There’s a lot of confusion, even within the piercing industry, about what quality jewelry is. With the exception of glass for large ear lobe piercings, we pierce with the metals steel, titanium, niobium, and gold. If we associate cost with the quality of jewelry, than the only good jewelry is gold. But, if we consider quality based on bio-compatibility, than all of these may or may not be suitable. There are low quality versions of all these metals, even gold.
In professional piercing we consider good jewelry to be made from metals that meet ASTM/ISO implant standards that won’t degrade with long term wear. Implant standard jewelry will give the client the best chances of healing a piercing over several months as far as the metal is concerned. Be aware of generic jewelry referred to often as “surgical steel” or “316LVM.” These terms will be discussed more next month so be sure to open the January email too.
In piercing, we also care about the surface finish of the metal. Cheap jewelry will tend to look dull and gray, while the manufacturers of quality jewelry give it the best possible polish, so look for a mirror finish on your new jewelry. You should literally be able to see your reflection. A smooth piece of jewelry sits comfortably in the body while a less polished piece is rough and may slow the healing time.
The connection between a shaft and its ends, whether a ring or barbell, needs to be as seamless as possible. Large gaps in the way beads fit onto a ring or barbell can be uncomfortable and also complicate healing. Members of the Association of Professional Piercers are required to use only internally threaded barbells or barbells with threadless connections. In both of these styles the shaft is smooth at the end. Threads on the shaft may cause additional tissue damage with jewelry insertion or removal.
When a piercing is fresh (or maybe later after it’s healed and becomes irritated suddenly) it’s important to wear jewelry suitable for healing. However, once healed your body may tolerate lower quality jewelry. As piercers, of course we want everyone to buy high quality products. But the reality is low cost jewelry may be OK for some people, but only once a piercing is healthy.
However, at anytime a piercing may become inflamed, and if that happens, implant standard materials may be necessary again to aid the recovery.