Many people have come to the conclusion
that they are allergic to silver, and thus must avoid
using silver jewelry altogether. There is
such a thing as silver sensitivity, which usually
manifests itself in the form of contact dermatitis - a
rash that appears at the point of contact. At the point
of contact, the skin will feel itchy, dry and crusty,
and red. Blisters may also appear. Usually,
the dermatitis will be restricted to just the area of
Many individuals who believe
that they are allergic to silver (or gold) are actually
allergic to another metal in the silver (or gold) alloy
used to make their jewelry -- nickel.
Two factors make self-diagnosis a challenge.
First, contact dermatitis may appear several days after
contact. Second, a nickel allergy can appear at any
point in one's life. One can react suddenly and
adversely to a piece of jewelry long-owned and
frequently used. If the allergy is due to nickel,
it is likely to become a life-long nuisance once it has
Nickel can occur as a trace element in
silver and gold jewelry. Although sterling silver
is usually made of silver and copper, some nickel may be
present in small doses.
It has long been thought that nickel
allergies were more common among women than men.
However, men are wearing more jewelry than ever,
especially body piercing jewelry. One effect is that
nickel induced contact dermatitis is on the rise among
As with most physical afflictions, it is
best to let one's doctor be the source of diagnoses and
treatments. If the diagnosis turns out to be
"nickel allergy," there is a test available to determine
the presence of nickel in your personal items. It
is called the dimethylgloxime spot test, and your
allergist will no doubt introduce you to it.