Updated: Sep 14, 2019
Marketing is important- the way companies advertise products we obviously know effects how we view them and if we purchase them or not. And most folks already know advertising is designed to convince you to buy a product. But what do we do when companies are using marketing and advertising to mislead customers into buying a product they don’t actually want? This is a major issue in body piercing and body jewelry, so I wrote this article to help clients learn some marketing tricks and ensure that what they are purchasing is what they actually want.
First- lets look at what you DO want for your piercings. Implant grade, body safe materials are essential. The following is the official list from the Association of Professional Piercers reviewing safe materials for body piercings.
Steel that is ASTM F138 compliant or ISO 5832-1 compliantSteel that is ISO 10993-6, 10993-10, and/or 10993-11 compliant[Note: The EEC Nickel Directive is a regulation that requires a low rate of nickel release for all materials used for costume or fine jewelry, belt buckles, watches, or other metallic accessories with direct skin contact. It does not specify nor prove that a material is safe to wear in the body; therefore, compliance with this directive alone is not sufficient for meeting the APP initial jewelry standards.]
Titanium that is ASTM F67 compliant
Titanium that is ASTM F1295 compliant
Solid 14 karat or higher nickel and cadmium free yellow, white, or rose gold
Solid nickel-free platinum alloy
Niobium (Nb)Fused quartz glass, lead-free borosilicate or lead-free soda-lime glass
Tygon® Medical Surgical Tubing ND 100-65 or ND 100-80Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) that is ASTM F754 compliant
The APP approves all ASTM and ISO implant standard biomaterials.All threaded or press-fit jewelry must have internal tapping (no threads on posts).For body jewelry purposes, surfaces and ends must be smooth, free of nicks, scratches, burrs, polishing compounds, and metals must have a consistent mirror finish.
Now that can be a lot of read through so lets break that down- the majority of these are ASTM or ISO verified implant grade materials. Implant grade means safe for implantation in the human body- so the same things doctors use for medical implants like pacemakers or bone screws. It also covers safe gold alloys (gold is a mixture of other metals and gold, and gold for body piercings should be alloyed without nickel and cadmium). It also covers glass for stretched ears and polymers used in plugs and eyelets, as well as having quality surface finish, safe threads. For body piercings you want a higher quality metal than you may wear for a simple cocktail ring or cute pendant. Knowing that you are getting these quality materials is harder than you might imagine though.
The only surefire way to know you are getting quality material is mill certificates. Mill certs are certifications which state that the metal is as advertised- that Titanium is actually ASTM F136 grade or an Alloy Sheet that shows gold is nickel free. However, those certifications need to come from a country that supports and follows the ASTM or ISO standards. Mill certificates from countries that don’t comply to those standards aren’t valid, and often are forged or faked. Beyond that, mill certs can be hard for a client to come across sometimes, so it’s imperative to trust the company to use good quality, check mill certs, and make a good product. Even with a mill certificate and the best material, if the piece isn’t properly made or polished, it can still be harmful. For that reason we can’t stress finding brands you trust who you know make a quality product.
Not only do some brands falsify mill certificates, some unfortunately flat out lie. My favorite example of this is a client who came in having purchased a “hypoallergenic, solid 14k rose gold, sensitive skin” barbell for her industrial, and wasn’t sure why her ear felt so itchy and why the bar seemed to be peeling. When we examined it closely, it was a mystery metal barbell that had gold craft paper glued to the bar, and gold paint. When she contacted Etsy and the vendor she was told that they were permitted to advertised how they wanted to. The most common lie we see is advertising steel jewelry as “nickel free” or “nickel free titanium steel”. There isn’t any nickel free steel, even implant grade contains trace amounts of nickel. So anywhere advertising is that way is lying to you. Particularly sites that allow individuals to sell to the public like Amazon or Etsy, many of those vendors either don’t know or don’t care that their jewelry isn’t what they think it is. Words like “hypoallergenic” “sensitive skin” or “Allergy Free” are all usually marketing terms. If it doesn’t directly say “Nickel Free” with evidence to support that, I wouldn’t trust it. I’ve seen “hypoallergenic” earrings from Clare’s still made with plastics not legal for piercing in some states, and I’ve seen “allergy free” navel rings from forever 21 that was just painted with black paint. It’s important to remember that those marketing terms don’t have anything to back them up, and those companies just use them to persuade folks to purchase.
Another way companies sometimes use marketing to trick clients is stalking photos. On instagram, there is a real issue with low quality brands advertising their painted, plated, unsafe products by posting photos of the best quality jewelry from the best piercers in the world. It is a known issue in the piercing community, and many of us have to fight to have our works removed from these pages, or we never even realize they’ve used our work, because we have never been tagged and credited, and our watermarks edited out. Be suspicious of brands besides the piercer posting work without any credit and tags, as reputable companies almost always credit the artist when they share our work. And as always, never be afraid to ask more questions about the quality of what you are purchasing!
Beyond that I also have had clients deal with other studios lying about the quality of their jewelry. The amount of times I’ve removed and tested a piece sold to a client as hypoallergenic, or even clients being told they are being sold titanium- and it never was. The outrage and hurt, and often the damage caused to their piercings, are a lesson hard learned. Many times the piercers don’t even know their jewelry isn’t what they think it is, because they
are being misled by the brands. It’s important to visit a studio you trust to provide you with safe jewelry, and also ask good questions! Ask to see mill certificates, ask about the brands and why the studio supports that company. And don’t be afraid to ask to inspect your jewelry as well! It’s your right as a client to ensure that you are being sold something high quality and safe for your body. If the price seems too good to be true, or something feels off, leave. The bitterness of poor quality remains after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten.