What to Test for in Nickel



Nickel legislation applies to all items which are intended to come into prolonged and direct contact with the skin. The specific products cited in the UK regulations include:
• earrings
• necklaces, bracelets, chains, anklets and finger rings
• wrist-watch cases, watch straps and tighteners
• rivet buttons, tighteners, rivets, zippers and metal marks, contained in or intended to be used in garments

This list is not exhaustive and suppliers should consider all items such as buckles for shoes and belts, handbag straps and handles, hair clips, ear pieces etc and assess whether or not the item, or any part of it will be in prolonged and direct contact with the skin during its normal, intended use.

As Nickel testing is destructive, lengthy and expensive there is no question of each item being individually tested. Instead a supplier must take all reasonable steps to ensure that their product complies with the regulations which would normally include some level of sampling and testing.

General Guidelines

There cannot be any certainty that a product conforms to the REACH Regulations without it undergoing full testing as required by the relevant standard. However, with full knowledge of the components and methods of production, these guidelines may be used as an indication of which products are most likely to conform.

Please note that that AnchorCert Analytical does not take any responsibility for interpretation of these guidelines or any subsequent consequences arising from this information. It should also be noted that a UK hallmark does not mean that the item complies with any legislation other than the Hallmarking Act 1973.

Low Risk

Yellow Carat Gold Alloys are low risk, as nickel is not normally present as a deliberate addition. However, nickel may be present in the traditional plating solution used to “flash plate” so beware.
Platinum Alloys are unlikely to be a problem

Medium Risk

White Gold Carat Alloys may not conform as nickel can be deliberately added to “whiten” the alloy. Rhodium plating can reduce the amount of nickel being released but this depends upon the plating being of sufficient thickness and can also be affected by other factors.
Silver Alloys in themselves are likely to conform, as nickel is not normally present as a deliberate addition. However, if a nickel diffusion barrier has been used beneath a top layer of fine silver, then the final product may not conform depending upon the thickness of the layer etc.
Watches will depend upon the materials selected for the components and any subsequent treatments.

High Risk

Costume Jewellery could contravene the regulations if:

  • Nickel is used as a plated layer beneath the surface layer
  • Nickel is present in the plating solution used to plate the surface layer
  • The item has a gun metal finish
  • Nickel is present in the base metal beneath the plating

Even trace amounts of nickel can lead to articles failing the nickel release test. The following materials do not in themselves conform to the requirements of the Nickel Regulations in terms of nickel release or wear ability tests:

  • Conventional 18/8 stainless surgical steels
  • Cupro Nickels
  • Alloys containing low gold/high nickel
  • Nickel under plates unless protected by conforming top plating.

The following materials may conform if used correctly. Plating will always depend upon it being of sufficient thickness etc

  • Titanium – dependent upon the manufacturing process
  • Nickel free Gold plating
  • Palladium Nickel plating
  • Titanium based coating (CVD type)
  • 304L, 304Cu, 316L Stainless steels

'Nickel Free' stainless steels are now available in Europe and the USA but there is a question as to their corrosion resistance.


Research by AnchorCert Analytical has found that other factors can have an impact on nickel release; these include surface finish, porosity, manufacturing techniques and plating irregularities.


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