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Jewelry, Gems, & Minerals/allergy to Platinum ring


QUESTION: Dear Sir, Recently I purchased a platinum channel set diamond band from Brian Gavin. My wife,Diana, has severe allergic dermatitis for this ring. It has been returned and re-polished and the engraving removed. Still the problem exists. Her original platinum engagement ring and plain wedding band do not cause problems. I've sent the band and the new ring back to Gavin for analysis. They say the rings are both 95% platinum and 5 % Iridium. They now suggest either remaking the ring with Ruthenium(with no guarantee) or a refund of the purchase price(less 5 %). Would Ruthenium be any less likely to cause the problems? What baffles me is that the original rings do not cause a problem. Briana Gavin's has been most cooperative, the ring has been back to be re-polished to no avail. She loves the ring but is unable to wear it. It was resized from a 7 to a size 6. Any light you can shed would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.

ANSWER: Dear Greg,

Both technically and from observations of people and jewelry metals, we do know that metal sensitivities may develop, sometimes suddenly despite the same metal having been worn previously with no skin events. Platinum, iridium and ruthenium are among metals considered hypoallergenic or inert to reaction with human skin.  With this in mind, the change to ruthenium should be fine..but, the platinum alloy should not have brought on any reaction so how can I with confidence recommend trying a ruthenium/platinum alloy? The situation is baffling and simply “not supposed to happen”.

Can you check the markings in the original set of rings? Those caused no reaction and the same alloy should be fine a second time.  For some unknown reason, the new set has a reaction with your wife’s body.  Iridium alloy may be marked 10% irid/ plat, indicating iridium as a component. The same is true with ruthenium. ( The % mark is required by regulation when the alloy is less than 95% pure platinum.)

If the alloy is no problem, there is the outside chance of the brazing material used for sizing being a white gold solder.  Honestly, if the manufacturer did the size down, I would not believe a mistake like that would happen.  If a local jeweler did the size work, it still would be rare unless they simply were not adept at platinum work.  Why those thoughts?  The solder used in such an uncommon mistake would be white gold solder. Nickel is a component of white gold solders and is well documented as a metal guilty of bringing on metal dermatitis.

Platinum solders of the modern sort as manufactured by Precious Metals West cause no problems and are mostly platinum to start with. If the ring ends were welded ( technically different from brazing or high temp soldering), generally the same metal as makes up the jewelry is used to provide ideal color match and would also circumvent skin reaction problems.

If the size work was done locally, before speaking with the jeweler look at the bottoms of the ring bands to see if there is any telltale “shadow line” across the band.  If so, this un-matched color could indicate an improper solder or brazing material was used. Does a line show? If so, speak with the jeweler and ask what sort of material was used to do the sizing.

I saw that Brian Gavin has a chat line. Call and ask.  Quote anything you find helpful from this reply to your question.  Also ask about using a rhodium plate to prevent direct skin contact with the metal. That is a solution, however would need to be applied again over time and is not ideal.  Also ask about palladium. This metal is also “hypoallergenic” and might be a solution.. if you can be happy with the color. You need to see palladium rings to see the somewhat gray tinge the metal is.  Your wife should also wear a small palladium band for a while to see if the metal does ok.  If somehow possible without undue expense, wearing a narrow plat/ruthenium band would also be an idea. If there is no negative reaction with a narrow band but does happen with a wider band, the situation has to do with keeping the skin dry and the inside of the ring cleaned regularly even if no obvious residue is present.

An outside possibility not due to metals:  Dermatitis may be b brought on not by the metal itself but by materials between the inside of the ring and the finger.  While most foreign material is obvious there is a possibility of mineral from moist ocean spray of a fine sort, indeed. Yet, over a time of wearing, skin dermatitis may occur.

I truly wish I could give you a simple answer.  

Get back with me if you need to concerning the situation.

God Bless and Peace.  Thomas.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello Thomas,
Thank you for the prompt response. I will attempt to give further info. My wife's original wedding set was 18k gold and white. It caused problems. I had it plated with palladium to no avail. We then had it reset into the platinum( engagement ring is marked PLAT M). Plain, thin band, cause no problems. Because the remount was plain(a single stone with no sides)At Christmas I ordered channel set platinum band from Brian Gavin.I bought the channel set band with 14 small stones. Upon receipt we decided it was too big and sent it back to Gavin to be resized (7 down to size 6) and had it engraved. This was done and returned to us. After a few days she again had a reaction. I contacted them,returned it and the plain,original band. They advised that everything was fine.They had both tested and was 95% platinum & 5% iridium. It was marked "950". They polished out the engraving and 950 mark, returned it and the original plain band and after a few days the dermatitis reoccurred. They said the resizing, soldering,etc was fine. They have no explanation and now offer to remake the ring with Ruthenium at no charge- but won't take it back or refund my money less $143 (5% restocking charge). I contacted the original jeweler at Gavin's request but they say they don't have a record of the "good" rings content but assume that it was 90% Plat-10% iridium. There are small holes on the inside of the Gavin ring which could hold debris. Can these be closed? We have checked,cleaned with(vinegar & peroxide as some suggest as a cure). She removes it at night and when using cleaning products. Also, she has worn junk jewelry for years with no problems? She loves the ring but I am fearful that if Gavin remakes it with ruthenium and that doesn't work,I will not have any recourse. Perhaps I should accept the loss, six months of trying to resolve the problems and take the loss. I paid $2850 for the ring and dealt with Gavin rather than the local chain stores. I can buy a similar ring from Costco for $1800 and have return privileges. Wife is away at the moment but I can have her take a picture and forward to you if you feel that would be a help? I don't understand your comment about "mineral from moist ocean spray"? We are an older couple, wife is looking at a possible hip replacement and the thought of metal allergies scares me.

I do appreciate you time and expertise. Thank you again.
Greg and Diana Bokoch

Dear Greg, Reading your comments, I doubt you will gain further in a solution working with Gavin. They can assure you about the metal content but they cannot guarantee against metal sensitivities which for some unknown reason may be peculiar to your case. It is possible the openings behind the stones will collect dome residue from wearing the ring and I suggest cleaning every often by a jeweler who may check security of the gems at the same time. The openings serve a purpose when the stones are set in place and allow for cleaning which is almost impossible otherwise.A mild dish detergent like "Joy" with water and a soft tooth brush is as good as any other home mix.  Household ammonia, the sudsy sort, is the best at home cleaner if you have good ventilation and wear thin nytril or similar gloves.

The ocean spray reference is to a quite thin film of material which may build up slightly inside a ring band. Combined with skin chemicals an irritation may occur to the skin.

What to do?  It looks like the ruthenium/plat remake will also have the risk of sensitivity, even though that is not supposed to happen with those metals.  At that point what is the recourse?  As tough as it might seem, your Costco plan sounds like a good one.

The presence of metal sensitivity in earlier years is telling. This sensitivity is often a lifelong condition and may be why, for reasons I do not understand, supposed inert metals are worn and a reaction happens when it should not.

The physician should be told of the metals sensitivity and might suggest a test similar to what a dermatologist would use for actual allergies but designed for the component metals of the joint replacement device.  Some sort of test should provide assurance prior to the medical work. This is getting way afield of my knowledge but do make the physician aware of the ring situation.

Best Wishes and God Bless.  Thomas.  

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Have a question about jewelry repair or working with precious metal jewelry and gemstones? For many years up to December 31, 2010, I was a working professional bench jeweler, involved everyday with setting stones in mountings, designing and making jewelry, repairing and limited custom manufacture. If you work with jewelry as a hobby or as a profession, I might be able to help. I deal with the retail business, not mass production. Ask privately if you wish. See the box for that: It keeps your question between us. Please DO NOT ask MAKER'S MARKS, but metal quality marks are fine to ask. Please DO NOT ask diamond prices. See a gemologist for that.


I have extensive experience in design, service and making of jewelry. I deal mostly with precious metals and gemstones but work with many materials as needed and usable to create an artistic design. My experience also includes freelance photography and photographer of jewelry and similar items for a former employer and individuals. Design of custom items requires reading the desires of the client and being clear on what can be done within that framework...then fulfilling the transition of idea to reality. Effective communications is essential in a working designer/producer and customer relationship.

Education is English/Physics! Started in human resources, to advertising, to, what a road. I have had formal training in jewelry work and many shared experiences with top grade jewelers. We just never know were we will go or be. Follow your best, your dreams, with some discretion! Don't let the work tear up your body along the way as it has mine.

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