Last piercing at 7pm / (562) 363-5003 / 1180 N. Studebaker Rd. #G, Long Beach, CA 90815 / Showroom open every day except holidays.

What is Good Jewelry pt 2

JEWELRY STANDARDS
Last month we offered some information about the basic properties of “quality” body jewelry. Like we said then, this is something many piercers don’t understand. Usually this is because most never have the opportunity to work in a studio that offers the good stuff. In the earliest days of our profession tattooing and piercing studios were not mixed. It took many years for piercing to be seen as legitimate body art by the pre-existing and much larger tattoo industry. Today most studios are owned by tattooists and piercing is usually a simple means of extra revenue. While there are always exceptions, most tattoo studios that offer piercing don’t spend the money that it takes to offer high quality piercing. There are environmental expenses and the jewelry is a massive investment. So piercers who learn their art in tattoo studios, and spend most or all of their careers in them, may never be exposed to genuine high quality jewelry. Of course the manufacturers discount jewelry advertise their products as quality and a less experienced piercer will simply accept that it is. Clients can’t be expected to know more about jewelry than piercers and unfortunately most piercers work with less than ideal products. You can revisit  last month’s article on our blog at NewFlowerStudio.com and read again about some of the basic properties of quality jewelry you can see with your eyes. Below is the more technical side of the jewelry we use for initial piercings. Hopefully you’ll find it useful or interesting.
Steel
Stainless steel is the most common jewelry used, it’s the least expensive of the metals we use and has simply been around longer than it’s counterparts titanium and niobium. This is where a lot of confusion exists. Jewelry is often sold as surgical steel and even packaged with this term on the label. The International Organization for Standardization has standards for medical devices used for surgery, but this is not relevant to jewelry that goes into the body for long term wear. The American Society for Testing and Materials has a standard for implant grade steel, it’s F-138. Be on the lookout  for studios selling surgical steel, there’s just no such thing for implantation. 316LVM is another code we often hear associated with surgical steel, but it means nothing for the purpose of this topic.
Titanium 
In the early days, before jewelry manufacturers used implant standard steel there was always a possibility of reactions to the metal. It was rare, but the likelihood is much less today. Titanium was then introduced to body jewelry and became an alternative to steel. There is an implant standard (F-136) for Titanium and it’s available from all manufacturers. People who’ve struggled to heal piercings and believe they had reactions to the jewelry will often ask for gold. If this was the case than they almost certainly not wearing implant grade steel or titanium.
Niobium
This is a material we covered a couple years ago in our newsletter. Niobium is popular because it can be produced in the color black. Steel and titanium can’t be made black but they’re often sold with a risky coating giving it a shiny black appearance. Unlike steel, titanium, and gold which are alloys, niobium jewelry is 100% solid niobium. Find it on the periodic chart, Nb. Niobium has no known bio-compatibility concerns and has been safely used for two decades in body jewelry production. The state of California allows niobium jewelry for use in initial piercings and it’s on the approved list for members of the Association of Professional Piercers.
Gold
Both yellow and white gold are appropriate for initial piercings if 14k or higher, nickel-free, and alloyed for bio-compatibility. Gold higher than 18k is too soft for body jewelry because it can easily be scratched and that can negatively affect a healing piercing. Gold plated,jewelry is not acceptable for fresh piercings. This involves coating a cheap base metal with a very thin layer of gold that can wear or chip off exposing the wearer to the underlying adhesive and base.
There are other materials used for initial piercings, glass and implant plastic, and we may talk about them someday. But we only use (rarely) glass for large ear piercings for someone who wants to wear plugs right away and we’ve never had a need for polymers like Teflon and Tygon. We hope you’ve learned something useful and continue to always support studios that use high quality jewelry.
John Johnson
John Johnson is a professional body piercer at New Flower Studio in Long Beach, CA. He's also a Red Cross instructor and authorized OSHA trainer. He manages the online curriculum for the Association of Professional Piercers and is a member of ASTM International.