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The Pitfalls Of Shopping For Body Jewelry On Etsy

Etsy is a very popular retail shopping website, so we’re sure most of you are familiar with it. It has the appeal of Pinterest, but allows online shoppers to purchase an incredible range of products directly from the sellers, similarly to Ebay and Amazon. Many of the products are sold by the people who created them. This sounds like a great idea and the type of thing we would love and support too.

Jewelry like this gold end is available at New Flower Studio in Long Beach, California

However, when shopping for body jewelry, meaning jewelry that goes inside the body via a piercing, customers need to use discretion. Etsy’s supply of jewelry vendors and manufacturers isn’t likely to have many, if any, with an intimate or working knowledge of what defines high quality body jewelry. Piercing clients aren’t expected to be experts of body jewelry and this puts them at a disadvantage when shopping. This is especially true when buying something online. Which always comes with the “buyer beware” provision. As a rule, body jewelry can’t be exchanged or returned.

That said, it’s not uncommon for people to visit a piercing studio with jewelry they’ve purchased online, sometimes Etsy. When this happens they’re hoping to have it installed in an existing piercing or even a fresh piercing they hope to receive. The benefit to buying jewelry in a professional studio (hopefully) is the salesperson’s ability to help the client select the size and style needed to fit comfortably in the piercing. Something clients often don’t know is that jewelry is sized in two different ways. Gauge, the thickness of the wire, and Length/Diameter of the wearing surface, which are both equally important. For example, asking for an 18g ring only tells us half the size. The client that visited us today found jewelry that she loved on Etsy, but the size was significantly thinner than the jewelry piercers commonly use for the piercing she wanted to redecorate. Wearing it will cause the piercing (the channel running through the body) to shrink in size, making re-insertion of professional body jewelry difficult. It was also an odd length not like anything already established in the body piercing industry.

Body jewelry should never be gold plated, if it’s intended for long term wear. Gold body jewelry from designers like BVLA, Anatometal, Body Gems and Leroi will always be solid gold, 14k and higher.

Jewelry style is also important. There’s a time, place, and circumstance for wearing straight, curved, or circular barbells in a piercing. We also wear continuous, fixed bead, and captive bead rings. There are often times advantages and disadvantages to these styles that need to be considered. Just like buying properly sized jewelry, the most suitable style is crucial. A professional in a studio can help with this in a way store clerks and online sites can’t. As we already said the length of her jewelry was unusual, and it was too short. The nostril screw she purchased for her nose piercing was too short to be fitted specifically for her. Jewelry should never be one-size-fits-all. Buying something simply because it says it’s nose jewelry is far from a guarantee it will fit well. In this particular client’s situation, the jewelry won’t likely stay in her nose piercing very long. There were no features to hold it in place. Had the wire been longer her jewelry might be more viable for long term wear.

Here’s an example of a poor quality circular barbell. The contour of the shaft isn’t truly round, it has external threading, and plastic beads. The picture doesn’t display its low quality polish and we don’t have access to the mill certificates, but with all that we can see with this piece, we know it would never be in implant standard material. It was most likely sold as “surgical grade.”

We also have to talk at least for a moment about materials. Body piercing jewelry is made commonly from the following materials: steel, titanium, niobium, gold, glass, wood, and stone. There are also certain medical grade plastics available, but rarely used in the modern era of piercing. Like these plastics, we’re not concerned with wood, stone, or glass for this article. That would make this a much larger essay than is intended. We’re talking here only about the metals used for fresh piercings or otherwise desired for long term wear. That limits us to the metals. Like the size and style standards long established in professional body jewelry, the vendors you find on retail sites like Etsy aren’t likely to understand jewelry standards. The Association of Professional Piercers has material requirements for its members. At the time of publishing this article, New Flower Studio’s staff piercers, Vanessa, Monica, Squeeze, and John are all members. The jewelry required for initial piercings is also likely to be the jewelry clients will need to wear long term, especial if/when a piercing becomes inflamed or irritated.

Buying things with the click of a button and receiving it in a few days is convenient, but visiting the local piercing studio may prevent the hassle of purchasing something that never had a probability of working. When shopping online for your body jewelry please be aware of the appropriate style and size before committing to the purchase. Also, be aware of misleading buzzwords used to sell products. Nowhere in the stainless steel industry is there a grade of steel called surgical. This is the best example of generic materials being sold is something they’re not. The implant standard, as it’s called, for stainless steel is F-138. We hope you find body jewelry you love wherever it may be. The more you know about what you need and the risks of buying online the better your chances of success. We hope to see you soon in our studio.

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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.