At Mark Michael Diamond Designs we design and manufacture custom jewelry, engagement rings and bridal jewelry in-house. We feature jewelry questions, diamond information and answers in our jewelry blog.

Fine Jewelry Metal Allergies

Metal allergies are surprisingly more common than you would think. Allergic reactions to metal typically appear as itchy, red rashes or dry patches or tenderness where the metal has come in contact with your skin. Most people are not allergic to the gold itself but rather allergic to the nickel that is added to the gold. Because pure 24 karat gold is too soft for jewelry use, other metals such as copper, silver, nickel and zinc are added to help strengthen the gold and also to change its color. 14k white gold for instance is a combination of 58.5% fine gold, 12% copper, 8% nickel, 6% zinc and 4.5% silver. The percentage and types of alloys used are different for each metal type. This breakdown is included below and can be useful for identify metal allergies.

According to the National Institutes of Health, nickel is the most frequent cause of metal allergy with allergic symptoms typically appearing within 24 to 48 hours of exposure. Nickel is not typically added to yellow gold or rose gold jewelry, thus the majority of metal allergies occur with white gold use.  


A metal allergy does not have to prevent you from wearing the fine jewelry you love. Customers looking for yellow gold or rose gold jewelry are less likely to encounter metal allergies. But for those looking for a white metal we recommend platinum. Platinum is a naturally white metal and is a stronger and more durable metal than gold. Platinum is at least 90% - 95% pure and is alloyed with only one other metal (cobalt, iridium, or ruthenium). Platinum is also hypoallergenic, which means that customers with nickel allergies won’t have to worry about an allergic reaction.

For customers with metal allergies who already own 14k white gold or 18k white gold jewelry we suggest trying rhodium plating. Rhodium is a white metal that belongs to the platinum family in the periodic table and is applied to white gold using an electroplating procedure. This layer of rhodium acts as a barrier between your skin and jewelry item. However, rhodium plating does wear off over time and depending on your body chemistry, may need to be re-applied every 6 months to every couple of years.

Lastly, we recommend keeping jewelry as dry as possible. Water or moisture that gets trapped between your skin and jewelry item can increase sensitivity to any allergic reactions. Trapped moisture can also contribute to contact dermatitis.

Hopefully we’ve answered any question you may have about metal allergies. A metal allergy does not need to prevent you from custom creating or purchasing the jewelry of your dreams. Contact us today to discuss different metal options available to you; we can absolutely work around your allergies!

Mark Lauer