Authors Note February 2017 Written originally as an opinion piece for the jewelry trade. Now included in this blog for the record
I have been employed by jewelry manufacturers or refiners my whole professional life.. Most days’ part of my job is getting some caster or jeweler through some difficulty with gold or platinum. For 16 years I’ve made a living selling gold alloys. This experience gives me a certain perspective.
I looked into some numbers on nickel in an unscientific survey, totally informal. When I ask retailers how many people complain about nickel allergies or sensitivity it is most often ear posts or piercing. That amounted to about one person in twenty. When it comes to rings and pendants, about one person in 100 has trouble. Banning nickel in rings because of a problem in ear posts seems to me is too much regulation. My reading of information from Europe claims up to one person in three has serious problems with nickel jewelry. My informal survey may underestimate the threat, just as the European directive may have been overkill.
No denial, just some healthy skepticism. I have seen examples in medical literature on severe nickel dermatitis, and my heart goes out to those victims. They deserve access to clothing, watches and jewelry that they can wear without discomfort or fear.
I firmly believe this situation calls for a detailed study, so that we in America can realistically decide whether all this trouble over nickel gold alloys is necessary. I really hate to hear talk of a ban here as when and not if. We are not nearly well enough informed.
My opinion is that the nickel ban was not necessary. Nickel alloys have some great attributes that should not be denied to those who can wear nickel alloys. Nickel provides very durable jewelry. My suggestion is that nickel alloys be permitted in Europe, suitably marked to prevent problems. After all, if you are allergic to some substance in food, proper labeling lets us enjoy a great quality of life over dinner and avoid certain foods. I strongly object to any substance being denied to the entire audience, when a mere fraction would have health or any kind of trouble with that substance. Foods, effective legal drugs, and metals all apply here.
Nickel alloys should be available worldwide in addition to their alternatives. Nickel white gold offers real advantages over palladium and manganese white golds. Palladium white alloys are soft, but cast at very high temperatures, high enough to cause certain kinds of porosity. Many jewelers are not well equipped for palladium alloys. The temperatures are too high. To say nothing of the costs! But then, its just my opinion. What’s yours?