LCB Metals & Glass Since 1993

NickelHeader.gif (1640 bytes)is a silvery-white metal that is easily found in nature. It is usually mixed with other metals to produce alloys which add strength and durability, but in more importantly, lowers the final cost of the jewelry piece. Nickel-silver, which contains no silver at all, is used chiefly for its low cost, but secondarily for its ability to be buffed to a bright, albeit temporary luster, which can pass for silver under the right presentation conditions. Nickel-iron, which is used to manufacture stainless steel, is the most common nickel alloy. Other nickel alloys are used to make coins, clothing fasteners, zippers, snaps, buttons, suspender clips, hair-pins, studs, eyeglass frames, pens, handles, utensils, paper clips, keys, and tools. Although nickel is found in many everyday items, exposure to nickel in the workplace environment is also common through air transmission, but it is much more likely for the general population to come into contact with nickel through direct skin contact, mostly from their jewelry.

Skin contact with nickel is important because it appears to be a very common cause of allergic skin rashes, with nickel allergy being more common among women than men. Ear or other body part piercing puts susceptible individuals at greater risk of becoming more easily sensitized to nickel. A nickel allergy is a reaction that develops after initial, brief, repeated and/or prolonged exposure to nickel or nickel-bearing items, especially areas more vulnerable to infection, like pierced areas. Degree of reaction varies by person, from total debilitation to a swelling or skin redness that comes and goes with little or no notice. A nickel allergy can occur at any age, and manifests in as short a time as a few minutes after first contact. The affected area is usually restricted to the site of contact, although it could also be found on other parts of the body. Once a nickel allergy has developed, it is usually a chronic condition, often being life-long. If you have not been medically tested for nickel allergy, but you have the allergen, exposure to a nickel-bearing alloy in the form of jewelry will probably answer the question, although patch tests are safe skin test procedures which involve the direct application of tiny quantities of several suspected contact allergens, in aluminum chambers, to the skin of the upper back using hypoallergenic tape. The concentrations of these allergens are low so that they won't cause irritation or reactions in non-allergic individuals, but are high enough to cause a positive response in sensitive individuals. The allergens are left in contact with the skin for 48 hours, undisturbed, and then examined at 48 and 96  hours after application. However, patch tests may produce vague or unclear results which may require further examination. If  allergy or sensitivity to nickel is suspected, the usual remedy is to avoid exposure to nickel and nickel-containing items. Since nickel is in numerous metallic jewelry items, it may be unclear as to which to avoid. Labeling is of limited help, since unscrupulous merchants may misidentify the metallic content of their wares, and wholesalers to those merchants may be less than honest as to the alloys used in their product lines. One way to determine whether or not an unidentified metallic jewelry item contains nickel is through the use of adimethylglyoxime spot test, which is a nickel-testing kit that safely tests jewelry and other suspected metallic items for the presence of nickel. They can be obtained from a dermatologist or pharmacist, or order it from Allerderm Laboratories. The kit contains vials of dimethylglyoximine and ammonium hydroxide which, when mixed together with the suspected metallic item, will show a pink color if the item contains nickel. A nickel allergy does not mean  jewelry use is impossible, but a greater sense of selectivity may be required. Hypoallergenic jewelry, or or pieces made of stainless steel, (although this contains nickel, it is so tightly bound that it cannot be leached out), yellow gold of 14K, .925 sterling silver, or jewelry made of non-metallic materials will prevent possible exposure.

VermeilHeader.gif (1906 bytes)   is technically karat gold electroplated over Sterling Silver. In order to be termed Vermeil, the gold electroplate must coat all significant surfaces and be a minimum of 2 microns thick (0.0001 inches). It is incorrect to term an item Vermeil if it has a plating of base metal over the Sterling Silver (such as nickel) over which the gold is plated. If this is the process, then it must be so identified.  When an item is simply termed electroplated, it must be an amount of Karat gold deposited on all surfaces of the piece via an electrochemical process equal to a minimum of .175 microns (.0000007 inches). It may be termed Heavy Gold Electroplate if it is a minimum of 2 microns. Electroplating varies in the amount of gold deposition, from a "flash", a minimum deposit for color, all the way to the vermeil specifications of 2 microns. When faced with the term electroplate, one should always be aware that the gold deposit is variable.

GFHeader.gif (2191 bytes)  is made by permanently bonding, under heat and pressure, a layer of a karat gold to a base metal, usually brass, which is then rolled or drawn to the required thickness. When drawn to size, the wire is gold around it's entire diameter. Gold Filled is usually designated first by a fraction (normally 1/10 or 1/20). This indicates that the amount of fine gold is that fractional weight of the unit measured, thus: 1/10 Gold Filled is 1/10th (10%) of the total weight of the measured unit and 1/20th is 1/20th (5%) of the measured unit. Gold Filled can also be designated as "single" or "double" plate indicating that the layer of gold is on one side or two sides. For example, 1/10 10K single plate Gold Filled = a layer of 10K gold equal to 1/10 of the weight of the item is bonded to one side of the item, or, 1/20 12K single plate Gold Filled = a layer of 12K gold weighing 1/20 of the item's weight is bonded to one side of the item.  Gold Filled cannot be cast. Casting involves melting which would blend the karat gold layer into a new alloy with the base metal. Gold Filled offers the look of gold along with its inherent tarnish resistance. Care must be taken in polishing Gold Filled items to avoid abrasion, due to the natural softness of gold.

CopperHeader.gif (1738 bytes)   while known to mankind since the ancient times, is widely distributed in combination with iron and other transition elements, such as silver and gold. Copper is a reddish metal with a high luster. See the picture below. Copper and gold are the only two colored metals. The metal is soft, ductile and possesses very high thermal and electrical conductivity. The surface of copper is often dulled by a green oxide formation when introduced to water in open air. In Canada, the main deposits of copper ore are found associated with nickel, in the Sudbury region of Ontario. In the US, it is usually associated in mines with other metals such as gold, silver, and zinc. Impure copper is refined electrolytically, producing a retrievable silver bi-product. The electrolytic copper is 99.96 to 99.99% pure.  It is toxic to micro-organisms in reservoirs and swimming pools, used in the manufacture of synthetic rayon fibers, in the tanning of leather, and as a wood preservative.

Other uses of copper include coins such as "copper" pennies made of bronze, coins such as dimes, nickels, and quarters containing an alloy of 30% nickel and 70% copper, alloys of copper used in 14-carat gold, sterling silver jewelry and silverware, the manufacture of electrical wires and electrical components, water pipes in plumbing as it does not react with hot or cold water within the pipes in an appreciable rate, and the need of trace amounts of copper by humans. Current theories suggest that copper deficiency causes anemia because copper is needed for the absorption and mobilization of iron required to make hemoglobin. Important dietary sources of copper are nuts, liver, shellfish and buying jewelry from LCB.

Source: Jewelry Concepts and Technologies, Untract, 1982