Allergic To My Engagement Ring


 The first few weeks of your engagement expect your hand to be grabbed and ring examined by close friends, family, colleagues, strangers…really anybody who knows you’re newly engaged.  I didn’t mind — Sam spent the better part of a year designing it, and I was happy to share it with people. 

 The close scrutiny made me self conscience of my hands - something I had rarely thought about before. Cue the Aquaphor and dip manicures!


On a particularly hot day, where my ring was fitting snugly, a dark green stain appeared on my finger.  F#$@! My first thought was “WHY is this happening—this is 18k gold!”. 


I wasn’t the only one that noticed; a few of my ring examiners noted it as well. The most popular question was, “is it made out of 10k gold?” Or “I only ever have seen that with costume jewelry! Are you sure the jewelers didn’t use brass or something?” 


The first thing I did was talk to our master jeweler.  Turns out this is a common allergy.


Here is what I learned.



24k gold is hypoallergenic but is too soft to make fine jewelry. 


Both 18k and 14k are mixed with other metals like nickel or copper, which are the metals that could turn you green.  You can read more about the compositions of metal here


Yellow and rose gold in 14k are the most likely to have a reaction on your skin. They are 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals where 18k is 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals.


There is nothing you can do about a gold allergy but it may change overtime because your body’s alkaline levels change.


How do you know if you allergic? An easy test is rubbing the metal on your palm.  If you do not turn with 14k, you won’t turn with 18k but the reverse is not true.  The percentage of pure gold is higher in 18k and you may not have a reaction.  


Rose gold is similar but uses different metal ratios, so I would try both 14k and 18k in rose gold as your results may vary. 


What do you do if you have this allergy but do not like white gold? No worries, you have plenty of options.  

First thing I did was have the inside of my ring rhodium plated, which is a hypoallergenic  bright silvery finish. This is something that over the years would need to be maintained and re-dipped. This prevents my ring finger from turning green but it does not stop my pinky finger and middle finger from staining (this is less noticeable than your ring finger).  Most jewelers will do this and it wont cost and arm and a leg.  They could theoretically dip other parts of your ring but it will depend on the design.


In my case, I am working with my team at Forever Artisans on a longer term solution.  We decided that my design, which consists of a faux split band and a double ringed faux bezel, wouldn’t work well in white gold.  We thought the stone and the design would get lost with a white gold setting because it is highly reflective, whereas yellow gold has a warmer finish that tends to show detail more clearly. 


At the moment we are hovering a few potential solutions, trying to keep the integrity of the design  intact. The first is to have the ring cast in two pieces; a white gold rope (interior band) and the external band and head in yellow gold. This is more international (not sure what you mean by international. Maybe intentional is a better word choice?) iteration of my existing ring with rhodium plating.  The downside is that it changes the design slightly. The band will be thinner as we are removing the “book ends” that sandwich the rope as it was designed. It may also raise the height of the ring because the rope will be more defined.


The second option maintains the original design completely but will be an obvious two-toned ring. The idea would be to eliminate all yellow gold surfaces that could stain my fingers but create a top down illusion that the ring is yellow gold.  The upside is that the ring design will not change. The downside is that the profile of the ring will be obviously two toned, which is a strong statement and one you really have to love.  


As of right now, I am undecided and happily living with my temporary solution. I find that I’m not staining as much as I use to overall and that the white gold interior could be a permanent solution. More time will tell and I’ll be sure to keep you posted! 

Sam KohnkeComment