So there I was settling down for the night, having just put my nearly one year old son to bed, when I was overcome with this horribly intense itching sensation that started with my fingers and ran all the way up my arm. I immediately started scratching away and somehow mid scratch managed to effectively multi-task and remove all my rings, all seven of them. Having always had eczema prone skin, I always have a tube of hydrocortisone cream nearby. If I did a whats in my handbag feature, hydrocortisone would be number one on the list...even more so now that I live in Accra, and I'm pretty popular with the mosquito population. Anyway, I digress. So I'm scratching like some diseased cartoon character, whilst removing my rings and trying to find my handbag in the dark, and I'm telling myself, this is the most boujie of allergies...1% hydrocortisone cream on, followed by a pretty thick layer of Sudocream (like icing on a cupcake thick) and the itching seams to dissipate. So, added to the list of eggs and lemongrass, I'm now the proud owner of a jewellery allergy. Pretty inconvenient considering I design jewellery for a living.
A confession here. My engagement rings, yes both of them (read my engagement story if you have the time) are made with 14ct white gold. In England 9ct /9k (about 37.5% actual gold) and 18ct /18k (about 75% real gold) gold are the most common forms of gold used. At the time of my engagement in 2016, I was much more concerned with the quality of the gemstones than of the gold so I thought 14ct /14k (roughly 58.3% solid gold) was a good enough compromise. Once I had my engagement rings in 14ct it made sense to have my wedding band in 14ct too. Yes, budget, preferences and priorities were different then, plus, I knew I would have a collection of wedding and engagement rings so who cares if one of them is 14ct gold.
Now if was re-making my rings with all the knowledge and acquired preferences I have in 2020, I would probably just go straight for platinum. Platinum is a naturally white metal and thus is usually used at a 95% “mix“ if you will. That is, as standard there isn’t a 14ct gold equivalent for platinum, its straight 22ct/22k option or nothing. Ok technically 22ct gold is 91.7% solid gold vs 95% solid platinum so the platinum concentration is higher but I used the example just for illustration purposes.
Sorry I went down a rabbit hole there, let’s get back on track.
So the wedding band and engagement rings I wear most often are 14ct white gold and it seems I may have developed an allergy to them. Like I said, I have eczema prone skin, I have to be very careful with what I eat (I follow a plant-based diet now), and what I put on my skin. It’s taken a lot of trial and error and a lot of anti-histamine tablets but I know my body relatively well now. In general, my body reacts pretty quickly to things it doesn’t like. There is no try this thing for 2 months and see if it works, my body usually gives me between 60 seconds and eight hours to react negatively to something, whether that be food that’s past it’s best or a perfume. With that said, how has it taken the best part of four years for me to react to rings I wear almost every day?
Well, I don’t know for sure but here are my working theories:
1. Covid-19 happened...and I had a baby
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Ok these events didn’t happen at exactly the same time but from September 2019 onwards I started washing my hands ALOT more often. Between nappy changes and feeding and infection control added on top of general hygiene. Hand washing went up about 200%. The increase in hand washing means more irritating soap and drying hand sanitizer on my skin...
Conclusion - more hand washing = more irritated / sensitive skin.
2. Dirty Hands, Dirty Jewellery
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Related to the above, I normally keep my rings on when I wash my hands so there was more wear and tear on my rings. I could even say that the plating on my rings could we wearing away at an increased rate. Side note - For white gold it’s totally normal to need to replate every couple of years by the way.
Conclusion - more hand washing = accelerated plating damage
3. Sausage Fingers
image from www.unsplash.com
Yep, still related. I had a baby, so I put on weight (yup even on my fingers) which means my rings fit a little more snug than before. Now snug rings are great for not accidentally losing your previous pieces on a night out in London (the reason I started this whole business by the way) but not so great with regards to additional friction and the potential for trapped dirt. Side note - A lot of ring wearers do experience what’s lovingly called “ring rash” and I thought this is what I was experiencing except the rash is usually localised to the finger and I was experiencing itching up my whole arm.
Conclusion - more weight = more friction
Image from www.unsplash.com
Rather unexpectedly, I lost the baby weight...and then I lost some more, so I’m smaller now, than I was pre pregnancy. I feel great, however, I’m down roughly 2 ring sizes which is...interesting. Being that I live a tropical climate, sometimes my fingers swell in the heat so the size difference is actually helpful. However right now, it’s rainy season so its cooler, and I’m still kind of isolating to be honest which means I’m inside with the air conditioning on most of the time. How does this tie in to my completely unscientific self diagnosis? My rings are a UK size M1/2 and O and my ring finger is now a UK size L which means they swing around on my finger quite a lot.
Conclusion - smaller fingers = more friction (but in a different way to point no 3)
5. No rings, no problem
This one is probably pretty self explanatory. When I don’t wear my rings for a day or two I don’t have the itchy symptoms on my fingers or up my arm. I do now have an eczema like rash on my ring finger which is red and sore when I’ve been wearing my rings all day and dry when I haven’t.
Conclusion - red rash and itching = allergy
There‘s my evidence laid out. I do think it’s probably a combination of all the points above and to make sure I’m going to have an allergy test done by sourcing an at home kit which can be posted /couriered to a lab. I’ll be sure to update my results here once I have some more scientific evidence. In the mean time I’m going to experiment with wearing 18ct and 22ct gold as well as platinum. Wish me luck.