Last updated on January 29, 2021
Food, pets, pollen and dust are the most common allergens, but they are not the only things that can cause allergic reactions. Some individuals are allergic to gold. Although gold allergy is not necessarily due to the gold itself but the metals in it, such as nickel, people still experience a reaction when in contact with certain types of gold.
What Is Gold Allergy?
While it sounds ironic, some individuals experience allergic reactions when wearing gold jewellery. The exact cause of a gold allergy is unknown, but symptoms occur when your immune system is sensitive to gold.
The typical symptoms of a gold allergy are swelling, a rash, redness, itching, peeling, dark spots and blistering when in contact with gold jewellery. The symptoms are always individual. They can range from mild to severe and develop shortly after contact with gold or a long-time wearing.
To treat mild reactions, you need to take off the gold jewellery, wash the skin with water and mild soap, moisturize it and apply a cold compress to reduce itching. In the case of severe reactions, it is highly recommended to see your doctor.
Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish a gold allergy from other allergies, but you are likely to have the same reaction when putting on your gold jewellery. Also having a family history of gold allergy can make you more likely to have it too.
In general, allergies to gold itself are rare. However, allergy to the nickel that contains gold is quite common, meaning you most likely experience a reaction when in contact with nickel and not the gold.
What Is Allergy to Nickel?
As we know, pure gold is too soft to be used in jewellery manufacturing. That is why pure gold is often mixed with nickel and other metals to make it harder and more suitable for production.
The lower the purity of gold alloy, the larger part of it consists of other metals. As a result, a low karat gold jewellery is more likely to cause allergic reactions.
However, you should be aware that not all gold types contain the same concentration of nickel, meaning if you are sensitive to nickel, a reaction may only happen when wearing certain types of gold. For example, it is possible to have two rings of the same karat and only one of them to cause allergy.
What to Do If You Are Allergic to Nickel
In case you have an allergy to nickel, you may switch to gold jewellery that is of a higher karat grade. Most people with such an allergy cannot wear 10K gold, which is why you need to try higher karats until you find a suitable type for you.
As a rule, you should avoid gold plated jewellery. Such pieces are covered with a thin layer of gold that will eventually wear out and expose the base which often contains nickel.
If you are allergic to nickel, you should not wear white gold. This type of gold consists of yellow gold with a mix of other metals, including nickel used to make it look whiter. White gold can also have a rhodium plating to achieve a silvery-white colour. Once this layer wears down, nickel beneath will come into contact with your skin and irritate it. In case you are still determined to buy white gold jewellery, make sure it is nickel-free.
In general, the best solution for people with allergies to nickel is to buy jewellery made of hypoallergenic metals such as platinum, titanium, sterling silver or stainless steel.
Always remember to ask your jeweller if they use an alloy containing nickel when you have your jewellery resized or repaired since even a small piece of nickel may irritate your skin.