Is Stainless Steel nickel free?

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Types of Stainless Steel jewelry

 

Is Stainless Steel Nickel Free? The Surprising Truth.

Stainless steel jewelry can be beautiful, nearly indestructible, and a great cost effective substitute for Sterling Silver.

But did you know that not all Stainless Steel jewelry is created equal?

I sure didn't, not until I started working with Stainless Steel in our jewelry designs.

There are several different types of stainless steel. They include Martensitic, Ferritic, and Austenitic stainless steel.

 

But what's the difference?

 

Other than the fact that some of them (most ferritic and some martensitic) are magnetic and are also more likely to develop things like rust and gross tarnish (I learned this the hard way when we got a bad batch of clasps that were Ferritic steel, and had to pitch them after the testing period. All of them.), some contain more nickel. Like, lots more nickel.

And if you have a nickel allergy, that's a bad bad thing to have in your jewelry.

 

Wait, isn't stainless steel Nickel Free?

 

No. Stainless steel has nickel. It's part of what makes some grades so shiny, and durable. However, some types of stainless contain less nickel than others.

When you go to a cheap jewelry store, and you pick something up that says 'stainless steel' on the tag you might be getting stainless steel that is going to turn funky colors, or worse: RUST!

rust on chain- GROSS!

 

Ok. So how do I avoid 'bad' stainless steel jewelry?

 

Ask what grade it is. If the store clerk, or designer doesn't know then chances are it's not something you want to buy. Look for things marked 316L (surgical steel) or better yet 304 stainless steel.

316L grade stainless is Surgical Steel. It's a low nickel steel used in surgical instruments, and other medical equipment. It's considered hypoallergenic, and won't get gross tarnish or rust.

304 grade stainless is even better. It's lower nickel than 316L, which makes it an even better choice if you have a nickel sensitivity. It also wont get nasty tarnish or rust.

 

What does Serenity in Chains use?

 

We use both 316L and 304 stainless steel, although whenever possible we use 304 stainless. It's better, stronger, and less likely to irritate a nickel allergy. Our steel clasps are 304 stainless steel, as is all of our steel chainmail jewelry.

I have a nickel allergy, so I know the difference between wearing a high grade piece of stainless steel jewelry, and the cheap high nickel junk.

 

Too busy to read it all? Click Here to get the PDF for later!

 

Comments

Stainless Steel grades

Thanks so much for the information. I hope the jewelry I purchased does not rust or corrode. I was aware there were different types of stainless steel. The jewelry I purchased was made of martensiti stainless steel. was not aware that this was low-grade stainless steel. Live and learn.

Wrong information about 304 stainless steel

From what I've read on the Web, it is not true that 304 stainless steel contains less nickel than 316 stainless steel. I don't want to post links here and look like I'm spamming, but WebMD recommends surgical stainless steel for those who suffer from nickel allergy, and the Mayo Clinic's website states that it is surgical stainless steel which is "generally considered hypoallergenic for most people".

Re: Wrong information about 304 stainless steel

Hi Irene!
Sadly, there is a lot of bad and misleading information about stainless steel and nickel content. Some of it is poorly researched, some of it is information that has been 'scrubbed' to make it easier to understand for the general public (like the WebMD article I'm sure you found).

Here is the % of nickel in the two different types of stainless steel we use at Serenity in Chains: 304 contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel while 316L contains 16% chromium, 10% nickel and 2% molybdenum.

These numbers come directly from the metal manufacturer. The smelting process also bonds the nickel more thoroughly between the chromium molecules in 304, meaning less contact with the element.

It's true that for most people 316L (surgical) Stainless Steel is a good hypoallergenic option, however I have several clients that are so allergic to nickel, they can't wear it. I've even been known to have the odd reaction myself (I also have a nickel allergy, though not severe).

I've never reacted to our 304 stainless.

However, if you are unsure what you should wear and you have an allergy, make sure you consult a doctor before purchasing something that contains a potential allergen.

Thanks for the inquiry!

-Michelle of Serenity in Chains

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