What are Jewelry Allergies and How Do I Avoid Them?

Written By Allie Perry March 14, 2024

We’ve all either had bad reactions to jewelry or know someone who has. We can instantly recall our hot, itchy earlobes, green skin, or unsightly rashes where our low-quality costume jewelry had been touching our skin. But some people have underlying allergies that cause them to react even to their expensive fine jewelry, or important sentimental pieces like wedding bands!

What are jewelry allergies?

Jewelry allergies, also known as contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis, occur when certain metals or materials in jewelry come into contact with your skin. Just like walking out in spring time and sneezing due to pollen, wearing jewelry that contains anything your body recognizes as an allergen will trigger an allergic reaction.

While pure metals are often safe for most people to wear, the metals jewelry pieces are often alloyed with can be problematic. The most common metals known to cause jewelry allergies are nickel, cobalt, and chromium, but reactions can also be triggered by copper or zinc. Just like with foods, any person can end up being allergic to any metal.

Jewelry allergies present themself when your body's immune system reacts to those metals as if they are harmful substances. The itching or rash is your body’s way of throwing up a red flag and alerting you to the fact that you need to take that jewelry off! When the offending metal comes into contact with your skin, it can cause your body to release histamines, which leads to symptoms such as redness, itching, swelling, and in severe cases, blistering or eczema-like rashes.

What do I do if I'm allergic to my jewelry? 

First, you can click here to learn more about jewelry alloys and what they do. 

Then, read the list I compiled for you about jewelry allergens and how to avoid them!

  • Choose hypoallergenic metals: Opt for jewelry made from metals that are less likely to cause allergic reactions, such as stainless steel, titanium, platinum, or yellow gold that’s 14 karat or higher. These metals are less likely to contain nickel.
  • Avoid nickel-containing jewelry: Nickel is one of the most common causes of jewelry allergies. Check jewelry labels or inquire about the metal content before purchasing to ensure it does not contain nickel. If you think you’re allergic to white gold, chances are you’re just reacting to the nickel it was alloyed with.
  • Consider coatings or platings: Some jewelry is coated with materials like rhodium or enamel to create a barrier between the metal and the skin. This can help reduce the risk of allergic reactions, especially if the underlying metal is known to cause allergies. Nearly all white gold jewelry is plated with rhodium, so if you have a nickel allergy you’ll very likely have bad reactions to your white gold jewelry once that rhodium plating wears off. This is not a question of “if” it will wear off, rather a question of “when”. No matter how careful you are, normal wear and tear will eventually remove the rhodium plating.
  • Limit contact: This one’s simple! I feel like this should go without saying, but if you have known allergies to certain metals, avoid wearing jewelry containing those metals. Opt for jewelry made from safe materials or wear jewelry in areas where it's less likely to come into direct contact with your skin, such as earrings made from hypoallergenic metals with plastic backs.
  • Keep jewelry dry and clean: Moisture can exacerbate allergic reactions by facilitating the transfer of metals onto your skin. Remove jewelry before bathing, swimming, or engaging in activities that cause excessive sweating. (This is good practice even if you don’t have metal allergies!) Also, clean jewelry regularly to remove any buildup of dirt, sweat, or other substances that could increase the risk of irritation.
  • Avoid contact with chemicals: When I say this to people, the most common response I get is, “I’m never around chemicals!” Go read any ingredient label in your bathroom and you’ll be quickly reminded that cleaning agents, makeup, lotions, perfumes, and even soaps all contain chemicals. While you may not usually react to these chemicals, wearing a piece of jewelry that traps those chemicals against your skin could affect your body chemistry.
  • Make sure your rings fit correctly: If you wear rings that are too tight, moisture from sweat or washing your hands will get trapped between your jewelry and your skin, resulting in contact dermatitis. Sometimes the solution to avoiding this itchy rash on your finger is as simple as having a goldsmith size your ring up to the correct size.
  • Clear coat your costume jewelry before wearing it: I know I make jewelry for a living, but I love buying fun costume jewelry pieces for special events.  Coating the backs of these items with clear nail polish is a short term solution for those costume pieces that I love, especially if I think they’re going to make me itch or turn my skin green.
  • Consider alternative materials: If metal allergies persist, consider alternative materials such as wood, ceramic, glass, or plastic for jewelry. These materials are less likely to cause allergic reactions in most people. Remember that these alternative materials may still have findings like clasps or earring hooks that will be in contact with your skin- so the perfect pair of polymer clay earrings won’t solve your problem if you’re allergic to the ear wires they hang from.


By being mindful of the materials in your jewelry and taking steps to minimize skin contact with allergens, you can drastically reduce the risk of jewelry allergies and enjoy wearing your favorite accessories comfortably!

And if you’re ready to reward yourself for taking the time to get educated about jewelry allergies, click here to see what one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces I’ve made!



Allie is the owner and goldsmith behind Allie Perry Designs.

Learn more about her here, or connect with her on Instagram!

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