“But…..do you have it in black?” This is a question piercers hear regularly in our studios. And understandably so, black body jewelry looks super cool and perfectly fits quite a few different aesthetics. But, safe black body jewelry has been a thorn in the side of our industry for many years. Black is arguably the most requested color, that simultaneously the hardest to get in a safe material and metal. Today, let’s look at why!
Most Metals are not Inherently Black
When we think of the materials we commonly use for safe piercings, implant grade titanium, implant grade steel, solid 14 and 18k gold, and niobium, most of these are not black by nature, and those that are have some inherent drawbacks.
Niobium can be torched to make it a gunmetal black, and black niobium seam rings are a staple in many studios. However, niobium is very soft- we can’t always tap threads into it and it doesn’t hold up to being made into many styles. So while we can do seam rings and captives, threaded jewelry eludes us in many styles. Some companies offer threaded straight barbells, but other threaded styles and threaded beads and ends still aren't done. Recently, a company called precision one has broken barriers and started producing black niobium threadless ends, but designs are still limited and very simple, as we experiment and overcome the difficulties of working with this material.
Gold can be done black with black rhodium plating. This is a process of plating a black rhodium apply over a base gold, most commonly white gold. While this is a safe plating process (no nickel is used in the process which can cause sensitivities and issues) it is still a plating and can wear down over time. Particularly if your skin by nature is more acidic or you use certain chemicals or products, this does fade. Fortunately the color fades rather then chips or flakes off so it’s not harmful to your piercing or you if this plating fades, it’s just not your desired look for the piece. That being said it can be replated, but that is a bit of a hassle for some clients. And some wear black gold just fine with no issues with fading. It’s variable person to person. Black gold does also carry a higher price point both because of the material and the expense to plate it in a hypoallergenic way.
Plated: Usually not Great
Since we lack metals that can naturally be black, we must find other ways to produce black jewelry. The most popular currently is PVD plating. PVD or Physical Vapor Deposition uses a vacuum coating process to coat a base metal with various mixtures to create an overlay. The vast majority of PVD jewelry on the market is low quality. It’s mystery metal “steel” with a cheap PVD coating that chips off over time. In the past companies like industrial strength offered a high quality PVD plate, with technology borrowed from the dental industry. However, this became too expensive and difficult to continue to make and was stopped. The PVD you’ll find online and in hot topic is very cheap and when the coating does wear down it flakes off in chips which can get into your piercing channel and cause damage.
These days Tether body jewelry offers septum clickers which are implant grade steel with a high quality PVD black plating which is safe for healed piercings (and only healed piercings). That said, this is still limiting as many clients want black for initial piercing or styles other then septum clickers.
Painted: Always a Bad Idea
To fill the demand for black jewelry many low quality companies have started offering painted black jewelry. Yep, its exactly as it sounds, just painting mystery metal black. And yes, it’s as bad of an idea as it would seem. Paint is not ever safe to be worn in a body piercing, no matter the paint or method used to apply it it’s simply unsafe. And when it chips off it can flake and peel and those chips and flakes can become trapped inside your piercing. I have also seen instances of clients inhaling those flakes or getting them in their ear! Not safe at all. Please avoid all painted body jewelry. Many companies falsely advertise this as PVD plated as well, and I’ve seen this come from amazon, hot topic, Spencer's, body candy, and other popular retailers.
Black Acrylic and other Polymers
I have a whole article here on the risks of plastic and acrylic body jewelry, and this all applies to black jewelry as well. There is no safe acrylic, resin, or other polymer currently that’s being made for standard. Body piercings. That said PTFE and Delrin from reputable makers is great for plugs and large gauge pieces, so if you are looking for this for plugs you have some great choices. But for standard pieces like septum rings, hoops for helixes, studs for lobes, they just aren’t producing jewelry from safe polymers in those sizes unfortunately.
The Future of Black Body Jewelry
All this being said, there is a promising future for safe black choices. The work being done by precision one is hopefully the first steps to more companies being able to do more with niobium which would give us a number of choices for threadless ends in black, and maybe eventually stone settings and other more decorative choices. The work being done by tether produces a rich true black, and while only safe for healed piercings it’s still a step in a great direction to produce safe pieces with that deep true black many clients desire.
There have been some discussions about advancement in nanoceramic plating technology in recent years, it’s use in medical and dental work, and its potential application for piercing. This is still very very experimental and probably years away from yielding results, but it is an avenue some makers are exploring to fill this demand for black body jewelry.
Currently, finding safe black body jewelry is a bit of an uphill battle, and I strongly suggest working with a trusted piercer to ensure that you are finding pieces that are safe. And know that those of us in the industry are working very hard to find safe alternatives and create this jewelry we know so many of you desire!