The material that your jewellery is made from is vitally important for a happy, healthy piercing. Not every material is suitable to be worn in the body. Some materials are fine for fresh piercings and some materials aren’t. Some materials are fine for long term wear and some are short term only. We’ll break down the different materials available and what they are suitable for, but due to the large amount of information here we have broken this section of the High Quality? blog into multiple posts.
Metal – Titanium, Steel, Niobium, Gold, Silver, Brass
Metals offer the widest range of materials within body piercing and is a subject close to our heart as Aiden is a specialist in metal. Not all metal is safe for the body so it is important to wear metal designed for long term wear.
Titanium is a metallic element from the periodic table. In it’s pure form Titanium is a reactive metal. If exposed to Oxygen (air) then an oxide surface layer will form and it is this layer that makes Titanium jewellery inert and safe for the body.
In body piercing we use implant grades of Titanium that have been designed and tested by metallurgists and has proven to be safe inside the body. Most commonly used implant grades of Titanium are ASTM F-136 and ASTM F-1295. It is important that the materials source can be traced to a UK, EU or US source as other sources have been proven to falsify data and not be following safety protocols. If you would like to know then ask your piercer for a Mill Certificate proving what the metal grade is.
Not all Titanium is implant grade and a lot of industrial Titanium is used by low quality piercers. Grades 5 and 23 are the most common low quality grades used. Industrial grades may be safe for wear but have not been proven to do so as they have been designed for other attributes.
There is a small amount of commercially pure Titanium jewellery available that is used for intricate custom bent jewellery. The grade for come
At Rogue we only work with Implant Grades of Titanium from safe sources.
Steel is complex alloy with thousands of grades available. Iron and Carbon are the basics of steel but for the variety of stainless steels we use within piercing Chromium and Nickel are common additives. Both Chromium and Nickel are known to be irritants so clients with sensitive skin are recommended to avoid.
Implant grades of Steel are available and many manufacturers use ASTM F-138 but sadly the vast majority use low quality marine grade (316 LVM) rather than implant grade. The polish on implant grade steel is important for ‘locking’ the Nickel inside. Within the European Union body jewellery must pass the Nickel Directive. The Nickel directive is a control on Nickel containing items to protect the general public from Nickel Sensitivities but as this directive was designed for belt buckles and buttons it is a not a strict enough policy for body jewellery and nickel sensitivities are still commonplace.
At Rogue we rarely use steel jewellery but when we do we use implant grade only.
Niobium is an element from the reactive metal family (just like Titanium) and also creates an inert oxide layer in the presence of Oxygen. Niobium shows most of the same properties as Titanium except that it is much easier to bend.
Niobium isn’t available in implant grades as it hasn’t had the appropriate testing but as Niobium is inert and has a lower level of sensitization than Steel or Niobium it has been successful in body jewellery. Niobium is available in purity levels as there isn’t an implant grade. 99%, 99.9%, 99.99% and 99.999% are commonly found. 99.9% is the recommended minimum purity for body jewellery use.
At Rogue we use minimum 99.9% pure Niobium.
Gold has the longest human history of all the metal materials used for body jewellery. Known for its yellow lustre and ability to be made into the most intricate and fine jewellery available, modern gold is also available in Rose, White and Black Gold in varying alloys.
Gold is available in implant grades (Dental Gold) but none of the body jewellery manufacturers use these grades as they are prohibitively expensive. 14 and 18 carat gold have been used successfully in body piercing for millenia. 14 carat is recommended for healed piercings and 18 carat is recommended for initial piercings, this is because 18 carat gold is purer and therefor there is less chance of having a reaction in an open wound. Too high a purity is not recommended because it is so soft that the jewellery would become mishaped through general wear and tear.
At Rogue we use 14 and 18 carat gold in Yellow, Rose and White gold.
Contrary to popular belief, silver is not recommended for body piercing. This is because Silver reacts with the body and can cause permanent staining to the skin around a piercing. We are used to seeing this reaction on silver in the form of tarnish that we polish off. The pH of our skin and the moisture in a fresh piercing accelerate this reaction so silver shouldn’t be used for initial piercing.
Silver can be worn in healed piercings for short term periods of no more than 8 hours without issue. Some people find that they cannot wear silver at all whereas others are fine. Lobes are the main location where silver is used safely as most lobe jewellery is removed at night to sleep.
At Rogue we rarely use silver outside of lobe jewellery.
Due to it’s similar colour to Gold but much lower price, Brass body jewellery can be found. Unfortunately Brass is not suitable for initial piercing or for long term wear in healed piercings. Brass is an alloy of Copper and Zinc and both of these metals can cause reactions in the body.
Like Silver, Brass can be worn by some customers for short term periods without issue but some customers cannot wear brass at all. Again lobes are the main location for Brass jewellery as the jewellery is removed at night.
At Rogue we rarely use Brass, but if we do it is for large gauge lobe jewellery.
There are other metals used within body piercing but they are rarities or follow similar rules to the materials above.
Always ask your piercer what material they are using. If it’s going in your body you need to know it’s safe. Our piercer’s will happily tell you all about your jewellery because we believe in safety through quality.
Next weeks blog post will be all about Glass! Sign up to our mailing list to be notified when a new blog goes up!