A quandary. My skin doesn't like metal, but I'd like a wedding ring.
January 27, 2013 7:31 PM   Subscribe

So, my skin doesn't like metal. I mean it really doesn't like metal, but I'd like to have a wedding band. What to do?

I haven't really worn much jewelry since I found out as a child that it makes me itch. I mean itch. Not to mention turn green and all rashy-like. I tried white gold with my first wedding bands, but they made my fingers itch and turn green and all rashy-like. That lasted about a week before I tore them off and wore them around my neck on a silk cord, which lasted about a week before they went in the jewelry box forever because of the rash on my chest. That was, oh... over 25 years ago. I think the longest I've worn anything metal since then was about a day (so the person who gave it to me wouldn't be offended), and it was torture.

People have given me "hypoallergenic" jewelry over the years (boyfriends and such), so I've tried a lot of things, like "purer" gold, silver, platinum, titanium, etc... But they have all made me itch. Once, in a science lab, I got hematite all over my hands and itched for hours. Heck I can't even wear clothes with snaps because the backs of the snaps will eventually make me itch.

I can handle silverware just fine long enough to eat a meal, and an aluminum crochet hook for a while. But if stainless steel lays against my skin long enough (for example, snaps on clothes), I'll start to itch. Some metals just react faster than others is all.

So anyway, my honey and I thought that the Tungsten or "ceramic" rings we've been hearing about would be the answer to our prayers. However we went to the jewelry store yesterday and tried some on, and after about three or four rings, my finger began to itch. And I had such high hopes.

I hear that wooden rings will eventually wear out or break. And shell rings don't last long at all (I've tried them). Does anyone have any other alternatives? I've looked online for alternatives but I'm coming up blank. I considered tattoos, but having a metal needle go in and out of my skin over and over doesn't sound like a good idea. Our wedding is at the end of March, so we have a little time, but this is one of the things I'd really like to check off our "to do" list.
posted by patheral to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (42 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My mother was very sensitive to metal, but she could wear platinum without a problem. Maybe marble or stone?
posted by trip and a half at 7:37 PM on January 27, 2013

Soapstone rings are lovely.
posted by headnsouth at 7:41 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've seen a sculpted jade band that was positively gorgeous.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:41 PM on January 27, 2013

Don't know how fancy you want to get, but maybe a silicone ring could be an option? Bonus: easily replaced. Buy a bunch of them! You could get different colors! Go nuts!
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:43 PM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bone or antler, perhaps? Or soapstone?
posted by PussKillian at 7:50 PM on January 27, 2013

These might be too fragile, but glass? (Ive seen some gorgeous blown glass rings.) Plastic? Bakelite? Bone? I know you said stainless
steel doesn't work, but have you tried the surgical kind?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:50 PM on January 27, 2013

There are also ivory rings. Your ethics may vary.
posted by trip and a half at 7:51 PM on January 27, 2013

posted by bq at 7:52 PM on January 27, 2013

I found this site:

The Carrotbox is for anyone who loves
glass rings, lucite rings, wood, agate,
plastic, resin, acrylic, jade, etc.
— anything, as long as there's no metal!

A lot of them are very pretty!

(No affiliation at all -- found it through DuckDuckGo.)

Good luck!
posted by trip and a half at 8:02 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

The soapstone is a pretty ring but my experience is that soapstone is very fragile and easily chips if it hits something, which would make it less workable for a wedding ring.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:03 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

My Mom used to coat her irritating metal jewelry with clear plastic nail polish. I wonder if there is a more permanent coating that could do a similar job?

There are some interesting leads in this marketing-ish material from thechickfashionista.

By pure gold, do you mean 24 karat? You may be able to get a wearable band but it would be very soft.

Another possibility is that your allergy may not be metal only. I am personally, when off meds, allergic to my own perspiration and also can get hives from any constant pressure. Have you consulted with an allergist?
posted by kalessin at 8:03 PM on January 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

My brother-in-law has the same condition—all metals, no exceptions, though he can't even use silverware—and he made wooden wedding bands for him and his wife. It's true, they don't last—he has to replace them every couple of years. If you can make that a nice, renewing ritual, great! But if the idea of replacing your wedding band every couple of years bodes ill or sounds exhausting, then you might do well to follow fiercecupcake's suggestion and go with a silicone ring.
posted by waldo at 8:03 PM on January 27, 2013

wood, bone/antler/ivory, and amber will be more resistant to breakage than stone or glass, fwiw, with amber most fragile of those and wood susceptible to other things (though some hardwoods are REALLY hard)...for ivory without the ethics issues AND in a stronger form, you might look around for petrified mammoth tusk (i saw a shoehorn made of it once)...also, RAD!
posted by sexyrobot at 8:07 PM on January 27, 2013

Also, google got me nowhere on this, but you might look into whether anyone still does tattoos with traditional tools like wood or bone. (Though perhaps skin as sensitive as yours would be allergic to the ink, too.)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:10 PM on January 27, 2013

I have a Hematite ring.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:13 PM on January 27, 2013

One question. You said after three or four rings your finger began to itch. How do you know that means that all of the rings were a problem, and that it wasn't just one of them? It seems like trying on several materials in quick succession would make it hard to tell which ones are actually causing the problem. I don't know anything at all about tungsten or ceramic jewelry, but it seems very surprising to me that ceramic would be problematic. It might be worth going back, and trying different materials on different fingers, to see if you can find any that actually don't cause a problem...
posted by primethyme at 8:15 PM on January 27, 2013

primethyme, sorry for the confusion, but the I meant that the tungsten rings are considered "ceramic" rings (hence the quotes) by jewelers.
posted by patheral at 8:18 PM on January 27, 2013

If the problem is contact dermatitis, which it sounds like is the case, would it be good enough to pick a ring you could wear on a chain around your neck, where you won't have the airflow issues of a finger ring?

If you really want a finger ring, I think you should look for the thinnest tiniest one you can live with. Something you can move up and down your finger, if necessary, and probably the most non-reactive metal you can find (which is probably platinum), as narrow as 1-2mm even if that means you might have to replace/repair it more often than larger rings.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:31 PM on January 27, 2013

Lyn Never, I can't wear a ring on a cord around my neck, it will make my chest itch and break out in a rash. Also, platinum makes me itch.
posted by patheral at 8:42 PM on January 27, 2013

We tried stone rings for a while, but they shattered. Even though I knew they were fragile (and mine broke second), I found the moment when this huge symbolic thing shattered and ended up in pieces on the elevator floor is a horrible one. I think something like wood that might wear out but not catastrophically fail might be less emotionally trying.
posted by lab.beetle at 8:46 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Found a source for wood rings; they are gorgeous, though I can't guess how durable they would be....
posted by 1367 at 8:50 PM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Another good source for wood rings.
posted by liketitanic at 9:35 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you tried putting nail polish on the metal to see if that works? You would have to re-apply it every so often. Jewelers we know who use metal often suggest it for those with metal allergies. I think there also may be specific coating products that can be used but I don't know any offhand.
posted by jabo at 10:26 PM on January 27, 2013

Oops… kalessin beat me to the punch.
posted by jabo at 10:29 PM on January 27, 2013

As for coating with nail polish... I'd have to coat the entire ring, inside and out, and recoat as it wears off. We talked with the jeweler about that yesterday, and she suggested against it.
posted by patheral at 10:31 PM on January 27, 2013

I hear that wooden rings will eventually wear out or break.

Wouldn't that be a beautiful symbol representing the evolution of your marriage? In a few years, if your ring breaks or wears through, you get another one. Different wood, same concept, same finger, same commitment. I think that would be a lovely way to commemorate your long-term relationship.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:52 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Carbon fiber?
posted by Yorrick at 10:58 PM on January 27, 2013

I just saw a wedding band that was a metal on then outside, but was wood where it touched the skin. I will look for it, but you might have luck googling.
posted by Vaike at 11:40 PM on January 27, 2013

Random thought: how about designing a nice wood ring... And then making it into petrified wood? No idea if anyone does this, but it sounds cool to me now.
posted by mhh5 at 12:00 AM on January 28, 2013

How about an enameled ring? Pro - you're only touching glass. Con-enamel chips and I find myself periodically throwing my wedding ring on a mandrel to hammer it back into shape so if you're anything like me you're going to need to have it re-enameled periodically.

If you go with a wooden ring, be careful about what species you use. Some woods are known for generating an allergic response.

Also, while your wooden ring might not be terribly durable, you could always buy a big enough piece of lumber to keep you in rings from the very same tree for the rest of your days. (And for the cost of some wedding rings you could buy the tools and equipment to make those rings yourself!)
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:27 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

This might be a little strange, but at my work we often send stainless steel parts to get coated for chemical inertness by these folks. It's basically a molecular layer of glass deposited on the metal surface, and as a side effect, this imparts a purple-ish iridescent sheen the the part.

Not sure how it would work as hypoallergenic jewelry, but if you happen to like the way it looks, it could be worth a shot and I don't think it would cost all that much. The website says that they will send a free test coupon, so you could test for allergic response prior to sending in a stainless steel ring for coating.
posted by lzlo at 3:52 AM on January 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Check it- this mefite ordered some wooden wedding rings and posted a follow-up saying he was very happy with them' and to message him for questions!
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:11 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I believe this is the type of ring Vaike was referring to. I know nothing about them but they do get great Etsy reviews.
posted by Omniscience Fatigue at 5:16 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I make rings from deer antlers and they're hard and very light -- this might also be an option for you.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:17 AM on January 28, 2013

I can speak from (my husband's) experience when I say that "hypoallergenic" tungsten rings are not hypoallergenic at all. If you really want to try metals, I'd look for samples of palladium or nickel-free surgical/stainless steel. Our jeweler was awesome enough to let my husband borrow a cheap titanium band for a few days just to see if he'd break out, so maybe that's an option as well?

For non-metals, others have mentioned wood and stone. The Carrot Box is all about non-metal rings, and even has a ring shop. Or if you want a more traditional look, Safe Ringz is a company that does silicone metal-looking rings for anyone who can't use metal for various reasons. On preview, I see that both of these have been posted already. In that case, I second the recommendations.
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:56 AM on January 28, 2013

A friend ordered a pair of custom carbon fiber rings from this company for the same reason.
posted by areodjarekput at 6:24 AM on January 28, 2013

Have you ever tried jewelry made out of surgical steel? I coat my earrings in liquid bandage, which seems to help better than clear nail polish, although it does need to be reapplied often.

I would think that a ring that is wood on the inside and metal on the outside would just result in a rash on your middle and pinky fingers, although they are beautiful.

There's some research that eliminating dietary sources of nickel can help prevent contact dermatitis. I know this doesn't answer your question directly, but it might be helpful.
posted by inertia at 7:07 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the tips, but I've gotta let y'all know that rings that have metal on the outside are out because the metal will be touching my other fingers and that's not an option. It'll make my other fingers itch, turn green, and get all rashy-like. Yes, I am that sensitive. I can't even wear clothing with snaps or metal buttons unless they're covered with cloth or something.

We tried carbon rings at the jewelers (right finger) because they were with the tungsten rings and they made me itch too. I think they must mix some kind of metal in there for strength. I dunno, but it was itchy.

Some of the links y'all have pointed us to have really great wooden rings. So we're looking at wooden rings and maybe bone rings right now. There are even some wicked cool Etsy shops that mix the two. I really appreciate y'all's suggestions.
posted by patheral at 8:26 AM on January 28, 2013

You mention crocheting...is there some sturdy fabric/thread you could crochet into a ring? I've heard rayon is made from wood pulp. Or metallic yarn, if you do find any kind of metal that doesn't irritate your skin?
posted by homelystar at 8:37 AM on January 28, 2013

I went with wood, see my askme here, and it's going strong so far.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:08 AM on January 28, 2013

Please note the esty store referenced in my askme has shifted gears a bit since I got my rings from them. My rings are all solid wood, I think he's doing metal and wood rings now but I could be wrong. I can get pics of my ring if you're interested. Memail or something.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:12 AM on January 28, 2013

I don't know if it works any better than nail polish, but this is supposed last three months per application.
posted by delezzo at 11:15 PM on January 30, 2013

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