Saturday, February 22, 2014

Metal Allergies and You

"Slipstream" earrings with nonallergenic niobium hooks - available at

Metal "allergies" are common.  I get a lot of customers who say "I can only wear sterling/14k gold/whatever."  Usually, they are talking about earrings, because people react far more often to earring metals than other types of jewelry.  Apparently this is because there is no air flow inside the hole where an earring post/hook goes.  However, there are people who react to things you wouldn't think about, like the back of a watch, or the back of the snap on their jeans.

Allergic contact dermatitis can occur to all sorts of substances, but nickel in costume jewelry is a pretty common one.  If you're not sure what you're reacting to, you can have a dermatologist test you to find out what the exact culprits are, but for most people, it's enough to just avoid cheap jewelry, or make sure you know what is in your jewelry.   Contact dermatitis can cause symptoms including itching, rash, redness, irritation, blisters and eczema.

The problem is that "surgical steel" comes in several grades and some of them contain nickel, so whether it says "hypoallergenic" or not, you may or may not be safe.  Sterling silver, also an alloy, can also contain small amounts of nickel, so unless it says nickel-free silver, if you have severe reactions, avoid it.   Even white gold can contain nickel unless labeled "palladium white gold."

Best answer?  Niobium and titanium.  Both of these are elemental metals (Nb & Ti on the periodic chart).  While gold and silver are also elements, both are too soft for most jewelry applications, and definitely too soft for earring posts or wires, so they are mixed with other metals to create an alloy.  That's where your nickel sneaks in, especially in cheaper jewelry but sometimes even in more expensive jewelry.

Niobium and titanium are much stronger and they make fantastic hooks and posts.  Personally, I didn't realize I had any metal sensitivity at all until I wore niobium and realized how much more comfortable they were for me.  Be aware that items marked titanium CAN be an alloy, so you are safer with niobium, which is almost always a pure metal.

Niobium bracelet options available at, or contact for custom designs

Even better, they both can be anodized in a rainbow of colors.  I use niobium in shades of copper and bronze (they contain no acutal copper or bronze) for earrings made of copper; most "copper" ear wires are also cheap alloys. 

Here's a little more about my favorite metal, niobium.
  • Anodizes in iridescent colors I can't quite capture on film; my supplier even has a  rainbow ring where each ring has multiple iridescent colors on it, creating an "oil slick" effect when woven into chainmaille patterns.
  • It's commonly used in body jewelry and also in pacemaker parts, since very few people react to it.
  • It's nearly as strong as steel but half the weight, so it's very comfortable to wear in an ear or elsewhere.
  • Anodized niobium is easy care and doesn't tarnish, although the finish can scratch if you're rough on it.
It's awesome stuff!  If you've got severe metal sensitivities please make sure to let me know when ordering jewelry; I do use steel clasps, sterling accents and head pins to hold beads that are made from other metals, but if you react I'll make sure all of it is nonallergenic.
Most of my niobium earrings are made with hooks, and chainmaille designs, so they tend to be dangly.  If you're a post kind of girl (or guy), I recommend that you drop by Wear Earrings Again; Maggie has lots of designs, and starter earrings, that are made of high-grade titanium and pure niobium, which she also guarantees.

Finally, I guarantee my work.  If you have a reaction to a pair of earrings with niobium hooks I will gladly refund your money.  If you have a pair of earrings that I made with surgical steel hooks, I will upgrade them to niobium for you for $3 plus shipping.  Just send an email.  My plan this year is to shift to all-niobium hooks, so all of my earring customers can experience the comfort and ease of wear and care.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review for Chained: Create Gorgeous Chainmaille Jewelry
Click to purchase on Amazon
I've been making chainmaille for 5 years now, and I am a customer of Blue Buddha Boutique, and have bought tutorials from BBB before. Rebeca's tutorials are among the most thorough, easy to follow, with fantastic pictures. As such, I would have expected her book to be great.

I wasn't in the least disappointed. This book should be the bible for ANY person who makes chainmaille or wants to. She takes you from the ground floor - how to open and close jump rings properly - spending several pages on the subject. She covers the pros and cons of various metals to use for maille, and tools.

The projects start very easy, with the fantastic clear photos I'm used to from the tutorials, as well as detailed info on what size/metal rings to use, and other things you can do to make variations in the design. The ONE thing that I think is missing is a thorough discussion of aspect ratio. I get that she left it out so as not to confuse the beginning mailler, but I think no book on maille is quite complete without it.

That said, I haven't run across a book on chainmaille that I thought I could learn a thing or two from. But I found myself highlighting projects and getting more excited about doing something new than I've been in a while, and I picked up a few tips and tricks along the way. Looking forward to dabbling in some new techniques.  This is hands down the best book on maille out there.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Advent Deals of the Day

Advent calendar.  The concept:  For each day from December 1st through Christmas Eve, you get to open a new thing on your calendar, and you get a little present each day.  What fun!  I really wanted the Lego Star Wars one this year but it wasn't in the budget.  Ah well.

So I had this idea to do an Advent Deal of the Day calendar on my website.

Each day December 1-24 there will be a new awesome deal of the day on the site.  You can keep up with the deal via email (signup is on the site), or on my Facebook page.  Since I got started late, if you head over there now there's an entire week's worth of deals!

Expect to see a little bit of art and fun stuff not in my normal jewelry repertoire, as well as some holiday items.

Happy holidays everyone, and thanks for being great customers!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

'Tis the Season

O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine blatter!
O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine blatter!
Du grunst nicht nur zur sommerzeit,
Nein, auch im winter, wenn est schneit.
O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine blatter!

Nearly everyone who celebrates Christmas does SOME kind of Christmas decorating.  A tree, a string of lights, a wreath on the door, hanging a few Christmas cards.  For lots of us religion doesn't matter; Christmas has adopted everyone.  That's pretty fitting because it's been stealing traditions for a very long time.

Chainmaille Ornament - Click to Purchase
Evergreen trees have had deep meaning for people for ages; they resisted the darkness of winter and refused to shed their leaves.  They seemed magical when everything else withered and died.  So naturally, they became associated with solstice celebrations and the return of longer days.  

Saint Boniface was a dude that lived in Germany, where there was a tree that was holy to the pagans who lived there - Thor's Oak.  (sometimes called Donar's Oak).  It was associated with Yggdrasil, the World Tree.  Boniface talked smack about Thor and started to chop the tree down.  Suddenly, a wind came (legend says) and took the tree down before he could cut it... and immediately an evergreen sprang up out of the four parts of the tree.  Since Thor did not strike Boniface down, the people converted to Christianity. 

For this the dude was sainted.  

I read this an entirely different way than the ancients probably did, but whatever.  Miracles are always open to interpretation, right?

Awesome Ornament Hooks - Click to Purchase

Martin Luther is also reported to have been so inspired by the pretty stars twinkling through the branches of the pines that he chopped one down and took it home and put candles on it in an attempt to recreate his experience for his family.   Fire hazard, right?  I am very thankful for LED Christmas lights.  

The Christmas tree as we know and love it really didn't come into vogue until the middle 1800s, that age that we take sooooo much of our tradition and weird hang-ups from.  Also lots of terribly skewed history  (Longfellow, I'm talking to you).

Clear ornament with Wire Wrapped Tree - Click to purchase

No matter.  Christmas is cool.  I spent a lot of years not celebrating and I am currently doing my best to make up for it.  I LOVE Christmas.  I love putting up my tree, hanging ornaments and telling stories about each one.  Seems like every one has a story.  (Which is why I think those fancy, heavy-gauge ornament hooks are awesome... check those out.  I don't know about your ornaments, but mine deserve the best).  

My hubby is usually not terribly enthused about the tree-putting-up ritual, for two reasons:  1)  he's a mailman... I haven't met too many who love this time of year and 2)  he despises glitter.   So my son, now in college, comes home for the tree decorating, and the two of us put up a tree while listening to lots of Nat King Cole and similar sappy old favorites.  Lights, garland, strings of beads, bows, star  (no tinsel... cats and tinsel baaaaad).  And then we turn the lights down, cozy up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate, and reminisce.  It's absolute magic.  And I get up early the next day to look at the lights softly twinkling before I turn the room lights on.  And I do it again when I play Santa on Christmas morning, admiring the sparkling packages under the tree lights, dozing there until my family wakes up.

Martin Luther, I think I get it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Where I've Been!

Short answer:  still here, still making jewelry.

Longer answer:  Prepare yourself for longwindedness.

I took oil painting lessons 3 years ago and ever since then I've been telling myself that I'm going to paint more.  But I didn't.  Until this past January, when I particpated in a 30 Paintings in 30 Days challenge (and did it!).  I've been dividing my creative time since then between painting and making jewelry.

If you'd like to check out my painting, you can do so at Om Is Where the Art Is.

I'm a little better about keeping up with my fans on Facebook, so if you're not a fan of You've Got Maille on Facebook, you definitely should be; I do regular giveaways for my FB fans.

But, I have been making tons of jewelry for my upcoming show at Ketner's Mill Country Fair, and I want to share it, and I also want to share more about the intuitive aspects of making jewelry, so there will be more here, I promise.

Also, I plan to do a series of articles on the healing and metaphysical properties of different stones and metals, so if you'd like to be in on that you can sign up for the mailing list on the front page of my website here (toward the bottom).

"Galadriel's Mirror" Labradorite Necklace $62 - Click to Purchase
Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Best Thing About Snowflakes

My friend and wonderful fae artist Aquariann is hosting a snowflake blog hop!  Personally, I love snow (much more so now that I live in Tennessee than I did when I was in Cleveland, Ohio!).

What's the best thing about snowflakes?  If you ask me, it's that they sparkle!  I love the sparkle of newfallen snow.  You can go HERE to purchase this Ice Queen chainmaille snowflake choker.

And be sure to go to Aquariann's blog to look at all the snowy lovelies.

aquariann's Snowflake Blog Hop

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Treasury Thursday: A Little Holiday Sparkle

"Stardust" Wire Wrapped Goldstone Necklace Set

I finished this goldstone necklace 2 weeks ago and listed it this week... it inspired this week's trasury, "A Little Holiday Sparkle", full of shimmering, sparkling blues and golds.  As it turns out the necklace wouldn't really fit with the colors I picked... but I really love the shimmery eye candy I picked :)

Merry holidays, and keep calm and sparkle on!