I used to buy all my jewelry at thrift stores, and it worked for a long time. I found incredibly fun and loud statement pieces, including a giant lightning bolt necklace and a pair of earrings that were shaped like lips. In high school, this was a riot. My style hadn’t fully evolved, and I liked drawing attention to myself and showing off fun, irreverent accessories that made great conversation starters. I made a lot of new friends as a result of these fearless fashion forays, but sometime during my senior year, everything changed. I wore earrings every day, and necklaces, rings, etc. much more rarely. I noticed that I had started getting pain in my ears after wearing any of my studs for more than a few hours at a time and removing them would reveal a red and swollen area around the piecing. My mom took one look at me and confirmed what I had been suspecting: I had developed an allergy to jewelry, just as she had.
I was so frustrated, thinking that I couldn’t wear anything anymore. Luckily, all it really did was open my options instead of limiting them. Instead of buying slightly damaged used pieces at the thrift store, ones that were made of who knows what because they were never labeled in a way that gave me enough information, I started getting pieces from online jewelers. The results of my research changed my style going forward. I found that I really did love the simplicity of corded necklaces that featured bold and intricate pendants, like Celtic crosses or Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. I also discovered hypoallergenic metals, like aluminum and sterling silver. It was such a relief to not have to itch my ear every three seconds when I would go out!
I also learned the beauty of bracelets and metal watches around this same period, especially the kind that connect to rings. I’ve never been able to wear them, because if the reaction with my metal allergy happened within the hour for earrings, it must’ve been fifteen minutes for bracelets. The sensitivity of my hands and wrists just couldn’t handle it!
I was absolutely devastated when I realized I couldn’t wear the pieces I’d collected in high school because I thought I wouldn’t be able to wear anything again. Luckily, I know now that there are so many incredible options for jewelry if you have metal allergies. In fact, it’s not uncommon at all to need hypoallergenic metals.