I've Got Your Back

Consider the humble earring clutch. Also called a butterfly clutch, earnut, or simply an earring back, these little pieces present their own challenge for nickel allergy sufferers.

Post earrings are a staple for anyone who wears earrings. For one thing, most starter earrings are posts. This means you are wearing them when you are most vulnerable to infection. In addition, there are times when dangles just aren't practical. You may not be able to wear them at work, or with small children, or it may just be your personal preference.

When you buy post earrings, you need to know the content of three parts:

post: the straight pin that goes through your ear
pad: the flat disc that rests against your ear
clutch: The back of the earring, which holds the earring on

The most common material for the clutch to be made of is Surgical Stainless Steel.  Surgical Stainless Steel has about 10% nickel in it.  For people who have a nickel allergy, this is a huge number. This metal is sold on "hypoallergenic" racks because the nickel is said to be bonded so strongly with the steel that it can't leach out. For people who are highly allergic to nickel, this is not good enough. It concerns me when earring backs, which rest against your skin all day long are made of this stuff. It concerns me more when sellers don't even know what the backs are made of.

Post pads are another part I want to point out. I have found titanium post earring findings which are sold to jewelers for the purpose of making earrings, and indeed, the posts were titanium. The PADS, however, were made of surgical stainless steel. I can't tell you how frustrated it makes me to find things like this. For one thing, I certainly can't use them for my customers. For another thing, there are many other jewelers out there who are confidently using this product, advertising that they have "titanium post earrings." Perhaps they don't know that Surgical Stainless Steel is not hypoallergenic for everyone, or perhaps they just didn't ask the right questions. At any rate, it's worth paying attention.

Try asking what post clutches are made of before you buy your earrings. You may get some interesting responses. Some sellers will proudly tell you they are made of "genuine stainless steel." Now that you are better informed, you know what that  means. Many sellers will not have any idea at all, and a few of those will randomly guess what it might be. Occasionally earring backs can be made of Sterling Silver or plated metal, which, by the way, can also contain a small amount of nickel.

Unfortunately, when people wear posts regularly and their ears break out in a reaction, it can be really difficult to figure out which part of the earring gave them a rash. As you treat your rash, you want to wear something that is reliable and does not cause you to break out. That requires you to know what your "safe" metals are, and to own a pair or two that you know you can absolutely rely on. It is generally not a good idea to stop wearing earrings altogether if you have a rash, since it is possible your piercing will begin to grow closed.

In my case, I am proud that my posts, pads, and earring backs are all Grade 1 Titanium, which is the purest Titanium there is. I cannot claim to hand make these, as I can my French hook earwires, but I am still able to offer you the highest quality available. I use a variety of stone and shell cabochons to decorate them, for a very simple, classic spot of color.

Try asking questions, try noticing your reactions, and see what works best.


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