Nickel Allergy :: White Gold Jewelry Plating :: Plate with Rhodium :: Rhodium Plated
Nickel allergy is caused when the metal nickel comes into contact with your skin and causes an allergic skin rash. An allergic rash, caused by the metal nickel, is usually a mild allergic reaction.
That said it is still very annoying and we could well do without it.
The main cause of these skin allergic reactions is the wearing of white gold alloy that has been created using nickel. The jewellery industry has gradually been moved away from creating white gold using nickel. It is unwise to create white gold jewellery, based on a nickel-gold alloy, without placing a buffer zone between the actual white gold alloy and your skin.
When white gold rings are new they may be coated with the white metal called rhodium. Rhodium is a metal very similar to platinum. Rhodium shares many of the properties of platinum, including its white colour.
The Nickel Skin Allergy Problem
Traditionally nickel has been used in white gold, however, nickel is no longer used in most white gold made today. Unfortunately, many people, women especially, have a nickel allergy. The reason being a reaction to nickel metal found in some white gold alloys. Reactions are typically mild and usually involve minor skin allergic rashes. For people who are sensitive to white gold, palladium is a good hypoallergenic alternative.
This problem applies to costume / fashion jewellery, white gold and steel jewellery, zippers and fasteners and other body piercings.
On 20th January 2000, The European Union countries enacted legislation, brought into operation under the EU Nickel Directive). This directive limits the level of nickel release from jewellery and other items, where they are in close and constant proximity to the skin.
So Europe was in the forefront of the move to phase out the use of nickel metal , from white gold alloys. Now nickel has been substantially replaced by palladium white golds.
Low nickel content alloys, which adhere to the limits imposed by the nickel release requirements of the Directive, are still to be found. The directive does not guarantee that a nickel-sensitised person will be protected from suffering an allergic skin reaction. If you wear white gold jewellery made from such conforming nickel-containing alloys, there is every chance that you will suffer a nickel allergy reaction.
The EU directive on nickel content only applies to the manufacture of nickel based articles produced within the European Union. Some white gold jewellery sold in the EU may contain nickel. It may, however, still conform to the EU Directive on nickel.
You may, therefore, find that you react to such jewellery. Conforming to the EU directive is no guarantee that any or all nickel-based gold alloys will not cause a nickel allergy reaction.
It is best that you check with the retailer of any white gold whether the white gold alloy used is palladium-based and even then whether it is completely nickel-free!
Rhodium-plating should provide some limited protection. Remember though that electroplating coatings are often porous. All electroplated coatings are but a few micrometres thick and will, in time, wear away! Any rhodium plate should be replated regularly (perhaps as often as once every 12 months for a ring that has the hardest of jewellery lives. This is not expensive.)
See Rhodium Plating :: Rhodium Plate by Humagaia.
There is currently no legal requirement in many countries for a retailer to tell purchasers if the jewellery being sold is rhodium-plated. This applies to both platinum jewellery as well as white gold.
You should always demand to know if the jewellery you are purchasing is rhodium-plated. If the jewellery is rhodium-plated, then it is impossible for you to know how white (or off-white for that matter) the white gold alloy is below the rhodium plate.
A good quality white gold, with good colour, can be created without nickel metal and, therefore, should not need to be rhodium-plated. The actuality of the matter is though that it may well be rhodium plated to cater to a consumer expectation of a white that is as white as that produced with rhodium plating..
As imparted above the rhodium plating does wear through. The jewellery is able to be re-plated without difficulty through your local retailer. The colour will be restored and the added advantage is that, should the base white gold alloy contain any nickel, its leaching will be suppressed by the re-coating..
Japan and China took a similar position on nickel. The USA took a more relaxed approach, requiring jewellery to be labelled as nickel-containing. Many other countries have not taken a stance on nickel in jewellery and nickel white gold alloys are still widely sold.
Much jewellery is now advertised as 'non-allergenic' or 'nickel-free'
See White Gold by Humagaia.
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