Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer School for Sensitive Ears

Wait! Before that last school bell rings and you grab your floppy straw hat to head for the beach, stick around for this lesson on sensitive ears, metal allergies and what makes earrings truly allergy-free.

Several years ago, I developed a metal allergy and embarked on a mission to make my lonely, naked earlobes happy once again. I had a lot of questions at the time, and maybe you do, too. If you have more questions than what's covered here, please feel free to contact me through my Etsy shop or leave a comment here. If I don't know the answer, I'll do my best to track it down.

Nickel-free, hypoallergenic, surgical steel—what’s the diff?

Alloy alloy alloy! Alloy is a mix of metals, and you never know exactly what’s in the mix.

Alloys dominate the body-piercing scene. The metal mixes have their upsides: they’re flexible but strong, they don’t rust, and they’re not too heavy. But many people have allergic reactions to one or more of the metals used to create alloys.

Terms like “nickel-free” and “hypoallergenic” are actually kind of meaningless. For starters, there aren’t any across the board guidelines about what those terms mean. So “nickel-free earrings” can actually just be nickel free in their coating but use nickel or nickel alloys in the base. So that means as the coating wears off, your poor sweet sensitive ears are exposed to the nickel (or more likely, nickel alloy).

I used to be able to wear any earrings—even cheap-o earrings—so why are my ears sensitive now? 

If your body is sensitive to something, it often gets worse over time with more exposure to the offending allergen (alloy alert!).

The upside is that if you limit your exposure to allergens on a regular basis, your body may be able to handle occasional exposure with no problems. One of my customers used to have severe allergic reactions to every earring she tried. Nickel free, sensitive ears, hypoallergenic, even gold—you name it, her ears hated it. Then she found out about pure titanium earrings and discovered Variya. After a few years of wearing no earrings (boo!), followed by a few years of wearing Variya’s allergy free titanium and niobium earrings (yay!), now her ears can handle wearing high quality gold and even the occasional cheap-o earrings.

However, that's not true for everyone. Some people's allergies get worse as time goes on. Full disclosure: my sensitive ears cannot handle anything other than pure titanium or niobium.

Everyone is different and responds differently to metals in jewelry. But one thing is for certain: my customers have always had success with Variya's earrings made from pure titanium or niobium.

What makes titanium and niobium truly allergy-free?  

The titanium and niobium that Variya uses are PURE. I use only grade one pure metals for any part that touches the skin. A lot of other “hypoallergenic” jewelry is surgical implant quality, which is an alloy and can cause allergic reactions. For the overachievers in this class, here’s more info on metal grades and alloys.

Okay, class is over. Now let’s get on with summer! Here are some of my favorite summertime jewelry picks.

With iridescent waves of blues, greens and gold, these paua shell earrings call to mind the cool ocean depths. Suspended by pure titanium kidney wires and accented with a silver plated swirl, these earrings can't go unnoticed.

Have you noticed that pearls are making a comeback? Thank God! There's something so delightfully feminine about pearls.

These fabulously mod titanium wishbone earrings feature polished vintage pearls. They are very light and comfortable to wear (as all summer jewelry should be!). The pearls are available in classic white or elegant grey.

Margarite is a girls’ name that means 'pearl,' and it's the name I’ve bestowed upon these perfect-for-summertime pearl earrings. Sterling silver plated ovals hang from titanium ear wires. The lovely wire-wrapped freshwater pearls will sway gracefully in the summer breezes.

This is one of my favorite pieces of all time. Exquisite jasper, genuine aquamarine, sterling silver, Swarovski crystals and genuine Peruvian blue opal intermingle on this fabulous necklace. The extra long lariat can be worn long, layered, doubled, draped down the back, or any other way you can imagine. It’s a perfect piece to spice up a cocktail dress or give a hip edge to your casual summer look.

Speaking of summer . . . may yours be filled with sunshine, ocean breezes and beautiful jewelry (allergy-free, of course)!

My little boy and me on vacation a couple weeks ago. Ahh, the beach.