Sterling Silver vs Stainless Steel vs Titanium vs Gold

There are a lot of conflicting opinions on the "best" material for sensitive ears.  The truth is that each person's metal sensitivity is unique to them, and what works for one person with sensitive ears may not work for all. 

Often, people with sensitive ears do not know what will work for them, and they will get frustrated by trying various materials.  Gift buyers may also be concerned when buying jewelry that the material will cause discomfort.  This guide can help shed some light on the different materials available.

Sterling Silver

Many people believe sterling silver (or 925 sterling silver) to be a hypoallergenic choice.  Silver is a precious metal, and while it is unlikely to be the cause of a reaction, it is often mixed with other metals that can.  When two or more metals are mixed together, it is called an alloy.  The most common alloy in sterling silver is copper, but it can contain small amounts of nickel, which causes a reaction.  Sterling silver jewelry is often more expensive as it contains precious metals.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel can be a great choice for earrings, provided it is 'nickel-free'.  Not all stainless steel is nickel free.  While most nickel-free stainless steel is safe and comfortable for those with metal allergies, it is also an alloy containing other metals.  Trace amounts of less-common allergens, such as chromium, may cause discomfort when wearing stainless steel.  Stainless steel is an economical choice for earrings and other jewelry.


Titanium is emerging as a new popular choice for jewelry, particularly earring posts.  Titanium is highly hypoallergenic, strong, and flexible, making it a great candidate for medical implants.  As a jewelry metal, it is often used in its pure, unalloyed form, often called Medical Grade.  With medical grade titanium, you can be assured that your body is not exposed to an unknown alloy.  Titanium is slightly more expensive than stainless steel, but as a base metal it is still very affordable.


Many believe gold to be the 'gold standard' for hypoallergenic jewelry, but this is not necessarily the case.  Most gold jewelry is alloyed with other metals, and these materials can cause a reaction.  White gold often contains nickel and zinc, while yellow gold can contain copper and zinc.  It is not often easy to determine what other metals are alloyed with the gold you are purchasing, so always purchase gold jewelry from a reputable source.  Gold is a premium choice, costing more than most other jewelry metals.

In short, most materials used to make earrings and other jewelry are alloys, which can contain various trace metals depending on the source.  Some of those trace metals may be highly allergenic, such as nickel.  Always purchase jewelry from a trusted source, and keep track of materials that have caused discomfort.

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