As a preface, I’d like to state that one of the things I have always striven for is providing the highest quality and safest piercing and/or modification experience at the best value for money and price I can possibly offer. Please be cautious of compromising quality for a lower price. This is your body and piercing is a cosmetic implant that should not be taken lightly. Not all piercers are the same, and not all body jewellery is made equally…always research your piercer to see if they are right for you.
I posted a bit ago about the dangers of cheap jewellery and have had a few questions from clients asking about titanium that they have purchased from various places online. All titanium jewellery is not the same. Titanium, like many metals, comes in different grades with varying level of purity and quality. Implant-grade titanium (which is the material all my jewellery is made of) is the most appropriate material available for surgical implants and can help piercings heal more quickly compared with other metals such as steel and lower grades of titanium. The composition of the titanium alloy used in ASTM F136 is tightly bound so that it cannot break down under the skin and release metal particles inside the body.
Although other grades of titanium, such as grade 23, do adhere to the EU Nickel Directive they are not as biocompatible as ASTM F136 titanium and are not designed for long-term wear under the skin. The use of ASTM F136 titanium ensures the greatest possible chance that a piercing will heal properly.
As I mentioned in a previous post, in addition to differences in metal composition, badly polished cheaper titanium has a nearly undetectable rough surface texture and is severely problematic. It can cause irritation, micro-tearing in the piercing itself, and allergic reactions as it is generally not implant grade. Is that neat looking piece of jewellery titanium? Sure. Is is a quality piece of jewellery? Perhaps not. Always ask if an XRF certificate is available. This test shows the composition of the metal and if the jewellery seller cannot provide it, the quality may be questionable.
What about gold?
14ct and 18ct gold are safe for initial piercings as they can be autoclaved on low heat and have a negligible nickel content. Pure gold is known as 24ct gold. It is very soft which means it shouldn’t be autoclaved because it may lose shape and the softness means that nicks in the surface are more likely to form which can trap bacteria in new piercings. Due to this, 24ct gold is not really a good candidate for new piercings.
All other solid gold incorporates other metals in the form of alloys to make it more durable and affordable. 9ct gold is less pure and contains more alloys. The lower the karat (ct) designation, the more “other” metals are in the mix. These metals are often nickel, palladium, or copper , all of which can cause a reaction in an unhealed piercing and even in healed piercings if you have sensitive skin or metal allergies!
Real gold can be expensive but it is a beautiful metal. Plated gold jewellery is cheaper but is not very durable. In time the plating will rub off and expose the metal underneath which can cause irritation or infection. Gold filled jewellery has a much thicker coat of gold than gold plated jewellery but it should still be avoided as the base metal will eventually wear through and be exposed to the skin.
Surely Silver is Alright!?
Actually, it’s not! Silver should not be used for body piercing jewellery but is totally safe to be worn on the body as necklaces, bracelets, and rings. The reason silver is not suitable for body jewellery is that it corrodes when it comes in contact with sulphur, which is a substance your body contains. This contact forms a toxic substance: Silver Salt. This is why silver must be kept clean and polished regularly to prolong the quality.