For anyone who has a nickel allergy, you’ve probably at least heard about the benefits of titanium as a material for both costume jewelry and body piercing jewelry. With so many different terms being thrown around though, it can be difficult to understand exactly which titanium piece is the right one to get. So here’s a little something to help:
There are two basic types of titanium jewelry: those that are titanium plated, and those that are solid titanium. Titanium plated jewelry is great for the color and durability that the coating provides, and as a material titanium is regarded as hypoallergenic. Most jewelry that has this plating is considered either anodized titanium, or electro-plated titanium. Both of these methods involve creating a thin coating of colored titanium over another metal, but the electro-plating process uses both positive and negative electric charges to adhere the coating, and the anodization process uses a single current in combination with chemical solution. Persons who have severe allergies or are known to have skin issues resulting from stainless steel should opt for a solid titanium item though, as both plating methods most often use surgical grade stainless steel as the base metal (the underlying core) of the jewelry.
Solid titanium jewelry will usually be labeled by grade, which can sometimes be a little confusing as well. Most jewelry you’ll see that is truly solid will be listed as either “grade 5” or “grade 23” titanium. For the most part, these two classes are so similar that you’d never really notice the difference. Both grades are the same type of titanium alloy, Ti6AL4VELI, which is designated by the FDA as an approved biocompatible material for human heart implants and replacement parts. This alloy is composed of titanium blended with aluminum and vanadium, generally at percentages of approximately 6% and 4% respectively. The main difference between grade 5 and grade 23 is the amount of dissolved oxygen left over in the material from oxidization that occurs at the high temperatures needed to meld and strengthen the metals. Grade 23 has slightly less. There are other grades of titanium that are less pure than these and can sometimes be composed of different composite metals that may have a higher instance of allergy, so it’s best to stick with only items that are clearly labeled as grade 23 or 5 if you’re sensitive.
Now that you know exactly what you’re getting, it’s time to clear the next hurdle. What color!?