ABOUT STAINLESS STEEL BODY PIERCING JEWELRY
Author: MIKELE - Last Revision: 2006/10/14
Stainless steels are iron based alloys. Depending on which metals are used and which quantity of those are mixed, different characteristics are obtained.
Surgical steel was the term used for stainless steel prior to 1920.
The first "stainless steel" was developed around 1870 and was used for bone screws and cutlery. It was actually developed to replace silver for knives, spoons and forks, but its corosion resistance lead to its use for implants. This was roughly what the AISI (www.steel.org) now classify as 302.
In 1920, a new grade of stainless was developed and quickly took over in prominance. This was 18-8 or more commonly known as 304. Since its use was becoming more wide spread, the term surgical steel was changed to stainless steel.
In 1950 we saw 316L being produced... at this time all implants switched over to 316L.
The steel most used to make body piercing jewelry is the one classified by the AISI as 316L(VM), where 316 is the ‘family’ of steel, L stands for Low Carbon Content and VM for Vacuum Melted, this last process is not always done for the steel used for Body Jewelry.
About 30 years ago the increasingly popularity for this applications, pushed both
the ASTM (www.astm.org) and the ISO
(www.iso.ch) to study and define the structural
characteristics necessary for the 316L(VM) steel to have an optimized performance when
used in implants in the human body, and to create standard sets of tests necessary
to determine if a stock of stainless steel meets those characteristics.
ASTM made the F138 designation and the ISO the 5832-1: both very similar.
- The code 316L(VM) only describes a stainless steel with a high corrosion resistance.
- The term often heard ‘Surgical Steel’ it is only a marketing tool.
- Stainless steel certified to meet the ASTM F138 or the ISO 5832-1 designations can be called implant grade.
If the metals composing the 316L(VM) stainless steel (like Chromium and Nickel) leach outside the alloy bond into the body, they could lead, in time, to sensitivity and dermatitis.
In E.U. 316L(VM) stainless steel cannot be used as material for body piercing during
epithelialization because its Nickel content (up to 15%) exceed the limits imposed by
the EU Nickel law.
Because of that some European manufacturer started to produce a line of Nickel free Stainless Steel body jewelry, but it does not have an implant grade certification, in addition available designs and sizes are very limited.
Anyway, according to the same law 316L(VM) can be used after healing because its Nickel release it is inferior to 0.5µg/cm²/week.
To minimize risks of skin complications, paying attention to the implant grade
certification is necessary when buying Stainless Steel body jewelry, as much as to its smooth,
flawless and high polished surface finish.
Unfortunately, most of the body piercing jewelry on the market today does not meet those safety requirements.
- The Point ISSUE 24 (Association of Professional Piercers newsletter)
Understanding Steel - Page 1
- The Point ISSUE 28 (Association of Professional Piercers newsletter)
Material Steel - Page 16
- Acceptable Body Piercing Jewelry Forum on the BME IAM community