7 Year Itch?
Amanda K. Sergent, CSA
Most of the time when we receive a new piece of fine jewelry we blush with happiness and excitement. Unfortunately a hint of pink isn’t the only color it can sometimes turn us!
Have you ever had a ring turn your finger black? How about a pair of earrings that caused a red rash? Even necklaces and bracelets can leave a green ring on our necks and wrists. This reaction, contact dermatitis, can occur soon after wear or years later. It can cause dark or red patches, itching, swelling and dryness. If left untreated skin can become blistered and/or cracked. This most commonly occurs as a result of being in contact with nickel in the jewelry, which prompted the prohibition of nickel alloys by legislation in Europe.
Gold in its pure form is too soft for practical jewelry usage, so it is alloyed with other metals to increase durability. High karat gold jewelry is more expensive because less alloys are used, such as 18k, which is 75% gold. The gold content of 14k is 58.5% and 10k is 41.7%. The higher quality of alloys used also leads to an increased cost of jewelry. Instead of nickel, manufacturers can use copper, zinc, silver, palladium and other metals to alloy with their gold to produce allergy-free, and multiple colors of gold jewelry.
Some experience a reaction after years or decades of wear. There is a widely held belief that this is due to our body chemistry changing every seven to ten years, depending on the myth. While there is no medical data to support this theory, our cells do have a finite lifespan and are then cycled out to be replaced by new cells. This is sometimes given as the reason for a variety of changes in our appearance or reactions. A person’s hair texture may go from straight to curly and back again over their lifetime. Someone may begin liking a food that they had always disliked. Plants that formerly caused a reaction may no longer, only to be replaced by different plants that do.
If your wedding band is suddenly giving you discomfort, it’s not really the proverbial seven-year itch! It may just be time to switch from yellow to white gold, or vice versa. An excellent choice to consider is platinum, a hypoallergenic metal that is 95% or more pure when used in jewelry. So do not fear that your fine jewelry is defective or that you are ill, it is a common occurrence that is easily remedied by updating your pieces at your favorite local jeweler!
Amanda has been with Calvin Broyles Jewelers for 14 years.