It's like he's allergic to my love :-(
January 7, 2010 1:54 PM   Subscribe

I popped the question. He said yes. His ring finger says no. How do we deal with his crazy metal allergies?

I proposed to my boyfriend on New Years Eve, and he (thank goodness) said yes. I knew that he had an issue with most jewelry (can't wear gold, silver, or really anything with nickel), so I did a pile of research, and ended up buying a ring very similar to this one. All my resources told me that Tungsten Carbide was hypoallergenic; even though it uses nickel as a binding agent, there's supposedly something that prevents the nickel from actually leeching into the skin and causing a reaction. He was thrilled; the ring is classy, masculine, and since the one I bought had a small diamond, it's still pretty "engagementy".

Less than 24 hours later, his ring finger and two adjoining fingers had exploded into a nasty rash.

So now what?

The ring can still be exchanged/returned, but I'm now hesitant to buy him any jewelry, even if it's labeled "hypoallergenic". I'm looking for some personal anecdotes of what works for people who are allergic to jewelry (especially if you've had a reaction to tungsten carbide). Has anyone had an allergic reaction to Titanium? Platinum? Palladium? Stainless Steel? I can (pretty safely) assume that if a MeFite has had a reaction, my new fiance will react as well. What are the pros and cons of non-metal rings, like polished wood, or ceramic? Any other ideas are more than welcome.
posted by specialagentwebb to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (48 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Can he wear the ring on a chain around his neck, or a plastic chain similar to the kinds used in surf necklaces?
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:59 PM on January 7, 2010

Best answer: I have metal allergies and titanium & niobium have been a-ok for me.
I don't know if this will help, but when I was 12 or so and wanted pierced ears ZOMG so bad, my pediatrician told my Mom to get some (hypoallergenic) surgical tape and tape a few different kinds of jewelry to my inner forearm for a day or 2 and watch for reactions. I got rashes with all the "normal" stuff. Maybe you could try something smiliar as a patch test? It was only later in college when a friend with body piercings turned me on to titanium & niobium.
(now I just suffer for a few hours at a time with gold and silver earrings).
Good luck & best wishes!
posted by pointystick at 2:00 PM on January 7, 2010
posted by Redhush at 2:00 PM on January 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

Try titanium.
posted by metaseeker at 2:00 PM on January 7, 2010

Best answer: My first wedding band, which was the first piece of jewelry I wore regularly, gave me a horrible itchy rash and swelling on my ring finger. It was only a 10k gold band, so it was around half gold and half baser metals. I switched to a titanium band, which I've been wearing for a year and a half or so with no problems. It's my understanding that titanium is usually alloyed with aluminum and vanadium, not nickel, so if nickel is the problem, a titanium ring might be the way to go.

On that note, a purer precious metal ring might work, too. Of course, 24k gold is terribly soft...
posted by jingzuo at 2:03 PM on January 7, 2010

There's some information about metals, alternative jewelry materials and sealants here that might be helpful.

I used to keep cheap rings from turning my fingers green with clear nail polish. While I wouldn't recommend it for wearing the ring on his finger, since the polish does wear off, some kind of sealant might make the ring workable with the surf necklace solution Effigy2000 proposes.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:07 PM on January 7, 2010

Best answer: Thirding titanium. I'm allergic to pretty much everything, but I haven't had a problem with my titanium wedding ring, which I literally have not taken off in over a year.

Wood rings are beautiful; however, since they're made of wood, they do not hold up as well as a metal ring. I'm not sure if that concept bothers you or not, but I personally disliked the symbolism of a wedding ring that periodically has to be replaced. There are a couple ring-makers who make titanium rings with wooden inlays, which are absolutely gorgeous -- I don't know how well the inlay lasts over time, but it might also be worth checking out.

Ceramic rings can also be attractive; however, ceramic and glass tend to be more brittle than metals. You need to be careful with your hands when you're wearing rings made of those materials, because if you smack something, you will destroy the ring. Particularly if your intended works with his hands a lot or enjoys outdoor recreation, I would steer clear of a ceramic ring.
posted by kataclysm at 2:08 PM on January 7, 2010

Titanium is pretty bulletproof w/r/t allergies; the downsize is that you need to be on the mark with sizing, and the styles are fairly limited.

Non-nickel precious metal alloys are also easier to find outside the US, particularly in the EU where there's a directive controlling its use in jewellery, so if you're prepared to look overseas, you might have better luck.
posted by holgate at 2:10 PM on January 7, 2010

I thought the traditional thing was to get the inside of the rings coated in another metal. You say he's allergic to gold. All golds?

In the short term, most folk use clear nail varnish painted on the inside if the ring makes them allergic. You could you use this as a permanent fix. Just recoat it every time it wears thin.

And if this is an engagement ring... are you intending to get him a wedding band as well?
posted by taff at 2:14 PM on January 7, 2010

I have metal allergies, and have blistered from gold and silver rings. I've been wearing my titanium ring for 5 years now, and I haven't had a problem. And it's got a certain cool factor, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:17 PM on January 7, 2010

You can buy tungsten carbide that doesn't have nickel in it. The first set of wedding rings my husband and I tried we went with tungsten carbide because I have a nickel rash, but I got a rash anyway and it turns out we hadn't read the fine print about there being 5% nickel in it. That's what we got for going cheap, though; we found retailers that have no nickel whatsoever.
posted by Nattie at 2:19 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Right now I'm wearing a ring that is really two vydak o-rings. It is black and bendy and people ask me about it. I think it looks good, maybe not exactly what I'd think of for an engagement or wedding ring (congratulations!) but in this case, it might work. You will have to know his ring size in terms of diameter - they have both metric and English measurement sized o-rings.

I got mine from a box of multiple sizes we got from McMaster Carr, but you could easily find them elsewhere.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:21 PM on January 7, 2010

Also, this Etsy shop has some very nice wood rings.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:26 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Wood can be dicey just because you not only have to watch out for a reaction to the wood itself but also to any chemicals used to treat/polish the wood.

My husband and I have had several reactions to different body jewelry material so we were very careful to select a wedding band that suited our individual allergy profiles. We ended up with absolutely beautiful hammered (looking) Titanium. I'm a nurse so my hands are always interacting with various strong chemicals and I would hate to have a ring that reacted to them (or with them on me). My husband dabbles in all kinds of projects, so again our ring had to be resistant to any form of scratching, deformation and wear. So far, two years in (in January!) our rings remain intact as well as our hands.

The online store we used: Avant-Garde Titanium. They were absolutely flawless in their timing and execution of custom requests.

They seem to be offering a new type of ring (aside from the Tungstun and Titanium they normally offer): Black Zirconium Ceramic. Might be worth a try, although the black is a little goth-tastic.

Also, random thought: Could he be using a soap or something on his hands that is irritating his skin under the ring? I used to have an issue with one of my rings despite it being made from high quality white gold (and never having had a reaction to nickel) until I realized it was due to residue left behind by the hand sanitizer I was nearly constantly slathering on my hands. Now I'm careful to wash under my ring with soap and water after a few rounds of hand-sanitizer.
posted by nursegracer at 2:27 PM on January 7, 2010

What about a wooden ring.
posted by mmascolino at 2:33 PM on January 7, 2010

Mr. F has weird metal allergy issues, and he's been OK with his titanium ring.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:33 PM on January 7, 2010

How about a stone ring? They might be slightly more fragile than metal, but they should be sturdier than wood (which you shouldn't ever get wet). Here is a webpage with some cool ones.

And congratulations!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:35 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get tattoos on your ring fingers? Scary, I know, the permanence, but I have known a few couples who have done that.

Another couple I heard of, got bracelet tattoos for symbols of commitment.

My daughter and her GF have matching leather bracelets, and I never see either them them off.
posted by Danf at 2:36 PM on January 7, 2010

What about a tattooing an engagement/wedding ring around his finger instead?
posted by carmicha at 2:37 PM on January 7, 2010

Why not try putting a coating on the inside of the ring?
posted by lizbunny at 2:37 PM on January 7, 2010

We used to wrap yarn around our rings when they gave us rashes. Sealing with clear nail polish was another option, although, as stated above, it has to be renewed.
posted by Lynsey at 2:41 PM on January 7, 2010

Titanium, like everyone else says, seems to work great, even for my girlfriend who's allergic to all kinds of "hypoallergenic" metals.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:57 PM on January 7, 2010

Some other options:

jade, amethyst, hematite.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:58 PM on January 7, 2010

Oh, snap, PhoBWan, the "Rings of Stone" website was the exact one I was looking for.

The thing is that if you get a ring carved out of a really hard stone--diamond and ruby and sapphire are probably prohibitively expensive, but topaz and tourmaline are high on the Mohs scale and not all that expensive--it will be as strong as a metal ring.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:02 PM on January 7, 2010

Not particularly practical right now, but maybe in the future he could have a ring made from his own bone material.
posted by gene_machine at 3:04 PM on January 7, 2010

i get physically ill when i wear nickel but i can do titanium just fine.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:04 PM on January 7, 2010

This etsy shop has lots of titanium options.
posted by elisebeth at 3:05 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you decide to go with titanium, may I recommend "Titanium Era"? They use two grades of titanium:

6Al-4V, which is made up of 90% titanium, 6% aluminum and 4% vanadium
6Al-6V-2Sn, which is 86% titanium 6% aluminum, 6% vanadium and 2% tin
posted by parilous at 3:07 PM on January 7, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks a ton for all the great suggestions so far. Since so many of you have had great luck with Titanium, we'll probably go with something in that metal. Unless I can convince him to go for a ring tattoo...
posted by specialagentwebb at 3:09 PM on January 7, 2010

You'll find a lot of styles for titanium rings on etsy, and pretty cheap. I'll quickly plug Titanium Era also, since we got our wedding rings there and were very happy with the service and the rings (totally an above-and-beyond kind of shop).

As others have said, the thing with titanium is that it's not resizeable; they can shave a bit off the inside to make them larger, but if you get them engraved (as one does with wedding rings) you don't want to lose the engraving. Get sized at a jeweler near you if you plan to buy from an online vendor, and think about your fingers shrinking in cold and swelling in heat; I suggest a happy medium size that stops at your knuckle but feels a bit loose.
posted by Billegible at 3:35 PM on January 7, 2010

"Unless I can convince him to go for a ring tattoo..."

Probably not the best idea, the inside almost always ends up getting really faded/disappearing. Most reputable artists won't do them for that reason.

I have a nickel allergy and got a tungsten carbide ring with no nickel that I've been wearing for 6 months with no problem.
posted by dolface at 3:45 PM on January 7, 2010

My wife had an allergy to her gold wedding ring, had it replaced with a platinum one and no problems.
posted by Cosine at 4:15 PM on January 7, 2010

Stainless steel?
posted by gjc at 4:20 PM on January 7, 2010

I had a platinum ring at first, which was heavy and prone to fall off. Eventually lost it, bought a titanium ring (from Era previously mentioned) and absolutely love it. It is so light! If he can handle titanium, I would recommend it.
posted by lundman at 4:40 PM on January 7, 2010

Ms Flabdablet and I both took our rings off and put them in a drawer somewhere within hours of getting married. Neither of us is allergic to metal - the bloody things just got in the way when we tried to hold hands.

Our ninth anniversary is coming up this month. Rings don't need to matter.
posted by flabdablet at 4:49 PM on January 7, 2010

Rings don't need to matter.

Agree. But it's also OK if they do matter to specialagentwebb and the future Mr. specialagentwebb.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:58 PM on January 7, 2010

I'm allergic to nickle and at times have had reactions to other metals as well (perhaps they had nickle in them), but I've never had any problems with my platinum wedding ring.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:04 PM on January 7, 2010

it's also OK if they do matter to specialagentwebb and the future Mr. specialagentwebb

Sure. All I was attempting to point out is that his being allergic to rings is not like being allergic to her love.
posted by flabdablet at 5:10 PM on January 7, 2010

My mother couldn't wear gold or silver jewelry, but platinum was no problem for her.
posted by trip and a half at 5:28 PM on January 7, 2010

Whatever you do, don't spend a lot of money planning to paint it with nail polish for a cure.

It's a flaky pain in the ass dollar store salvation, and doesn't solve any problems you plan to have for more than eight hours.
posted by Sallyfur at 6:35 PM on January 7, 2010

Another successful titanium wearer here, and Titanium Era customer.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:45 PM on January 7, 2010

Incidentally, if you do end up looking at Titanium Era (happy to see lots of other happy customers here!), they're based near me. They have a factory floor with a bit of a showroom in the business office for anyone who wants to look at the rings (we went round in person to check out the design we wanted and get sized) but they're essentially an internet business. The rings are made and engraved by them on site, and I've met the guy who made our rings as well as the office staff who handle the internet business, and they're all really great - when the office manager saw they had an order for someone who lived near her, she delivered our rings in person after work!
Can't recommend them highly enough.
posted by Billegible at 9:14 PM on January 7, 2010

I'm a niobium wearer, but titanium works for me too. Another option is a shell ring. I used to wear one for years as a kid and it was just polished white shell with a heart cut into it. That obviously isn't too masculine, but plain shell can work and if it's thick enough, it won't be brittle. I was young when I got it and wore it forever, so probably smacked it into things often enough.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:13 PM on January 7, 2010

No one on earth is allergic to gold itself, one of the most noble elements in the universe. It's the alloying baser metals that cause the reactions. Human bodies do not contain chemicals that interact with gold.

However, high-karat golds are comparatively weak: they won't last, and will easily be damaged.

Thus, go for highly noble metals, like titanium, that are also strong.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:18 AM on January 8, 2010

We have titanium rings and went with Titanium Concepts, as recommended in another thread here. The engraving is beautiful. They're light and comfy. They resized my partner's really quickly and for free.
posted by kathrineg at 8:31 PM on January 10, 2010

316L Stainless Steel? My father has a similar problem, but 316L works fine.
posted by Sutekh at 9:51 PM on January 10, 2010

Response by poster: Update:

We returned the Tungsten Carbide ring. The jewelers at the shop we returned it to seemed flabbergasted that he'd had a reaction, but when we asked if they had hypoallergenic alternatives, they suggested white gold. I asked if they had any that used palladium instead of nickel, and they... just sort of stared at me. Yeah. Not going back there again.

BUT! We found a lovely little mom-and-pop jeweler, and since my fiance purchased my engagement ring from there, they've graciously allowed us to borrow a simple titanium band for two weeks (with a deposit, of course), to see if he'll have a reaction. Day 3, and so far, no reaction! The metal is a little lightweight compared to the tungsten, and we still need to pick out the style that he'd like, but it looks like titanium is a winner here. Thanks to everyone for the awesome advice!
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:07 AM on January 22, 2010

I know what you mean about the weight of the ring. There is something special about a ring that feels heavy and substantial. Of course my titanium ring is so light and comfortable that I wear it much more consistently than the gold ring I used to have--I think your husband will find it very comfortable in the long run.

Thanks for the follow-up!
posted by kathrineg at 4:07 PM on January 22, 2010

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