Metal allergies are no joke for those who suffer from them. They often result in a rash and sores from prolonged exposure to a metal they are sensitive to. Two of the most common metal allergies are Nickel and Copper. Nickel is a silvery-white colored metal that is most often seen in German Silver (nickel silver) - an alloy containing nickel that is typically used in the manufacture of inexpensive costume jewelry. Fortunately nickel is easy for us to avoid. Nickel free metals include:
Here are metals that do contain nickel (and are not used in any of our jewelry):
I was surprised to learn that most surgical steel alloys contain some percentage of nickel ( from .05% to 20% depending on the alloy) according to their MSDS sheets.
Copper is another common metal that many people are sensitive to. Fortunately, copper too can be avoided in custom jewelry and there are several good options available to use instead of sterling silver. Sterling Silver contains about 7% copper, and was developed by jewelers to create a more durable and workable silver in comparison to fine silver. However fine silver will still polish and solder beautifully and can be work hardened to give strength. And while fine silver will take scratches and blemishes more readily than sterling, it is still a fine option to consider when accommodating copper metal allergies.
Recently we received a commission to make a ring for a gentleman who has a copper allergy. We tested several alloys and options with him and determined fine silver to be the best alternative to sterling for his price point and preferences. The ring features a hand cut and polished stone of our best AAA Lapis Lazuli.
One of the potentially limiting factors in working with alternative metals and alloys is the availability of metal shapes and forms from the mill. The commissioned ring design requires heavy gauge "D" wire for the ring band, but this wire form is unavailable from our supplier in a fine silver, so we have to mill it down ourselves to complete the order. Fortunately we have a very fine Durston rolling mill in our shop with the ability to mill round wire down to "D" wire without too much trouble.
Fine silver is used entirely for the fabrication of the bezel cup to hold the stone for both the bezel and back plate. Hard, medium and soft silver solders are used for the fabrication of the setting, and since they contain no copper, they do not cause a reaction with our client.
Finally the stone is set into the completed setting and then polished. The fine silver is quite soft at this stage and must be work hardened after polishing in order to give it some strength. A tumble in stainless steel shot for a few hours does the necessary job. I found that attempting to work harden the setting manually with a rawhide mallet marred the metal, so the tumbler is the best tool for the job in this case.
Our hypo-allergenic fine silver ring is ready to deliver to our client.
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