For over twenty-five years we have been making and selling handmade jewelry. Over that time we have met many people who have sensitive skin and have allergies to metal. We make copper handcrafted jewelry so many customers have asked our advice on various topics regarding metal allergies.
The most common complaint is regarding ear wires. When choosing handmade earrings, always select hypo-allergenic or surgical steel ear wires, as this is the least reactive type of metal. Sterling silver and even gold have trace amounts of other metals which can cause an allergic reaction. Surgical steel ear wires are the safest choice if you are buying handmade earrings as a gift and do not know how the person reacts to metals. Cleaning the ear wires with rubbing alcohol before wearing will also reduce any allergic reaction.
There are some people who use jewelry cleaners available commercially to care for their handmade jewelry. If you choose to use these be sure that you remove any residue completely. Some of the chemicals used to clean silver and copper jewelry can also cause an allergic reaction if it comes in contact with the skin, especially bracelets and colorful handcrafted rings.
Also keep in mind that dangle earrings with surgical steel ear wires will cause less irritation than stud earrings or post earrings as there is less metal in contact with the skin. Along the same line of thinking, lightweight handmade earrings are always preferable compared with heavy earrings that can stretch the ear lobes. Not only can this be quite painful, it can also cause swelling, irritation and cause head aches so avoid heavy earrings altogether.
Many people have reactions when their skin comes into contact with copper jewelry. Copper oxidizes by darkening and then turning green, just as sterling does so by tarnishing and iron does so by rusting. It is a natural process but the environment determines how quickly it happens. It happens faster in high humidity, but the speed of oxidation is also determined by the body chemistry of different people. Some people wear copper every day and it never turns their skin green while other people wear it and it turns in one day. Some people can turn sterling dark in one day, as well.
We always use a clear lacquer finish on all our copper handmade jewelry so that it does not react with the skin. You can seal your copper jewelry so that it cannot tarnish by coating it at home with a clear acrylic spray paint. Be careful to make sure that the piece of jewelry is completely clean, dry and free from finger prints.
Anyone who has allergic reactions to metals should use common sense when wearing handmade jewelry. Always keep your metal handcrafted jewelry clean. Do not wear metal or copper jewelry if it is hot and humid, or you are participating in sports. Sweating will increase the chances of skin rashes, as will any activity involving water like swimming or gardening. Ask when buying handmade jewelry to learn how to care for handmade jewelry as every type may have special cleaning requirements to keep them looking new.