All About Body Jewelry (P II): The Nitty Gritty
by K. A. Kristmanson
Standard Ball Bead
Your standard ball is just a silver bead at the end of the barbell. They are usually metal, but once the piercing is healed, it is possible to switch out the jewelry to cheaper, but more expressive, colourful beads. They can even come in stripes! Make sure you switch back to quality jewelry if the piercing becomes irritated.
Spiked beads are another possibility. They are also usually made of quality metal and can be worn from the get-go. The only downside is that you can poke yourself with them if they aren’t shaved down enough.
Though these are seen less often than ball beads and spikes, it is also possible to get flat tops for micro-dermal and surface piercings. They’re exactly what they sound like: a flat piece that screws into the stem of the jewelry.
Gems & Bevelled Gems
Many beads have coloured or clear gems in them, to express a little more individual style or draw the eye to the piercing. Most often, these are found in navel jewelry. The problem with gems is that they often fall out if they are not properly set. If you want to ensure that you’re getting a long-lasting piece of jewelry, you may want to look at how the gem is laid into the bead. A bevelled gem is what you want—one that is encased in the bead. By setting the gem so that the sides of the jewelry surround it, the likelihood it will pop out becomes next to impossible.
Internal vs. External Threading
“Threading” refers to the ridges on jewelry that allow for the bead and stem to screw together. When differentiating between internal and external, the variance is defined by the threading of the stem.
If a piece of jewelry is externally threaded, that means that the ridges—or threading—is on the outside of the stem. This also means the internal threading is inside a hole at the bottom of the bead. The two pieces are screwed together to keep the jewelry in place.
A lot of cheaper jewelry is externally threaded, and many piercers have switched to internal threading. It could be one way to tell if you’re buying quality jewelry, but don’t judge based on appearance alone.
If the threading is inside the stem of the jewelry, appearing like a hole in the top end, then it is internally threaded. Likewise, instead of having a hole in the bead, it instead has a small threaded stem of its own.
The main reason to use internally threaded jewelry for piercers is to reduce trauma to the area. If threading passes through the fresh piercing, the ridges will rub against the skin and irritate it more than necessary.
What Should Jewelry Be Made Of?
There are a few materials that are considered acceptable for professional body piercings. Each are uniquely suitable to certain placements, but they all have low nickel content. High impurity levels in the metal cause irritation to the skin, which decreases the body’s ability to heal around the jewelry.
316LVM Surgical Steel
The most common composition of professional jewelry is known as 316LVM, or surgical steel—material used for surgical instruments. It goes through a process called “vacuum melting,” which ensures high purity levels in the metal. There is very low mineral content (impurity) within the metal that would cause irritation, rejection, or corrosion. For this reason, it is used for medical implants (like plates and screws), because it does not break down or rust when left inside the body.
Titanium jewelry is an acceptable substitute for 316LVM, and is used for surface piercings and micro-dermal implants. Titanium is a nonmagnetic metal. Since dermal piercings cannot be removed—and must be surgically cut out with a scalpel—the metal used for the jewelry can’t be magnetic. A medical test called an MRI uses a giant magnet to scan the body. For procedures like this, all piercings must be removed before going inside the machine. By having nonmagnetic metal, you can avoid removing the jewelry.
PTFE (Teflon) Jewelry
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is known more commonly as Teflon. It is used for a variety of products, but for body jewelry, it provides a flexible, non-metallic alternative. It is also hypoallergenic. This jewelry is often worn in navel piercings during pregnancy, or in piercings that require extra flexibility for comfort in placements with a high-risk of rejection. Also, the non-stick property of Teflon reduces lymph build up on the jewelry during healing, which means less crusty gunk to deal with every time you clean it. Together, these assets make the PTFE bar the best option for anyone with sensitivities to metals, as it reduces the risk of rejection by a landslide.
Thanks for reading!
Check out last week’s post to learn about the different types of body jewelry.