Tag Archives: Body Jewelry Designs

Body Jewelry Materials – Hardwoods

This article is from the Piercing FAQ, by Anne Greenblatt with numerous contributions by others.

2A.3a Hardwoods

Hardwoods are most often used to make plugs for enlarged piercings,
such as ear lobe, labret, and septum piercings. Hardwoods are natural
materials that work in harmony with the body. They can “breathe” with
a piercing and allows an interchange of oils. Wood stays warmer than
metals. Wood does not develop the bad odor plastics can develop.

Hardwoods are broad-leafed, deciduous trees (angiospermous). The term “hardwood” does not actually refer to hardness: for example, balsa is a hardwood. The part of the tree normally used is the center
heartwood, normally darker and denser than the surrounding sapwood.

A few species of wood commonly used for jewelry, furniture and inlays
are endangered or threatened. These species are regulated by CITES,
the Center for International Trade of Endangered Species. Endangered
species include Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra). Threatened
species include Mexican mahogany (Swietenia humilis) and Carribean
mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni), Commoner (Guaiacum officinale), and
Holywood lignum vitae aka “Tree of Life” (Guaiacum sanctum), Bigleaf
mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), and American mahogany (Swietenia
meliaceae). In some cases, wood from threatened species is acquired by salvage or through sustainable harvesting.

Grain (fibers within the wood) is considered either open or closed.
Open-grained woods may collect bacteria, shed skin tissue, and dirt
and hence generally should not be used for jewelry.

The overall shape and dimensions of the piece should be consistent and
appropriate for the particular piercing with room to allow for
possible swelling. The finish should be free from scratches, pits or
tool marks. The piece should be free of raised grain (wood fibers),
even when wet. Luster varies from species to species and the wood may or may not shine. An oiled plug will appear dull.

Because hardwoods are porous and readily absorb and release moisture,
oil, and bacteria, hardwood plugs are best worn in healed piercings
and dry areas of the body. Because hardwood jewelry cannot be
sterilized it should always be handled by clean hands and only worn by
one person. Autoclaving hardwood jewelry may cause it to crack, split,
and warp. Hardwood jewelry should be cleaned regularly with a
non-chemical soap that is safe for the body. Tea Tree oil can also be
used; prior to use a patch test is recommended to test for
allergy. Hardwood jewelry should be oiled after cleaning to benefit
the skin and aid insertion.

The type of finish applied is usually an oil and sometimes a sealant.
Many finishing oils and sealing products contain chemicals, toxins,
solvents, petroleum or animal products, or pigments. Using a finish
that entirely seals a hardwood plug eliminates the purpose of wearing
wood. I usually recommend a non-toxic oil or wax. Food grade oils such
as olive and peanut are generally safe but may break down (turn
rancid) with heat and time; pieces finished using food grade oils
should be washed and re-oiled periodically to avoid turning
rancid. Waxes can be animal or vegetable based; waxes may come off
with heat or be rubbed off while cleaning. I do not recommend using
pigment as most are chemical or solvent based and can fade or enter
the bloodstream.

Some people are allergic to certain hardwoods. A sensitivity to
hardwoods can also be acquired with exposure. The risk of developing a
sensitivity to certain hardwoods is increased for those who work with
the woods by way of the dust which is produced in the production
process. The hardwoods likely to cause allergic reactions include all
woods within the Dalbergia genera, or the rosewoods: African blackwood
(Dalbergia melanoxylon), Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra),
Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa), Indian rosewood, aka Bombay blackwood
(Dalbergia latifolia), Kingwood aka Violetwood (Dalbergia cearensis),
Tulipwood (Dalbergia frutescus), Teak (Tectona grandis), Purpleheart
aka Amaranth (Peltogyne spp.); and possibly Greenheart and Satinwood
(Chloroxylon swietenia). Some woods may be very hard to identify; for
example, African blackwood can masquerade as ebony.

Body Jewelry – Organic Materials


This article is from the Piercing FAQ, by Anne Greenblatt with numerous contributions by others.

2A.3 Organic Materials

Thanks to Erica Skadsen / Organic for the information contained in this
article. Please visit her webpage for photos and more information, at

please continue to section 2A.3a Hardwoods

Body Jewelry – A Report on FDA Approved Acrylic

This article is from the Piercing FAQ, by Anne Greenblatt with numerous contributions by others.

2A.2a Report on FDA Approved Acrylic

by Michael Hare
The Exotic Body, Sacramento, California
Presented at the Association of Professional Piercers Open Meeting
May 1998
Edited by Anne Greenblatt

We have found a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acrylic
styrene copolymer (hereby referred to as “our acrylic”). Our acrylic
provides superior resistance to stress hazing and surface grazing when
compared to straight acrylic. The FDA has approved our acrylic for
applications in which it is in contact with the body. Our acrylic
meets USP XXI Class VI plastics guidelines for medical devices.

The USP XXI Class VI testing is done by United States Pharmacopoeia
which conducts biological tests for Class VI plastics. It has been
determined that our acrylic meets USP XXI Class VI specifications and
therefore is acceptable for use in medical applications. Cytotoxicity
as well as Hemolysis tests were also done. The cytotoxicity test
determine the degree of cell destruction caused by exposing certain
cell cultures to an extract of the polymer. The Hemolysis test
determines the degree of destruction of blood cells that occurs when
specific extracts of the polymer are introduced into the blood. The
results of these tests show that our acrylic is non-toxic as well as

Glow-in-the-dark Acrylic

It is our position that no glow-in-the-dark acrylic can be safe for
the body. The phosphorescent material is carcinogenic. It should not
be in contact with the body for any time. The alternative is UV or
Black Lite acrylic which is reactive under a black light and appears
to glow. This UV material is not carcinogenic.

Sterilization and Disinfection of Acrylic

At this time no known acrylic jewelry can be sterilized by
autoclave. We have tested our acrylic in the most frequently used cold
sterilization solutions.

MadaCide: After soaking for 72 hours there was no cracking or
discoloration of the jewelry.

Isopropyl alcohol (91%): Soaking for 48 hours yielded the same result.

We are in the process of looking into Gamma Ray Radiation sterilization.