Chris Telden and her spouse have contact allergies that led them to seek out hypoallergenic options for their wedding rings.
If you're allergic to your wedding ring, you're not alone. According to the FDA, nickel contact allergies afflict 10% of adults in the U.S. But most wedding rings are made of gold, and it's becoming more and more common to find people who are allergic not just to base metals such as nickel, but also to gold, sterling silver, and other metals commonly used in wedding bands. This makes sense, since even precious metals must be mixed with base metals in order to give them the strength and durability to be used in wedding jewelry.
Can Gold Be a Problem?
Research shows that contact dermatitis to gold occurs in rheumatology patients, people with gold fillings, people with stents, and more. Because gold is non-reactive, it's usually the base metals in the gold alloy that people react to.
What Are Your Ring Options If You Have Allergies?
So if you're allergic to gold or other metals like we are, what options do you have when it comes to wedding rings? You can choose to wear a wedding ring in nontraditional metals. Because we couldn't afford very much when we were married, my spouse and I chose simple titanium wedding bands, which had the virtue of being cheap. But there are other options, too.
Hypoallergenic Wedding Band Options
Your main options for hypoallergenic wedding bands that don't usually cause an allergic reaction are:
- Tungsten carbide (but see update below)
Platinum is a natural precious metal and very expensive—even more expensive than gold. More durable than gold, which is a softer metal, it is also far more scratch-resistant. Its cost stems partly from how difficult it is to work. Choose .950 grade platinum wedding bands, which consist of platinum plus ruthenium, iridium, or palladium, which are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.
Expect to pay at least a thousand dollars for a platinum wedding band. The cost is the only major disadvantage of platinum wedding rings as a hypoallergenic solution.
Starting at about $100, titanium is a surprisingly cheap option for a hypoallergenic wedding band, and it doesn't have to be utilitarian-looking, though the simplest, cheapest rings often could be mistaken for stainless steel washers! The fancier titanium rings have a glossy or brushed texture or are beautifully decorated; for instance, some have a a braided design or a black finish.
Titanium wedding bands have both pros and cons:
- Since it is inexpensive, the cost to make the rings is not much different for different sizes. Therefore, you can easily afford a thicker wedding band without having to pay too much extra.
- Titanium bands are incredibly strong. Titanium is used in aircraft and submersible hulls, and it's made to last.
- Like gold, however, it does scratch.
Tungsten carbide is another metal that is now being used for wedding band sets for men and women. Tungsten carbide is made by forging together the two metals at very high temperatures and then getting them polished with a diamond compound. What results is an enduring, strong, scratch-resistant, long-lasting shine. The polish on a tungsten carbide ring very likely will last its lifetime.
Tungsten carbide rings are four times as hard as titanium rings, measuring between 8 and 9 on the Moh hardness scale. It takes the strength of diamonds, which are harder, to craft the rings. The "carbide" part is important, so make sure you don't get wedding rings designated simply as "tungsten rings," or else they will definitely be scratched. To scratch tungsten carbide, you'd have to rub it with material containing either diamond or corundum. Very plain tungsten carbide bands can be found starting at about $100.
Update: According to a reader comment below, sadly tungsten carbide is not safe for nickel-allergic folks these days, due to new production methods.
Are These Rings Removable?
Many people worry that titanium or tungsten carbide rings can't be removed in the event of an emergency, but a doctor can remove rings made of both metals.
My husband and I bought our titanium rings online and were very happy with the result. We chose simple bands and had them engraved with our wedding date. Although the rings have scratched, I don't think it looks that bad. I believe some online stores will actually polish your titanium rings for free by mail. We tend not to care, so we let ours just do their thing!
The store we purchased from sold many different types of titanium wedding bands, including those mixed with gold and other metals. Be sure to pick a ring that's 100% titanium or tungsten carbide or 95% platinum.
Make sure you know your ring size (try this ring size calculator for wedding bands) before you buy. We underestimated my husband's ring size slightly, so now it's on a cord. Some stores can adjust the size up to a quarter size smaller if it doesn't fit. We just haven't bothered to get his readjusted.
Good luck, and may your wedding and marriage be wonderfully happy and your ring finger allergy-free!
Sara on May 28, 2016:
We also bought a titanium ring which was forged with nickle,( I assume a lot are) and it had givin my other half an allergic reaction also.
Dustin on May 31, 2012:
Not sure how old this is, but the way they make Tungsten Carbide now (as of 5/25/2012) they use a Nickel binder making it pretty much terrible for someone with the allergy.