Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rejoice Ye' Costume Jewelry Lovers Who Have Nickel Allergies

I'm not sure where along the way I discovered I had nickel allergies. I think I had my ears pierced when I was around 7-8 years old. I had gold studs put in and never had a problem. Birthdays and graduation brought more little silver or gold studs and everything was good.

When I struck out into the world on my own I soon realized that I couldn't wear costume jewelry. Well, I could, but it would be a matter of minutes before my ears started itching. If I continued I would end up with big, swollen puffy ears that would ooze all kinds of nasty stuff. Surgical steel was less irritating, but if I wore them longer than a day, the reaction was about the same. So what's a poor starving college student suppose to do???

Unfortunately I didn't really figure that out until a couple years ago.

When it comes to post earrings I wish I could say I found something incredibly easy, but I haven't. I've tried to coat the offending post with clear nail polish, which seemed only to lessen the eventual irritation but it really was a short term solution and didn't seem to be worth the hassle. Now I tend to stick with silver and gold for my posts because the truth is I can buy most basic "costume" sterling silver post earrings for less than $5 on eBay.

But when it comes to dangling earrings I have found something that works wonders. Jo-ann's carries this wonderful "Elegance" line, which comes in .925 Silver and 14K Gold. Now when I find a costume earring at a savvy price that I like I simply replace the french wire hook with a silver or gold hook and I'm good! For the most part I use the little watch-repair kit that I mentioned in an earlier post, but any small pair of pliers will work as well. It's a great fix at only $3.99 a package, and if you use Jo-ann's weekly 40% off coupon it's only $2.39 for enough hooks to fix 3-4 pairs of earrings.

Not only have I used these hooks to change costume jewelry posts out, but I've changed out vintage lever back earrings (one pair was given to me by my Tante years ago) too. I have also used them to "make" earrings out of other jewelry. For instance, an old 3 pearl necklace I bought on eBay, which just never quite looked right and was so inexpensive that it wasn't worth the hassle of sending it back to the seller was turned into a pair of earrings that I now wear quite often.

You can also buy the back posts of earrings in both silver and gold, which I have found helps mitigate the irritation if you choose to use clear nail polish on stud earrings.

As it stands now, Superstar #1 only shows signs of nickel allergies, which we discovered when she was just 6 months old. While changing her onesie one morning I noticed several little upraised red circles on her belly. My first thought (daughter of a German nurse) was ringworm, and I was a little concerned and confused on how my breast-fed, almost always at home with me, daughter could have ringworm.

It took me a few minutes before I realized that the bumps were an allergic reaction to the little silver snaps on the onesie that went up the front and middle! Needless to say I passed along all the silver snap items on to friends and really haven't noticed any reactions in Superstar #2 although given that nickel allergies run in the family on both sides, we'll probably stick to silver, gold or platinum for the girls if they ever get their ears pierced. Bummer, huh? I bet their future husband's will be thrilled to know they can only wear precious metals.

Really, when it comes to earrings I tend to stick with buying things that are either 925 silver or 14 K gold. A couple months back I bought a pair of Etienne Aigner earrings at Belk's for $6 that were elongated costume hoops, but with 14K gold posts so that I had the best of both worlds.

There are so many more jewelry options nowadays for those of us with nickel allergies, whether it's changing out the french wire or buying online at places like eBay. So remember, Shop Savvy Y'all!

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