Jewellery Catalogue

Gold Allergy

An allergy is a hypersensitivity to a substance that causes the body to react to any contact with that substance.
Do I have an allergy to gold?
Probably not, that is not gold itself. What people occasionally have is an allergy to the nickel content in gold alloys, usually in the alloy rich 9ct golds. 9ct alloys go dull or even black from the exposure to chemicals in the atmosphere and also may discolour from contact with perspiration, bleach, household chemicals and some fabrics.

Allergy Test KitDetergents and other chemicals lodge between rings and the skin causing problems, particularly hairspray, beauty and cleaning products. Antiperspirants exacerbate metal allergy problems. It has been suggested that the sweat of a healthy person after exercise contains 18 times the nickel content of blood. The antiperspirant reduces the bodies natural way of eliminating heavy metals and can lead to a build up in intensity, which causes a higher concentration in the sweat than is normal.

The most common type of allergy we encounter is a phantom allergy, caused by a noticeable desire to upgrade to 18ct or platinum!. As nickel and zinc are not used in 18ct alloy, just silver and copper, it is less likely to produce any kind of allergy related problems. What a good excuse!

Tarnishing of Gold

Possible causes include:
  • Perspiration (everyone's body chemistry is different, hence this is why some are more susceptible than others); for women, the time of the month can influence their body chemistry.
  • Perfume, hair or deodorant sprays,
  • Tarnishing during storage (storage boxes may contain organic sulphur compounds),
  • Leaching of acid/ cleaning solutions from surface microporosity from cast jewellery; this causes corrosion locally (such porosity may even trap perspiration during wear, causing local corrosion)
  • Preparation of vegetables such as onions and spices (many foodstuffs contain sulphur compounds and others are also acidic).

Another possible mechanism may be surface micro-porosity on the surface of investment (lost wax) cast items. This porosity may trap acids and other cleaning solutions, sprays, or perspiration and cause a local corrosion which 'creeps' over the surface of the item.

The tarnish films formed are generally harmless although unsightly and may lead to a black smudging of the skin. Such films can be easily polished off by a jeweller to restore the bright gold colour.

Possible solutions to the problem include:

  • Store jewellery in a pouch or bag in a dry atmosphere (unpolluted, e.g. by exhaust fumes, solvent vapours, where possible).

  • If stored in a box or pouch or plastic bag, ensure it is free of sulphur-containing compounds (from solvents, fabric treatments, adhesives, etc.).

  • Polish jewellery regularly with a soft cloth to remove any early tarnish films, perspiration and other contaminants (sprays, etc). Clean after wear and do not put on perfume, deodorants, sprays, etc whilst wearing the jewellery


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