Niobium is 99.99% pure. It does not react to skin chemistry, and will never corrode or tarnish. It is the safest metal for allergy sufferers to wear. It is used for surgical implants. From a jeweler’s point of view Niobium is fabulous because it can be easily shaped, is as strong as steel, and has a natural shine. It can be anodized to be a rainbow of colors.
It is a pure element, not combined with any other metal. It does not cause problems that alloys may cause. Even if you have never been able to wear metal jewelry comfortably, you will be able to wear Niobium.
Argentium Sterling Silver
Argentium Sterling Silver, also called Argentium Silver or Non-Tarnish Silver, is made of 93.5% pure silver, even a little more than traditional Sterling Silver. It also contains about the same amount of copper, but it also has a small amount of germanium. Germanium acts as a hardener, and has the added benefit of making the silver tarnish-resistant. It is guaranteed to be nickel-free. It is actually whiter and brighter than Platinum and White Gold, and maintains its shine with very little care.
Brass and Bronze
Brass is made of copper and zinc. Bronze is made of copper and tin. These are nickel-free and beautiful all by themselves. Bare metals or oxidized metals are nickel-free, and beautiful to wear.
Modern-day brass is not produced with lead, although it never hurts to ask. Avoid “antique” brass, or brass of uncertain origin. If it passes your questions, wear it and enjoy!
Pewter might be considered to be the inverse of bronze. Instead of copper with a little tin, it is tin with a little copper. This may be an oversimplification since other minor ingredients may include antimony, bismuth, or silver, but it is decidedly nickel-free. Tin, itself has quite a noble history, and is actually classified as a precious metal. Although pewter used to be combined with lead, it no longer is. Avoid “antique” pewter, or pewter of uncertain origin. Ask your questions, and enjoy wearing this versatile metal.
99.9% Pure Copper
Pure copper is allergy-safe. If you can be certain it has not been alloyed with nickel, it’s lovely to wear. Enameled or oxidized copper is generally fine, though be cautious of “antique” plating, as I mentioned under Brass and Bronze. It does tarnish easily, and may turn your skin green.
Metals to be Cautious About
Although 925 Sterling Silver is often nickel-free, it is not always nickel-free. To me, that is a big difference. What the number means is that 92.5% of the metal is pure silver, the remaining 7.5% is copper, and trace elements of some other metal that is used as a hardener. This trace metal may be zinc, tin, boron, lithium, germanium, platinum, indium, or it may be nickel. If it is guaranteed by the supplier to be free of nickel, you can enjoy it for years to come.
Surgical Stainless Steel
Although Surgical Stainless Steel does not cause a reaction in many people, it does in fact contain 8% to 12% nickel. This nickel is chemically bound to the other metal that is there, so that, in theory, it does not leech out into the skin. You may or may not have any problems with wearing Surgical Stainless Steel. If you can wear it without problems, it can be a nice option.