Tag Archives: titanium

Body Jewelry Materials. Understanding Implant Grade Surgical Steel

Understanding Implant Grade Surgical Steel
For many years I have discussed and debated some of the common misconceptions our industry faces when it comes to the steel used in body jewelry. I hope to help shed some light on this subject, and share some of the research I have done. I am by no means a chemist, but the first time I reviewed a mill certification sheet, I wanted to know more about what was in the jewelry we were putting into our clients. Understanding the materials we use in our shops everyday allows us to better serve both our clients and our industry.
Currently the APP (Association of Professional Piercers) website states the following regarding acceptable steel types:
“Surgical Steel is made of a variety of alloys. Many of them are used for body jewelry, but only a few specific grades are proven biocompatible: steel that is ASTM F-138 compliant or ISO 5832-1 compliant; ISO 10993-(6, 10, or 11) compliant; or (EEC [European] Nickel Directive compliant.”
Taken from http://www.safepiercing.org/piercing/jewelry-for-initial-piercings/ under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works License

While I am not an APP member, the APP is arguably the most accepted voice for the piercing industry. So what exactly does this mean?
The American Society for Testing and Materials Standard (now ASTM International) is a volunteer-based organization with 30,000 members in over 120 countries. The ASTM determines standards for a myriad of industries, and has become the most definitive authority in this field. The standards determined by the ASTM dictate what materials can or cannot be used for any given application. Our industry seems to refer to their standardization more often than any other similar organization (AISI, ISO, et al).

Steel that is ASTM F-138 compliant is steel that has passed the criteria for implantation grade. The criteria for implant grade are based on the presence, or lack of presence of certain elements. The chart below shows the AISI, ASTM, and ISO chemical composition requirements for steel to be considered implant grade:

AISI max% ASTM max% ISO max%
Carbon .03 .03 .03
Manganese 2 2 2
Phosphorous .045 .025 .025
Sulphur .03 .01 .01
Silicon .75 .75 .01
Chromium 16.0-18.0 17.0-19.0 17.0-19.0
Molybdenum 2.0-3.0 2.25-3.0 2.25-3.5
Nickel 10.0-13.0 14.0-15.0 14.0-15.0
Nitrogen .1 .1 .1
Copper n/a .5 .5
Iron Balance Balance Balance

Now, if you have ever requested a mill certificate from your body jewelry supplier, some of this information may look familiar. It is interesting to note the near identical levels allowed by these three different standardization organizations. But, what exactly is a mill cert and what does it tell you?

For our purposes, a mill cert shows the result of a test that determines the chemical makeup of a batch of steel. If a body jewelry supplier consistently uses steel from the same steel manufacturer, a mill cert test will yield near identical results every time. The tests are done by a third-party lab, and the information is presented in the certification report. If the chemical makeup of the steel exceeds the allowed elemental percentages presented in the chart above, it no longer passes the ASTM F-138 standard, and is not implant grade. Failure to pass the ASTM F-138 indicates that the steel could pose a variety of problems if used for implantation purposes.

Every reputable supplier will be able to produce a mill cert, but the mill cert is only as valid as the supplier’s reputation. It is impossible to test every piece of jewelry a supplier carries. The mill cert is only relevant to the batch that was tested. If the steel manufacturer changes the “recipe,” any of the relevant elements could increase or decrease, causing unforeseen problems in the end result (body piercing). In truth, the best (and only) way to find out if a supplier’s body jewelry is up to par is to try it out. Consistency speaks more volume in our industry than any lab test or mill certification document, so find a supplier you are comfortable with, and stick with them. If you are considering switching suppliers, ask for third-party references, like another studio that buys and uses their jewelry. Our customers have been long-term, repeat buyers. This says an awful lot about our jewelry’s steel composition.

For many years the APP website listed 316LVM ASTM F-138 as the only acceptable type of steel to be used in body piercing. However, this was changed within the past few years and the site now states that F-138 compliant steel is acceptable. There are many types of F-138 compliant steel, but our industry finds 316L and 316LVM to be the best suited for the task. But what does 316L or 316LVM even mean?

The numbers are classification codes; and 316 is a classification code that follows 304. Code 316 steel is softer than 304 steel, which is often used to make pots and pans for use in kitchens. Lower tensile strength allows for increased mutability. This is another reason why 316 is used for body jewelry, as it is easier to shape. The “L” is used to signify “Low” Carbon content. In many instances 304 steel will pass ASTM F-138 tests, but due to the softness of the steel, 316 is preferred.

The “VM” stands for vacuum melted. This is a process that reduces what steel makers refer to as inclusions, tiny impurities that remain in the steel, often at a microscopic level. Vacuum melted also helps to remove the presence of sulfur, phosphorous, and other unwanted gases. There is no lab test that can prove that steel has been vacuum melted. Suppliers who place the VM classification on their steel are doing so by their own merit. Mill certification sheets that list the steel type as 316LVM are somewhat inaccurate. Mill testing should by definition be performed by a third party. If the cert says 316LVM, it has been adjusted by the supplier, or the steel manufacturer is also providing the cert. Either way, I would recommend a second opinion. Vacuum melting does not change the chemical makeup of the steel. It will show the same composition both before and after the vacuum melting process.
Good polishing is necessary for the finished product. Proper polishing of body jewelry minimizes any pitting or scratches, which gives the fresh piercing a higher probability of healing without complication.
I have seen or heard of many piercers and resellers advertising nickel-free steel. There is just no such thing. Steel is an alloy comprised of the elements in the above chart. All steel contains nickel, and as discussed, ASTM F-138 steel has low nickel content. Why is this important? Nickel is a natural allergen. Most people will have some visible skin irritation when exposed to metal with very high nickel content. While 316L and 316LVM have very low nickel contents, there is still a percentage of the population who will have a reaction. We recommend solid medical grade titanium in this case. This is titanium that passes the ASTM F-136 standard. This is the same kind of titanium used in major reconstructive surgery.

While we refer to steel as implant grade, it is important to address the reality that basic body piercings are not implants. Implants are completely contained in the skin. If steel that passes the ASTM F-138 standard is considered implant-safe steel, then 316L and 316LVM steel should be considered more than adequate for body piercing.
In my opinion, the steel is as good as the word of the supplier. Consistency is the key. Our piercers have been using the same steel from the same supplier for over five years. We have seen very few nickel allergies or rejections, and no discoloration. This hard data speaks louder than any mill cert.

Body Jewelry Metals – Titanium

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

2A.1 Titanium

Titanium is an extremely lightweight, elemental metal. The specific
alloy used for body jewelry is 6AL4V (60 parts aluminum, 40 parts
vanadium), specifically 136 grade with extra low interstitial

“Titanium is the most bio-compatible of all metals due to its total
resistance to attack by body fluids.” (1) Titanium is often used in
permanent surgical implants where the tissue is encouraged to
assimilate the implant; the pores in the metal allow for the tissue to
attach. When titanium is used for body jewelry it should be highly
polished to minimize porosity.

When exposed to air or water, titanium immediately reacts with oxygen
to create a thin, inert oxide layer. While the titanium alloy contains
aluminum and vanadium, the oxide layer does not contain any traces of
either element. (4)

Titanium jewelry is available in a range of colors which are produced
through anodizing, not dyeing. During anodizing, the jewelry is
submerged in an electrolyte solution and voltage is applied. Anodizing
creates an oxide layer on the jewelry. The color results from
refraction of light through the oxide layer, and the thickness of the
layer determines the resulting color. The voltage applied during
anodizing determines the thickness of the oxide. The anodized oxide
eventually wears away, causing the color to fade or change; how long
the process will take depends on the thickness of the oxide layer is
and the amount of friction and wear on the jewelry. Unanodized
titanium is light to medium grey in color.

Black-colored titanium is produced by coating titanium with titanium
carbide through a process called Physical Vapor Deposition
(PVD). Titanium carbide is not biocompatible and does not meet the
specifications established for “implant grade” materials set forth by
the ASTM and ISO. In addition, the coating will not have the smooth a
finish necessary for body jewelry.


(1) Internation Titanium Association, http://www.titanium.net

(2) Reactive Metals Studio Inc.,

(3) TI Specialties, http://www.callamer.com/~ezecho/tispec.html

(4) Gilliam, Brian; Anatometal, Inc. http://www.anatometal.com
Report presented at the Association of Professional Piercings Open
Meeting, May 1998

Piercing FAQ

Everything you wanted to know about Piercing
This FAQ about Piercing was compiled and written by Anne Greenblatt with numerous contributions by others.

Part I: Intro

  • 1.1 Summary – This posting contains information about body piercing.
  • 1.2 Copyright And Dissemination – Under the Berne Convention, this document is Copyright (c) 2000
  • 1.3 Table of Contents of the rec.arts.bodyart Piercing FAQ:

Part II: Jewelry

  • 2A.1 Metals – The metals used for body jewelry are chosen for
  • 2A.1 Gold – 1 karat = 1/24th of the alloy is pure
  • 2A.1 Niobium – Niobium is an elemental metal and is strong yet flexible
  • 2A.1 Platinum – Platinum and metals in the platinum group such as palladium
  • 2A.1 Stainless Steel – Of the many stainless steels available, only 316L and 316LVM
  • 2A.1 Silver / Sterling Silver – Sterling silver is 92.5% silver alloyed with copper or some
  • 2A.1 Titanium – Titanium is an extremely lightweight, elemental metal.
  • 2A.1a Report on Stainless Steel – by Sean
  • 2A.2 Non Metal Materials
  • 2A.2a Report on FDA Approved Acrylic – by Michael
  • 2A.3 Organic Materials – Thanks to Erica Skadsen / Organic for the information contained in
  • 2A.3a Hardwoods – Hardwoods are most often used to make plugs for enlarged piercings
  • 2A.3b Bamboo – Bamboo is not a wood but a grass. Several thousand different
  • 2A.3c Ivory, Horn, Antler – Thanks to Jesse Jarrell
  • 2B.1 Jewelry Sizes – Jewelry is measured by gauge (thickness) and width.
  • 2B.1a Gauges And Equivalents – Most jewelry manufactured in the US is gauged according to
  • 2B.2a Basic Jewelry Designs: Captive Bead Ring – The basic ring design is the captive bead ring or ball closure ring
  • 2B.2a Basic Jewelry Designs: Bead Ring Or Attached Bead Ring – The bead ring is similar to the captive bead ring except that the
  • 2B.2a Basic Jewelry Designs: Seamless Or Beadless Rings – The names beadless ring and seamless ring are misnomers because
  • 2B.2a Basic Jewelry Designs: Captive Tube Or Captive Bar Ring – Instead of a bead, a short, straight or curved tube or solid bar
  • 2B.2a Basic Jewelry Designs: Screw On Ball Ring – Screw on ball rings are an alternative to large gauge captive
  • 2B.2a Basic Jewelry Designs: Barbells – Straight and curved barbells are measured by the linear width
  • 2B.2a Basic Jewelry Designs: Gemstone Or Jewel Settings – Gemstones can be set in metal using either a prong setting or
  • 2B.2b Piercing-Specific Designs: Jewelry For Enlarged Piercings – The following designs are intended to maintain the enlarged size
  • 2B.2b Piercing-Specific Designs: Jewelry For Nipple Piercings – Nipple Retainer: Comprised of a straight bar worn through
  • 2B.2b Piercing-Specific Designs: Jewelry For Septum Piercings – Septum Retainer: A U-shaped piece of metal, either rounded
  • 2B.2b Piercing-Specific Designs: Prince’s Wand – The Prince’s Wand or Urethral Tube can be made to fit either
  • 2B.2b Piercing-Specific Designs: Eyebrow And Nostril “Bones”
  • 2C.1 Facial Piercings: Earlobe – 6 to 8
  • 2C.1 Facial Piercings: Large Earlobe Piercings – Please refer to Part 7 of the FAQ for information on
  • 2C.1 Facial Piercings: Dermal Punch Method for Large Earlobe Piercings – Dermal punches are designed to remove tissue for biopsy procedures.
  • 2C.1 Facial Piercings: Transverse Or Lateral Earlobe – 4 to 8
  • 2C.1 Facial Piercings: Vertical Earlobe – 4 to 8
  • 2C.1 Facial Piercings: Ear Cartilage – 3 to 6
  • 2C.1 Facial Piercings: Nostril – 3 to 6
  • 2C.1 Facial Piercings: Septum – 4 to 8
  • 2C.1 Facial Piercings: Eyebrow – 2 to 4
  • 2C.1 Facial Piercings: Bridge / Niebuhr / Erl / Nasion – 4 to 6
  • 2C.2 Oral Piercings – The risks of oral piercings include chipped and cracked teeth
  • 2C.2 Oral Piercings: Lip & Labret – 2 to 4
  • 2C.2 Oral Piercings: Madonna / Beauty Mark – Also called the Marilyn or Chrome Crawford because of the
  • 2C.2 Oral Piercings: Cheek – 3 to 5
  • 2C.2 Oral Piercings: Scrumper / Lip Frenulum – 1 to 2
  • 2C.2 Oral Piercings: Tongue – 4 to 8
  • 2C.2 Oral Piercings: Tongue Web / Frenulum – 2 – 4
  • 2D.1 Navel Piercings – 4 to 8
  • 2D.1a “The Navel Piercing: A Better Alternative” – by Karen Hurt of Future Primitives, San Francisco,
  • 2D.1b “Angled Navel Piercings” – by Elayne Angel of Rings of Desire, New Orleans
  • 2D.2 Nipple Piercings – 4 to 8
  • 2D.2a Female Nipple Piercings – Female nipple piercings should be made at the base of the nipple
  • 2D.2b Male Nipple Piercings – Because most men have very small or flat nipples, the piercing
  • 2D.2c Nipple Piercings And Breastfeeding – Most piercers maintain that nipple piercings are unlikely to
  • 2D.3 Surface And Unusual Piercings – Many piercers do not perform the following piercings because
  • 2E.1 Female Genital Piercings – All of the female genital piercings are highly anatomy-dependent
  • 2E.1 Clitoris Piercing – 4 to 6
  • 2E.1 Fourchette – 4 to 6
  • 2E.1 Horizontal Clitoral Hood Piercing – 4 to 6
  • 2E.1 Vertical Clitoral Hood Piercing – 4 to 6
  • 2E.1 Inner Labia – 4 to 6
  • 2E.1 Outer Labia – 4 to 6
  • 2E.1 Triangle Piercing – 4 to 6
  • 2E.1 Christina – 4 to 6
  • 2E.1 Isabella – This piercing was first documented in Issue #17 of Piercing
  • 2E.1 Princess Albertina – Another relatively new and experimental piercing documented in
  • 2E.2 Male Genital Piercings – The Prince Albert, Ampallang and Apadravya piercings usually bleed
  • 2E.2 Ampallang – 6 to 10 months; may require a year or more to completely
  • 2E.2 Apadravya – 6 to 10 months; may require a year or more to completely
  • 2E.2 Foreskin – 2 to 4
  • 2E.2 Frenum – 2 to 4
  • 2E.2 Guiche – 4 to 6
  • 2E.2 Prince Albert Or P.A. – 2 to 4
  • 2E.2 Scrotum / Hafada – 4 to 6
  • 2e.3 Genital Piercings And Sexual Activity – Genital piercings are intended to enhance sensation for the
  • 2E.4 Genital Piercings And Pregnancy – In the interest of safety for the mother and child, jewelry should

Part III: Getting A New Piercing

  • 3.1 What To Look For In A Piercer – Consider first visiting the studio without intending to get pierced
  • 3.2 Assessing Anatomy And Selecting Jewelry – Because everyone is built differently, not everyone is
  • 3.3 Ear Piercing Gun – The piercing gun or piercing implement was originally intended to
  • 3.3 Single-Use Disposable Needles – Piercing needles are hollow, lancet-point needles, beveled
  • 3.4 Basic Piercing Procedure: Prep – The area to be pierced should be cleansed using a surgical scrub
  • 3.4 Basic Piercing Procedure: Tools – Most piercers use forceps to hold the area to be pierced
  • 3.5 Methods Of Disinfection And Sterilization
  • 3.6 Anesthetics – In the United States topical anesthetics are only available
  • 3.7 Are You Under 18? – Many states now have laws restricting or prohibiting piercing minors
  • 3.8 Does It Hurt? – Most people experience some level of discomfort or pain during
  • 3.9 Making Your Experience More Comfortable – Get plenty of rest the night before. Eat a good meal and drink
  • 3.10 Piercing Kits And Doing It Yourself – Piercing kits have many disadvantages.

Part V: Care Of New Piercings

  • 5.1 Skin Cleansers, Wound Cleansers, And Soaps – Skin cleansers are designed to aid in the physical removal of
  • 5.2 Antiseptic Products – Antiseptics and disinfectants are chemicals designed to kill
  • 5.3 Other Products
  • 5.4 Products To Avoid – Antibiotic And Medicated
  • 5.5 Essential Oils – Many people have found essential oils beneficial to healing
  • 5.6 Aftercare For Facial Piercings – Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap before
  • 5.7 Aftercare For Oral Piercings – Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap before
  • 5.8 Aftercare For Body Piercings – Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap before
  • 5.9 Aftercare For Genital Piercings – Genital piercings often bleed between 12 to 24 hours depending on
  • 5.10 Herbal Hot Compress Recipe – Provided by Michaela Grey, formerly of Gauntlet and the Association

Part VI: The Healing Process & Healing Problems

  • 6.1 The Healing Process – General Wound Healing
  • 6.2 Abandoning A Piercing – Whether or not the piercing completely closes depends on the age
  • 6.2a Reopening or Repiercing an Abandoned Piercing – An abandoned piercing that has only shrunk or partially grown
  • 6.2a Healing Problems: Dry Skin – Over-cleaning the piercing, failure to thoroughly rinse the
  • 6.2b Healing Problems: Prolonged Healing – Prolonged healing is indicated by failure of the piercing to
  • 6.2c Healing Problems: Follicular Cysts – Follicular cysts may affect both new and healed piercings.
  • 6.2d Healing Problems: Infections – The most frequent causes of infection is touching the piercing
  • 6.2e Healing Problems: Hypergranulation – During the proliferation phase of healing, granulation tissue
  • 6.3 Scars – Any penetration of the skin will result in a scar. Scar tissue
  • 6.4 Piercing Migration And Rejection – Occasionally a piercing migrates towards the surface of the skin
  • 6.5 Metal Sensitivities – The metals used for body jewelry are chosen for

Part VII: Healed Piercings

  • 7.1 Changing Jewelry – After a piercing is healed jewelry may be changed as desired.
  • 7.2 Stretching Piercings – Only well-healed piercings should be stretched. Stretching too soon
  • 7.3 Bondage Play – Strenuous bondage play using chains, restraints, and weights
  • 7.4 Hiding And Retaining Piercings
  • 7.4a Retaining Piercings During Surgery – Most hospitals’ policies require that patients remove all
  • 7.6 Piercings And Common Medical Procedures – Finding a piercing-knowledgeable doctor is more difficult than
  • 7.7 Body Jewelry And Metal Detectors – Security metal detectors are used to detect certain types of
  • 7.8 Piercings And Employment – Several readers of rec.arts.bodyart have been suspended or

Part VIII: Historical Information

  • 8.1a History of the Nipple Piercing
  • 8.1b Titrings, a Bit of History
  • 8.2 The Apadravya In The Kama Sutra – From the unexpurgated printing of the Kama Sutra printed in 1963
  • 8.3 History Of Late 20th Century Body Piercing – In the US, Doug Malloy, along with Jim Ward and Fakir and, in England,…
  • 9.1 Books And Magazines

Part IX: Resource List

  • 9A.2 Calendars And Posters
  • 9B.1 Videos
  • 9B.2 Online Sites
  • 9B.2a Chat Rooms And Online Clubs
  • 9B.3 Software & CDs
  • 9b.4 Places Of Interest – NEW YORK BODY ARCHIVE, #9 Ninth Ave., 2nd Floor, South of 13th St