This is a common request for clients of piercing studios- I have my own jewelry. Can I bring it in and be pierced with it? And at first glance, it’s a request that makes quite a bit of sense- you have a piece you already know you want to wear, or already own, why not get pierced with it? Well, it’s unfortunately not quite that simple. So today, let’s look at the complexities of using a client’s jewelry for a new piercing.
Jewelry Standards for Initial Piercing
The first, and most major factor, is the jewelry used for an initial piercing. You might have the most beautiful heirloom diamond that’s been in your family for generations, but if it wasn’t
made to be used in a fresh piercing…it’s probably not safe to be used in a fresh piercing. After all, an initial piercing is a wound and whatever we pierce you with is essentially a foreign object embedded in that wound. You need to be pierced with something that will allow that wound to heal correctly. I have a whole blog post that goes in-depth about initial piercing jewelry here.
This means the material, all the way to the exact molecular structure of the piece, is hugely important (and you can read more about that here). Beyond that, the surface finish of the piece is crucial too- it must be perfectly smooth and free of nicks, scratches, stamps, or imperfections that could trap bacteria and harm a healing piercing. This disqualifies a lot of family pieces that through time have some small surface imperfections.
It also needs to be the correct size for an initial piercing. I have a whole blog post on initial piercing sizing here, but in short initial piercings are going to have some swelling, and jewelry needs to leave room for that. The piece you have may be perfect once you are fully healed, but if it doesn’t leave room for swelling and healing, it won’t work for a fresh piercing. The front also needs to be the correct size for healing- not so large as to cause issues but not too small to sink in.
The Association of Professional Piercers lists standards for initial piercing jewelry here, and for the most part, a piece needs to be made specifically for piercing to be safe for an initial piercing. Fun heirloom pieces or studs you got from a family member or partner are often perfect beautiful pieces- for your healed piercing.
Can it Survive Sterilization?
Now, you may insist that your piece is all of these things- a great alloy, perfect surface finish, and a great size for a new piercing. But- will it survive being sterilized? See, all jewelry used in a fresh piercing needs to be sterilized in order to be pierced- meaning we have to run it through an autoclave. 270 kpa pressure and 270 F to be precise. That is a ton of pressure, and very very hot. Can you guarantee there are no adhesives in the settings on your piece that won’t melt and break during sterilization? What about any gems- are you sure they can withstand an autoclave? My old boss once had a client who swore it would, and we literally disintegrated her tanzanite running it through the autoclave- the entire stone exploded into dust and her prized earring was ruined. Not to mention autoclaves are thousands of dollars- if your piece damaged the machine could you pay to have it repaired or replaced? Some studios have a contract you must sign undertaking the cost of damage to the machine if we run an unknown piece. Is it worth the risk? Most folks would say no.
What about quality jewelry from my piercer?
Yes! If you have quality jewelry designed for an initial piercing, perhaps from a previous piercing you had, we can reuse that for a new piercing on you! But- there’s always a but, a studio must be set up for reprocessing. Meaning if we want to use a piece you have already worn, we need to go through a multistep process of cleaning, prepping, and sterilizing the piece to be able to use it again in a fresh piercing. Not every piercing studio is set up to offer reprocessing and has the space or the time to do so. Check with your local reputable piercer about their choices for reprocessing, and see if they are able to offer you this service. If they are, this is a great way to save money, and many of my clients only purchase 1-3 initial length pieces of jewelry and we just keep moving them around for their new pieces.
What about quality jewelry I got online?
This will depend from studio to studio. Some studios will use quality pieces purchased online from other studios. However, there are a lot of low-quality companies ripping off high-quality brands and designs. It’s not uncommon for me to have a client bring a piece to an appointment they insist is quality, only for me to inspect it and realize it's a knockoff from a lower-quality brand that I can’t safely use. For this reason, some studios choose not to deal with the risk of knockoffs and don’t pierce with any outside jewelry whatsoever because the risk is real. Others will pierce with outside jewelry as long as they can verify the quality of the piece- receipts from the studio you ordered it from and any messages about your order help confirm the quality of the piece. This is a studio-by-studio policy however, so I would check with your local piercer and see what they do and don’t offer.
As amazing as it would be to be able to pierce with all your beautiful family pieces or existing pieces, safe has to come first. Often times designs and styles you want to wear will fair better in fully healed piercings- and something simpler or safer will be your better bet for a new piercing! Still, there are a few exceptions like quality pieces you already own, so check in with your studio, find out their policies, and enjoy your beautiful new sparkles!