The CHL Guide To: Jewellery Types, Sizing & Materials

If you've ever found yourself wondering any of the following... then you're in the right place!

"What jewellery do I need for my piercing?"
"What gauge and length do I need?"
"What material/metal is best?"
"Will this turn my ear green?"


We understand words such as "gauge, labret, internally threaded" can be confusing, so how are you expected know what you're buying is the best for your piercing?
At CHL we are committed to high quality and believe it is important for everyone to understand the differences in the many types of jewellery available on the market. In this guide we'll break it all down into one easy-to-understand post, explaining how to spot a great quality item. We'll quote references from the well respected Association of Professional Piercers (APP) an international health and safety organisation of piercing professionals who share the most up-to-date information about body piercing standards.

There are a few main points to consider before purchasing jewellery and we'll explain each one in depth.

  • Material
  • Thread Type
  • Jewellery Type
  • Gauge, Length, Inner Diameter

 

 1. Material

You're probably careful about what food you put into your body, but may not be as careful about the jewellery your body is exposed to. Not every material available on the market is suitable to be worn in the body, they may even contain skin-irritating metals that you're not aware of. The "base metal" that the jewellery is made of is the main factor to look into when searching for new jewellery, as this determines whether the jewellery can be worn short-term or long-term and more importantly, if it will cause your piercing any issues.

What are considered the highest quality materials?

  • ASTM F136 Titanium

An implant-grade, nickel-free, hypoallergenic and highly resistant metal. The best of the best when it comes to jewellery you want to leave in long-term, for extended periods of time without removing when showering or swimming for example. It is suitable for new and healed piercings and especially those who have sensitive skin or suffer from metal allergies.

  • 316L Surgical Steel

Surgical Steel is probably the most popular body jewellery material available. It is high quality, affordable and extremely durable for long-term wear. The most body-friendly grades are 316L and 316LVM Surgical Steel. These both contain alloys, however they are kept inside the material through a special manufacturing process so they can not be released from the metal, meaning there's no need to worry about a reaction unless a severe allergy is present in the wearer.

  • Gold

Gold is appropriate for brand-new initial piercings if it is 14K or higher, nickel-free, and alloyed for biocompatibility. Gold higher than 18K is too soft for body jewellery because it can easily be scratched, meaning dirt can become trapped inside and cause infection. Gold jewellery is a mixture of a percentage of Gold and the rest is made up of non-gold metal alloys. This means lower carat jewellery such as 9K consists of only 37.5% real gold, 45% silver and 17.5 % other alloy metals. The actual Gold content is less than 40% so you may experience a reaction if the carat weight isn't high enough for your individual requirements.

  • 925 Sterling Silver

Sterling Silver is the perfect middle-ground material in-between what is used in fashion and fine jewellery.  Reactions to 925 Sterling Silver is very rare because it typically consists of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. The exception is if the jewellery you purchased is not stamped "925" it may contain zinc instead of copper. 18K Gold plated Sterling Silver or Vermeil is a layer of real Gold on top of solid 925 Sterling Silver, so the base metal is not an alloy and will not cause any reaction.

What are considered lower quality materials?

  • Brass

Brass is the most common base metal used in nearly all mass-produced costume jewellery - even by luxury brands. It is an affordable material because it is mixed with copper and zinc. The copper content often oxidises with moisture in the skin and causes the dreaded "green finger" resulting in worn-down plating rendering the jewellery unwearable, ending up in landfill and contributing to a throwaway culture. Brass usually contains nickel which means a high risk of allergy.

  • Alloys containing lead, cadmium, zinc or tin

Alloys are another popular metal used to make fashion jewellery because it is extremely cheap to produce and an easy material to work with. Alloys are a combination of other metals which include lead and nickel, which unfortunately means that it’s not ideal for person with skin sensitivities or allergies, furthermore lead is a known toxic metal. 

  • Copper

Copper jewellery will oxidise (darken) and patina over time, meaning it can easily discolour skin when in constant contact with moisture. It is a naturally soft metal which makes it perfect for wire-wrapping gemstones or stamping/engraving.  

 


 2. Thread Type

 There are a few different thread types available in piercing jewellery, which may leave you confused as to which is personally best for you. We'll go through the pro's and con's of each one.

 

Pro's Con's
Externally Threaded
  • Cheaper than other types
  • More variety and widely available
  • Threads are exposed causing damage to skin when inserting
  • Threads can trap dirt and debris, causing infection
  • The designs are bulky, not dainty
  • Top parts are usually made with Brass which contains nickel
  • Mainly produced as "costume jewellery"
  • Unsuitable for brand new piercings

Internally Threaded

  • No exposed threads, no damage to skin when inserting
  • Ends are countersunk for a secure and tight fit
  • Suitable for brand new piercings
  • Not bulky, sits flush against the skin
  • Produced with long-term wear in mind
  • Not so widely available
  • Can be fiddly to fit
  • Difficult to manufacture, requires specialist machinery
Push-Pin
  • No exposed threads, no damage to skin when inserting
  • Suitable for brand new piercings
  • Tops are universal
  • Produced with long-term wear in mind
  • Not so widely available
  • Usually fitted by an experienced piercer as the pin needs to be bent

 

 


 

 3. Jewellery Type

Within body jewellery, there are many different types or styles that are designed to be best suited to certain piercing placements. We'll explore each style and where it works best.

  • Labret

A labret aka "flat back" is a type of jewellery style which features a slim disc shape back. It is cleverly designed to sit completely flush to the skin, making it one of the most popular and sought after types of jewellery for most ear piercings.
As the flat disc is usually permanently attached to the end of the bar, this means the stem must be inserted from the back of the piercing, then the attachment is screwed into the front to secure it.

Best suited to the following piercings:
- Ear Cartilage (excluding rook, anti-tragus
 as these require a curved bar or hoop)
- Nostril
- Lip

  • Straight Barbell

A straight barbell has two attachments or "balls" at either end.

Best suited to the following piercings:
- Ear Cartilage (excluding rook, anti-tragus as these require a curved bar or hoop)
- Tongue
- Nipple

  • Curved Barbell

A curved barbell has two attachments or "balls" at either end. This shape is designed to fit certain placements where anatomy requires a curved bar instead of a straight bar.

Best suited to the following piercings:
- Ear Cartilage
- Eyebrow

  • Clicker 

Clickers have become are a very popular option for most ear piercings. They open and close with the hinged loop that simply *clicks* open and closed, making fitting and removing an extremely easy process. Clicker hoops are usually seamless, where the thickness is the same all the way around.

Best suited to the following piercings:
- Ear Cartilage
- Septum
- Nostril
- Lip

  • Captive Bead Ring

A captive bead ring is a circular hoop secured by a ball, held in place by the pressure of both sides of the hoop. In most cases, professional piercing tools are required to fit and remove a CBR because it must have just the right tension otherwise the ball will simply drop out.

Best suited to the following piercings:
- Ear Cartilage
- Eyebrow
- Septum
- Lip

  • Circular Barbell

A circular barbell is similar to a captive bead ring, except it is secured by two attachments or "balls" at either end of the hoop.

Best suited to the following piercings:
- Ear Cartilage
- Eyebrow
- Septum
- Lip

 


 

4. Gauge, Length and Inner Diameter

The thickness, length or diameter are the three main specifications you will find in body jewellery. It is notoriously complicated to those who aren't used to piercing sizes as gauges are also referred to in millimetres, so we'll explain all this terminology in an easy-to-understand way.

  • Gauge

 

  • Length

 

  • Inner Diameter


 

Let's round it up...

We really hope this guide has taught you something new and will help you next time you purchase new jewellery.

Already planning your next piercing? Remember to always make sure that the studio you visit is reputable and adheres to APP standards, otherwise you may be left with issues during the healing process if low quality initial jewellery is used. 

After your piercing is fully healed, you'll probably want to ditch the boring jewellery and upgrade to something sparkly. Always make sure to check the 4 points above to ensure what you're upgrading to is also great quality. There's nothing wrong with buying costume jewellery from the high street, but it's good to know before purchasing that it will likely contain materials that could cause an irritation and that it isn't designed for longevity - that's why it's always much more affordable.

Checklist:

☑ High Quality Material
☑ Internally Threaded or Push-Pin
☑ Correct Style & Size

In short, investing in high quality jewellery is important for a happy piercing!