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Costume Jewellery vs Body Jewellery

We often get the question – I bought this costume jewellery from a jewellers. It’s solid Gold, and it’s set with a genuine Diamond. Why can’t I wear it permanently in my helix? There are so many different styles of jewellery out there, and it can be hard to know what is and isn’t safe to wear. So what’s the difference between traditional jewellery and body jewellery?

Permanent Wear

The main difference between costume jewellery and body jewellery is that body jewellery is intended to be worn permanently without being removed. This alters the design of the jewellery, and means that the materials used in body jewellery must meet much higher standards than costume jewellery.

Costume jewellery is often (but not always) more affordable, and is made from materials that are not often intended to be worn in the moist organic environment of a piercing for extended periods of time.

Costume Jewellery – Note the thin wearable area, butterfly back, and low quality material.


Body jewellery that is designed for permanent wear will often look quite different to costume jewellery. The main points are the thickness, available lengths, and smooth streamlined design. The design of costume jewellery is unsuited for permanent wear, which is why we do not recommend costume jewellery even if it is made from a high quality material such as 18k Gold!

Body jewellery is at minimum 18g or 1mm thick, although some piercing placements benefit from the added thickness of 16g (1.2mm) or 14g (1.6mm). The increased thickness of body jewellery means that any pressure put through the piercing is spread across a larger surface area, minimising the chance of irritation or damage.

Costume jewellery is often much thinner in gauge to save on material cost, often 0.8mm or 0.6mm thick. This thin gauge multiplies any force put through the piercing (for example when sleeping on the piercing, or during a snag or knock) and can cause a lot of irritation.

Body jewellery is designed to be worn permanently and as a result comes in a huge variety of different lengths. Imagine if shoes were one-size fit all – Most people would not comfortably fit the standard size! The same can be said for body piercings. Nobodies ears, noses, nipples or navels are the same and we shouldn’t expect one size of post to comfortably fit them all.

In comparison, costume jewellery often comes in a single size. They are often 6mm long, which is very short and can cause irritation when compressed into a piercing that doesn’t fit. Improperly fitted jewellery is the most common cause of issues we see!

Body jewellery has a smooth, streamlined design to allow for it to easily kept clean. Body jewellery is often a labret design, with a smooth flat back. This is incredibly comfortable to wear permanently, and does not collect skin, fluid and blood in the same way that a butterfly back does. Costume jewellery is not designed for fresh piercings or permanent wear in the same way, and can often have stamps or makers marks on the wearable portion that can scratch or irritate the inside of the piercing. Butterfly backs are also very unhygienic, and are very difficult if not impossible to keep clean. We always recommend wearing specially designed body jewellery in any piercings.

Body jewellery is designed to be worn permanently, and so is designed to have a smooth uniform wearable portion and comfortable flat back. It comes in a variety of lengths and thicknesses in order to fit your body perfectly.


Body jewellery has to meet very strict safety protocols in order to be safe to wear permanently. Costume jewellery does not have to meet any standards, and so is often made from poor quality materials like sterling silver, 9ct Gold, stainless/surgical steel or acrylic. We have a full blog dedicated to body jewellery materials here, if you would like to read more into it! Low-quality costume jewellery can degrade in the body over time, releasing harmful chemicals and seriously irritating your piercing. Wearing costume jewellery is a sure way of causing damage to your piercings. Costume jewellery can be made from quality materials, sometimes solid 18k Gold, however the alloy of costume jewellery can contain nickel (a common allergen) and this can cause irritation.

Body jewellery must meet implant-grade standards set by the ASTM or via DFARs agreements in order to be safe to wear. Brands like BVLA, Anatometal, Inari, Neometal and Industrial Strength (and others!) all work with the highest quality implant-grade materials such as ASTM F-136 or ASTM F-1295 Titanium, ASTM F-138 Steel, pure Niobium or nickel-free solid 14k or 18k Gold. These materials do not degrade over time in the body like low-grade materials do. Ensure you are wearing materials that are implant-grade, or they may impact on the health of your piercings and yourself in general!

This piercing is a perfect example of what can happen when costume jewellery is worn in a piercing. Note the migration of angle, and collection of skin and fluid trapped in the design. This is not comfortable or safe!
This is the back of a helix piercing wearing well fitted, high quality body jewellery. The difference is obvious!

When To Wear Costume Jewellery

So when is it suitable to wear traditional jewellery? Obviously, costume jewellery can be a fun way to match your piercings to your outfit without spending hundreds on new items. They can be quirky, and a good way to test the water with a new colour scheme. We recommend wearing costume jewellery in healed piercings only. That means piercings that are 6+ months old, and are no longer sore, red, or easily irritated. We also recommend wearing costumed jewellery only in lobe piercings. The soft tissue of earlobes is a lot more forgiving of thin jewellery, and of butterfly backs. Finally, we recommend wearing costume jewellery for a maximum of 8 hours at a time. This means you must remove the jewellery and reinsert high quality jewellery to sleep in!

So there you have it, a good overview of why costume jewellery and body jewellery are NOT the same!

If you are wearing costume jewellery in any of your piercings, just get in touch or book a jewellery consultation, and we can work with you to upgrade your jewellery to comfortable, high-quality body jewellery. We can work with any budget – Safe jewellery does not have to break the bank!


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