What Are You Made Of?
Body jewelry comes in various sizes, shapes, lengths and materials. Titanium, Anodized Titanium, Gold, Gold Plated, and Surgical Steel – But What are they, really? What difference does the material that makes up a piece of body jewelry make? Are there certain piercings that do better in certain types of metals than others?
In this article, we’ll find out what body jewelry is truly composed of and how to choose the right materials for you. Whether you are a plain Jane with a knack for simple steel or you’re a experimental dive with every material humanly possible in your body jewelry collection, it is a good idea to know just what these metals are made of.
General overview on steel is that they are broken down into four categories, based on the composition of mineral elements – or what makes up the steel itself, such as Chromium, Manganese, and Nickel and the combinations in which they are used to make up the steel itself. The four categories of steel are numbered, 200, 300, 400, and 500. The 200 series of steel is composed of all three, Chromium, Nickel and Manganese. The 300 series is composed of 18% Chromium and 8% Nickel and is the mostly widely used of the Stainless Steels. 400 series made of mostly Chromium and 500 series made with much lesser amount of Chromium that the others.
The 300 series of steel is what you want to look for when looking for stainless steel for body jewelry. This type of steel is used for medical devices and implants. This series of steel resists heat and corrosive compounds, making that suitable for body jewelry and other household materials such as knives and razor blades.
You may have seen “316L” on our site for surgical steel body jewelry- this is gold standard (no pun intended) for what we refer to as “Surgical Steel”. Not all 300 series of steel are created equal- so just because you see the 330 label or the term “Stainless Steel”, does NOT mean you should stick it in your body! 316L and 317L steel have to resist corrosion (rust, warping, etc) even when exposed to certain acids, like acetic acid (in layman’s terms – vinegar), so you can see why it is important to make sure body jewelry be of this standard or higher. Could you image your lip ring rusting after consuming foods high in vinegar content, like pickles?
Titanium & Anodized Titanium
Titanium is another type of material that body jewelry can be composed of. Titanium is known for its strength in comparison to density and also for its biocompatibility- which means that it is not easily rejected by the body. Because it is non-toxic to the human body, it is used for many medical purposes such as dental implants, pins and screws and more. You can see why this metal has gained popularity in the body jewelry industry – it is lightweight yet strong, non toxic and your body digs it on a cellular level.
Because of the chemical composition, this metal can be anodized- a process that not only makes it more corrosion resistant but can also add color – with anodized Titanium, you can add colors of and like the rainbow directly in the body jewelry material itself.
Titanium is also great for those who have nickel allergies. Skin turning black or green is a tell tale sign that you may have a nickel or metal allergy.
This relatively soft metal is not recommended for body jewelry and can be best reserved for necklaces, ring, earring and other pieces of removable jewelry. Sterling Silver has a softer density, making it prone to scrapes and microscopic bumps and divots where bacteria can begin to multiply and cause problems. For ear piercings that have had significant time to heal, this is usually not a problem but let’s save this guy for accessories instead when it comes to body piercings, especially new piercings.
Gold Plated jewelry is one that is composed of a steel with an outer coating of gold. This gives the appearance of gold without the price tag. This is great option for those who have piercings that have healed fully and want to experiment with different body jewelry without going broke.
And Finally, Gold
I think we all have an idea of what gold is, but let’s do a quick refresher on what the karats really mean. The karats refer to the purity of the gold; 24 is the total sum of components available in the make of the gold, so 24 karat gold is 100% pure. 18 karat gold is 18 parts gold and 6 parts of other types metals and 10 karat gold is only 10 parts gold and 14 part other metals. This doesn’t make it “bad” for being less pure, some mixing of other metals are necessary to achieve certain strength or coloring of the gold.
Gold is recommended for fully healed piercings and is certainly a nice upgrade from surgical steel. Some piercer will use gold jewelry for certain piercings, although that is completely up to their discretion, but the general rule of thumb is surgical steel for fresh piercings
So now that you know the skinny behind the types of metals that are used to make body jewelry, you can go and experiment with different jewelry and have a bit of fun with it. Most body piercing shops have on hand surgical steel jewelry since their primary focus is on new piercings, so finding variations in materials and styles may be difficult. Luckily, Body Jewelry has a wide selection of materials, styles, and sizes and offers risk free experimenting, so take a look at our Idea Book below to get inspired for some new body jewelry.
316L Surgical Steel, Titanium & Anodized Titanium Idea Book