe or wash off.

 This person was wearing a lot of lotion and a lot of bronze jewelry at all once.

This person was wearing a lot of lotion and a lot of bronze jewelry at all once.

We've all been there! We tend not to carry copper or bronze jewelry at Grimball Jewelers but once in a blue moon we do get small collections in -- and antique pieces, especially Victorian items, may sometimes be made with a larger amount of copper.

To prevent skin discoloration, try to be careful about wiping your jewelry clean with a soft lint-free cloth and avoid exposing items to water or lotion. Most designer copper jewelry is gold or rhodium plated and a lot of our silver jewelry is, too. But reactions may occur if the plating starts to wear. We can re-plate those pieces for you if that happens -- it tends to be more a problem with favorite pieces that are worn very frequently. Not an ideal solution, but you can also periodically coat earring posts and the inside of rings with clear nail polish.


Hypoallergenic is an unregulated term that simply means that something is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction or may cause a ‘slight’ reaction. It is applied to many items including fabrics and cosmetics, and within the jewelry industry, it is most often associated with surgical stainless steel.

Both stainless and surgical stainless steel have small or trace amounts of nickel and may cause reactions on rare occasions. Stainless steel is required in commercial food preparation, and surgical stainless steel is used in biomedical applications (such as temporary implants). Very low nickel or items with nickel free plating may also be designated hypoallergenic.

Here is just a tiny selection of the surgical stainless steel pieces that we can special order for you with about a one week turnaround.

Nickel free

Nickel free items are those made of metals that have no nickel in them such as platinum, titanium, tungsten, or cobalt. Specially produced alloys and palladium are also nickel free, as are non-metal items such as ceramic, which can be a satisfying solution for people who can’t tolerate metal at all.

Here are some interesting and varied examples of items that we can special order that have no nickel at all.  Just ask!