Fiancee's engagement ring causes rash/chemical burn type reaction on her finger. Please help.
April 6, 2007 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Just gave the fiancee her engagement ring. Problem is she has strange reaction. She gets a weird rash/chemical burn looking ring where the ring sits. The ring is 18karat white gold. Could it be an allergy to the gold? Could it be jewelry polish? What is a new (ignorant) fiancee to do to show her I can solve any problem?
posted by donmayo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
White gold is an alloy of gold and a white metal. The white metal used varies, but is sometimes nickel. Many, many people have nickel allergies - ask your fiancee if she does.
posted by dilettante at 10:39 PM on April 6, 2007

Yeah, it's the nickel. Get some clear nail polish and varnish the inside of the ring with it, any part that could possibly touch skin should be covered.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:41 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Could it be an allergy to gold?

Yes, some people have a skin reaction to gold. Anecdotally, after several years without any problems my wife suddenly developed an allergy to her gold wedding ring. She now only wears it on special occasions. I purchased a stunt double ring for her that's a simple platinum band. Some girls just have more expensive needs - or at least that's my punchline when I observe the fact that my wife has two wedding rings.
posted by quadog at 10:47 PM on April 6, 2007

Clear nail polish might be a solution, but the polish may also wear off and she may have flare-ups periodically.

The solution with my S.O., who has the same problem, is just to make sure nothing touches her skin except yellow gold, not less than 14kt. (And she gets some problems with the alloys used in 14kt gold sometimes, we think.) That may require getting a different ring, unfortunately.

Also, if she has a problem with this, be very careful buying her earrings -- the same metals may be very painful if they're used in the posts of earrings. (A good jeweler can re-post silver or white gold earrings with gold posts, in most's not that uncommon a request.) Not sure if it's possible to coat or sleeve the inside of a ring in yellow gold to keep the white stuff from touching her skin, if she wants a silver-colored ring instead of gold-colored one, but it'd be worth asking about.

I think this is a fairly common issue so if you talk to a competent jeweler they can probably suggest various solutions.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:51 PM on April 6, 2007

Nail-polish as described above, or possibly you could exchange the ring for one she won't have an allergy to? You could call the place you got it, and ask them what they can do for you.

Also, just for fun: if you're a man, then you're the fiance, and she's the fiancee. (with accents but I don't know how to make them here) see here: fiance/fiancee

Congratulations on the engagement! :)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:54 PM on April 6, 2007

Yes, some people have a skin reaction to gold. Anecdotally, after several years without any problems my wife suddenly developed an allergy to her gold wedding ring

Are you sure it's the gold and not some other metal? Gold is one of the most inert elements out there.
posted by delmoi at 11:22 PM on April 6, 2007

What is a new (ignorant) fiancee to do to show her I can solve any problem?

Play it cool. Don't freak out. Follow advice given up-thread. Show her that you won't let the little things get you down.
posted by philomathoholic at 11:42 PM on April 6, 2007

Dude, get away! She's a vampire!!!

Actually I have the same reaction to gold. Have to use silver or stainless steel. Never tried platinum.
posted by Telf at 12:15 AM on April 7, 2007

Our jeweller offered us some cortisone cream with our rings - because they were quite wide bands. I thought it was a bit weird and declined. He said it was fairly common for people to get rashes and irritations, if they've hitherto not worn jewellery, and the cream was a stop-gap to get past the initial stage of irritation.

We were OK until my wife got pregnant several years later - straight away developed this horrible alien ring finger. She hasn't worn the ring since. I figure that she's no longer attractive to other males, now that she sports 2 screaming kids, so there's no need for her to be marked.

Hey, anyone wanna buy a used white gold lined titanium wedding ring?.
posted by strawberryviagra at 12:31 AM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

As someone with a nickel allergy, she has my sympathies. A few hours with cheap earrings and my ears bleed.

Definitely see if the jeweler can remake the band for you in yellow gold, or even sterling silver. Sterling silver is my go-to metal for everyday wear earrings. I can leave them or stainless steel earrings in for days on end with no negative results. Obviously, you're not getting her a stainless steel band, so perhaps platinum or silver would be the way to go in this case.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:51 AM on April 7, 2007

Congrats and commises. If it's a nickel allergy (and that's likely) then you have two basic choices: six-monthly nail-varnishings or rhodium-dippings, which will get respectively annoying or expensive; or replacing the ring with one in nickel-free sterling silver or platinum, which may be an emotional wrench but solve the problem. The compromise solution is a cheap stunt-double -- sterling silver with a CZ stone -- for everyday wear.

(Apparently, European jewellers are much less likely to use nickel in alloys; but exposure to nickel in other items, especially in piercings, will set off the allergic reaction across the board.)
posted by holgate at 1:12 AM on April 7, 2007

It probably is the metal as described above, but try just washing it first because it could be the polish. When I got my sterling silver ring resized they cleaned it too (insert whole rant here about the shit job they did) and it wasn't rinsed properly. I got a rash under the ring and the skin was burning within a minute if putting it on. A quick wash of the ring in mild dishwashing detergent in water followed by plent of water to rinse got rid of the excess chemicals and then it was fine again. If yours has a stone or something I'd probably just try lots of water first, I don't know how even mild detergent or soap would react with the different metals and stones having never worn anything fancier than silver.

Good luck, I've had mild nickel allergies too and they're no fun.
posted by shelleycat at 1:44 AM on April 7, 2007

I had the inside of my wedding ring plated with Rhodium several years after getting married. I had developed excema where I wear my ring. It didn't help. It was too late by then, but as I understand it, it helps alleviate allergy problems and it cost me like $10.
posted by Thrillhouse at 5:06 AM on April 7, 2007

Gold and Nickel allergy here. My wedding rings are high quality silver. I do have problems with them every now and then. Just tried platinum recently and had no reaction. Go with platinum if you can afford it.
posted by onhazier at 5:31 AM on April 7, 2007

I am a jeweler.

This is indeed a nickel allergy. She should take off her ring and allow the rash to settle down and disappear completely. If she doesn't, then the reaction will flare up again no matter what.

I would first arrange to have her ring rhodium plated. Ask the jeweler to dip the ring in the plating solution several times to ensure a good thick coating. This should not cost that much. A good solid rhodium plating will last about 5 years under normal circumstances. She can also coat the inside of the shank with clear nail polish as a second defense.

If this does not work, save your money and replace the setting with platinum. She will most probably be fine with that.

BTW, most people with nickel allergies are either blond, blue eyed or both. (which is not to say that there are exceptions to that)

Good luck.
posted by Flakypastry at 6:44 AM on April 7, 2007 [4 favorites]

I've had similar reactions to both gold and silver rings. Now I wear titanium, and haven't had any problems at all. Plus, it's cheaper than platinum.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:11 AM on April 7, 2007

While it's probably a nickel allergy, it may not be.

Does she have pierced ears? Can she wear other gold jewelry?

I have a 14K white gold wedding band. and I had a nasty blistery reaction to it when I first got it. I am not, however, nickel sensitive. It turns out that the ring was rhodium plated and I am sensitive to that. Once the plating was removed, I was able to wear the ring with no problems.
posted by jlkr at 7:30 AM on April 7, 2007

If it is a nickel allergy it can get worse with time, especially if she goes through a pregnancy or two -- mine did, and now even silver can cause a breakout. I have a platinum wedding ring, which has never caused any rash. If you can afford platinum, and don't mind switching rings, that's what I recommend.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:25 AM on April 7, 2007

yeah, my grandma had this problem and had a platinum band under her wedding band (but partly b/c she was a petite 4'10 woman & this worked better than resizing the ring).
posted by ejaned8 at 8:37 AM on April 7, 2007

My aunt developed an allergy to her gold wedding and engagement rings after her second child. My uncle had everything reset in platinum for her. I don't know if this is an option for you, but in her case it was the gold -- not the nickel.

I have a nickel allergy but have no problem with my white gold wedding and engagement rings, presumably because there simply isn't enough in there for it to irritate me.

Good luck.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 12:34 PM on April 7, 2007

I have mild nickel allergies, and had a similar response to my engagement ring. I switched it to the other hand, treated the finger with hydrocortisone, and have had no problems since. Why it doesn't bother the other hand is a mystery to me. My wedding ring is titanium, and I've had no reaction at all to it. You might want to look at titanium rings for your wedding rings, or at least something treated as described by other posters, to avoid the problem with those rings. Congratulations on your engagement.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:40 PM on April 7, 2007

Hope she's not in sales.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:54 PM on April 7, 2007

Something that hasn't been mentioned: It could be dyshidrotic eczema (you can google it.) You didn't really describe the rash, but you say it looks something like a chemical burn, which this type of eczema can resemble. I have dyshidrotic eczema and it will randomly flare up, sometimes it seems to be triggered by nickel in jewelry, although I am not allergic, sometimes it is just the pressure of the jewelry on my skin. Small itchy, burning liquid-filled blisters or a patchy red rash will pop up on my hands. It is apparently common to mostly get the blisters on the palms, but I often get them in a ring around my finger just where the jewelry was.

Seems likely that this IS a nickel or other metal allergy, but if plating or changing the ring still doesn't help maybe go to a dermatologist.
posted by catatethebird at 4:49 PM on April 7, 2007

Oh an anecdotally, Flakypastry, my cousin is half Puerto Rican with dark hair and eyes, and she has a SEVERE nickel allergy, with the scars to prove it, and a boyfriend of mine who was half Puerto Rican also had a very bad nickel allergy.
posted by catatethebird at 4:56 PM on April 7, 2007

Okay, some more detail. All gold with the exception of 24k is an alloy. The karat designation represents the portion of gold out of 24 parts that contains gold, thus 18k gold is 18parts gold out of 24 = 75% gold. The vast majority of gold sold around the world is 18k and below, since the higher proportion of gold, the softer and more easily dented.

In the U.S. white gold gets most of its "whiteness" from nickel. Because the incidence of nickel allergies is increasing dramatically worldwide, the European countries passed laws governing the sale of nickel-free alloys. However, there is still quite a bit of nickel-containing gold to be found in Europe.

The challenge when alloying gold with white metals is trying to balance melting points, brittleness, and workability. Palladium (a platinum group metal) is now available in white gold formulations, but it's really expensive. Most people would rather buy platinum when they hear what palladium white gold will cost. That's most of the reason why nickel-free white gold has been slow to catch on here in the U.S.

Oh, and catatethebird: After many years spent as a jeweler, I can tell you that most of the people that I have seen present with nickel allergy issues are fair skinned and light eyed, but as I wrote above, there are always exceptions.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:27 PM on April 7, 2007

Flakypastry is right on the money. I am severely allergic to nikel and a few good dips in the rhodium will fix it in a flash. But as he said, let it heal before putting it back on, plated or not.

posted by metasav at 9:40 PM on April 7, 2007

Nthing the post-pregnancy allergies to very pure gold (although perhaps looking a little far ahead, donmayo, you may want to keep it in mind).

I worked with a woman who developed a heinous reaction to her wedding ring almost overnight while pregnant. This is how fast it came on: (a) the rash spread (temporarily) to her face, because she slept with her hand touching her face that night, (b) it was so bad that by the time she figured out it was the ring (2-3 days later) she could not take the ring off. I believe they had to cut it off.

You can get info on what she's probably allergic to, but don't be too shocked if it's something else/something weird. And don't listen if anyone says "Oh, you can't be allergic to X". Trust trial and error.
posted by sarahkeebs at 5:15 AM on April 9, 2007

Hey!! Is anyone still reading this?

Check this out:

Approximately 7-10% of the population (predominately women) are affected by nickel allergic

There is evidence suggesting that nickel ingestion may contribute to the exacerbation of eczema in sensitised individuals.

Iron-deficient individuals may be vulnerable to increased intestinal absorption of nickel, and thus to nickel sensitisation and adverse effects on haematopoiesis.

posted by strawberryviagra at 5:27 AM on May 8, 2007

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