What Are The Safest Metals?

Happy Wednesday! 

So, I often get asked about our earwires and the metal used. I look for earwires that are gold or silver plated brass. They are usually the safest bet and are cost efficient to boot! We do however, provide sterling silver earwires if you are unsure and would rather not risk it. 

Anyways, I wanted to provide you with more detailed information on the safest metals and metals to avoid along with info on what is plating and what is gold or silver filled metal. Hopefully this will help you when shopping! 

Safe Metals


Niobium is 99.99% pure and hypoallergenic. It does not react to skin chemistry, and will never corrode or tarnish. It is the safest metal for allergy sufferers to wear. It is used for surgical implants so that tells you something!

It is a pure element, not combined with any other metal. It does not cause problems that alloys may cause.  Even if you have never been able to wear metal jewelry comfortably, you will be able to wear Niobium.


Titanium is not just a great song by David Guetta, it is also non-allergenic and does not react to your body chemistry.  Titanium is as strong as steel, but as light as aluminum. It does not corrode, does not tarnish.

Grades 1-4 of Titanium are pure titanium. Lower grades (higher numbers) are alloys with other metals. Grade 5 Titanium is called “surgical grade,” and although nickel free, is still an alloy.

Sterling Silver

atmospheric pollutionsilver sulfide slowly appears as a black tarnish during exposure to airborne compounds of sulfur (byproducts of the burning of fossil fuels and some industrial processes), and low level ozone reacts to form silver oxide.[21] As the purity of the silver decreases, the problem of corrosion or tarnishing increases because other metals in the alloy, usually copper, may react with oxygen in the air.

Sterling Silver consists of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Although any metal can make up the 7.5 percent non-silver portion of sterling, centuries of experimentation have shown copper to be its best companion, improving the metal's hardness and durability without affecting its beautiful color. The small amount of copper added to sterling has very little effect on the metal's value. It contains only trace amounts of copper and sometimes nickel, so ask to ensure the sterling silver you purchase has no nickel alloy in it if you have allergies to nickel.

Brass and Bronze

Brass is made of copper and zinc. Bronze is made of copper and tin. These are nickel-free and beautiful all by themselves. Bare metals or oxidized metals are nickel-free.

Modern-day brass is not produced with lead.

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Pewter might be considered to be the inverse of bronze. Instead of copper with a little tin, it is tin with a little copper. It is decidedly nickel-free. Tin, itself has quite a noble history, and is actually classified as a precious metal. Although pewter used to be combined with lead, it no longer is.

Platinum,  Palladium

Platinum and Palladium are rare metal.  The name Platinum is derived from the Spanish term platina, which is literally translated into “little silver".

10 Carat Gold and above

Gold is alloyed with hardening elements, that include some combination of silver, zinc, nickel, copper, and palladium. The higher the number, the more pure gold is used in the alloy. Try to avoid 10 Carat Gold and below if you have nickel allergies or ensure the 10k gold is not alloyed with nickel.

Onyah's jewelry is always 12k gold or 14k gold filled. There is more info below that explains the difference between plated and filled metals. 

Metals to Avoid


Of course. Long term exposure can cause brain damage and birth defects.  Avoid, clearly!


Like Lead, cadmium is a chemical element to stay away from!

What's the Difference between Gold Plate and Gold Fill?

Gold fill is 50 to 100,000 times thicker than regular gold plating, and about 17 to 25,000 times thicker than heavy gold electroplate. Similarly, silver fill is 100's of times thicker than a silver plating.

Plating is the process through which a piece of jewelry made from a certain metal or alloy is covered with a layer of another metal. For example, a copper or silver ring with a layer of gold on top would be sold as gold plated. We use gold or silver plated brass. So either way, you are safe. However, the silver plated earwires sure to oxidize quicker but they are still safe! 

Illustrated examples comparing gold plate thickness to gold fill thicknesses:

Gold filled chart image.GIF

Why we try not to use Stainless Steel at Onyah...

Known for being highly resistant to corrosion, strong yet easy to work with, and hypoallergenic, stainless steel is a popular metal in the jewelry industry. Stainless steel is made of steel (a mix of iron and carbon), chromium, nickel, and small amounts of other elements. There are different grades of steel, but they can all be worn by most people without allergic reaction. However, that nickle concerns us.

The grade number of stainless steel is what defines the properties of the alloy mixed in; especially the nickel content. Steel that is 304 and 304L grade has a nickel content around 8 to 12% and is the same grade used in the food industry. Steel that is 316 and 316L is made with more resistance to corrosion. These grades have a nickel content of about 8 to 10.5% and are the same grade often used for temporary medical implants and medical tools. The 316L version of stainless steel has less carbon than 316 to provide even higher resistance to corrosion.

Although it does not corrode and hypoallergenic, there are too many people with the allergy to nickel. We are just more comfortable with not using stainless steel. 

Sources for this blog info:




Becca WebbComment