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Oh Shinny Things, Higher Costs, Fashion Jewelry and Piercing

 I've noticed a trend in the local market, this has created a huge gap in piercing costs. Which begs the question, Are you paying more for the experience and expertise of the piercer or is it for over marked up jewelry?  Just because the jewelry you are buying is extremely expensive and made by the best manufacture in the business doesn't mean that it is the best option to get pierced with. I have covered this in past Piercing Blogs but I have seen an increase of issues in fresh piercings as a result of high-end jewelry.


The trend has been going on for some time now with designs that are beautiful, elegant and incredibly expensive. I get requests for it all the time, often in the form of the client presenting me with a photo on their phone. Usually, the photo of a healed piercing and the jewelry is a custom piece or one that costs around $150. Which is well outside of the budget of an average customer.


I have stocked expensive jewelry in the past and found that the cost of stocking them to outweigh the profit. However, of late I have noticed a trend where "Piercers" are pushing clients into buying them. They do this in some cases by only stocking high-end pieces or using the trust of the client to up sale. There seems to be a lot of "bait and switch" going on, often quoting a price without the cost of jewelry and waiting until the customer is committed to the piercing before springing the additional cost on them.


One of the things I've always tried to do with pricing is to keep it within the reach of your average person but enough to cover the costs of doing the piercing safely and of course financially support myself. For years I found myself at the top of the market price wise, as other studios took cost-cutting means like substandard jewelry and hiring or "training" piercers with little or no experience in an effort to undercut their competition.  Now I'm increasingly finding myself around the middle price wise.  With the low end still undercutting everyone with their $25 or $35 piercings and the other end justifying $220 for a set of ears because of the jewelry they use. 


I understand the business model, one is volume and the other is luxury goods. Maybe it's just me but when did the industry decide that you should either be Walmart or Helzberg's. Yes, I'm not thick, I get it but one is known for low-quality goods, poor customer service, and employee exploitation and the other for selling the general public an overvalued and overpriced mass produced products. I refuse to be either.


Before I move on from pricing, there is one last trend that I've encountered.  I had a couple of clients who mentioned that they had gone to a shop located in a more "pricy" area of Des Moines. When they bulked at the price they asked point blank why it cost so much. The piercer's response was that it was to cover the cost of their location. Not the quality of jewelry, the experience of the piercer or the safety of the piercing but the location was the reason that it cost so much.


Cost aside, there is the issue of whether or not this jewelry is really the best choice for a healing piercing in the first place. While a piercing is healing it needs jewelry that is loose fitting to allow for swelling, free of points that might increase the risk of getting caught on clothing, bedding, towels, etc... and be lightweight. Not only will all these issues lead to prolonged healing but also to issues that once they start can be difficult to get rid of. A well trained and experienced piercer should be advising against jewelry of this type in favor of simpler jewelry for at the least the healing. Clients rely on your piercer to use their experience to advise against jewelry that is going to cause issues. Which brings into question is their motivation, is it the best results of the piercing or to increase their sales and profits by upselling and piercing with jewelry that is not the best choice.


Shaped Objects


This is basic piercing jewelry stuff here. The more likely the jewelry is to get snagged or caught, the more it should be avoided in a fresh piercing. Edges should be rounded in a way that clothing and other items the jewelry will come in contact with will not hook or add additional pressure to the jewelry. For example, a ball or a champagne shaped end is less likely to get snagged than a 5 pointed star, Sunflower or a prong setting. 




Though the jewelry may be marked as Implant Steel, or Titanium often the shaped objects are made of less durable and easier to mold metals. Tins, Pot Metal, silver, gold, copper, and countless other materials are used to form these ends. Though many may not cause a reaction, many of these metals are not suggested for jewelry because of the side effects of having the metals against the body for long periods of time.  If you are sensitive to metals of any type you should especially avoid anything other than Titanium, Implant Grade Steel, 14kt or better solid yellow gold or non-metal jewelry. 


Now Gold for a lot of people with sensitivities to metal is their go to. Often because they have been told that they have an issue with Nickel. High karat solid Yellow Gold shouldn't contain any Nickel but often it is added to increase the shine of lower karat weights and increase durability. For example, chance are if you have a gold wedding band, it is 10kt or less and has some nickel in it. When it comes to fashion shaped ends the karat rate can be lower to increase the durability and avoid damage with daily wear. Also often during healing the amount of pressure and stress the body can put the jewelry under, it can affect the finish of the gold. Gold is soft and porous, so not only can there be problems with losing shape but it can trap contaminants. It's one of the reasons that I don't suggest gold for fresh piercings. 


Also, there is the issue of weight with gold. Though there is only a small difference in weight when we are talking about a ring when we get into a threaded piece with a large end, there is going to be a weight difference. This can add additional stress to the piercing during healing. This can also cause the jewelry to not be balanced in the piercing causing one side to sag. This could increase contact with clothing, bedding, etc... and possibly cause the piercing to migrate downward or tear.


Other colors of gold have become popular in the last 4 or 5 years, especially Rose Gold, though it should be nickel free, there might be copper and other materials in the alloy. White Gold will almost always have Nickle in it. One of the issues is that often with custom pieces and smaller manufacturers, is they often do not have mile certificates or third-party certification on the alloys that they are using. Understand this is not all manufacturers, the APP claims that they will not accept Manufacturers as members without third-party verification. However, this is only the source materials and not the finished products. I have witnessed at least one client that had an allergic reaction to jewelry by an APP manufacture. Now was this a case of an individual that would have reacted to any type of metal or something else, it's unknown and as I said it was an isolated case a number of years ago.


Finish and Location of Manufacturing


A lot of manufactures main selling point is quality based on being American Made and Hand Polished. Yes, there is a level of standards required in the US vs Asia as far as certifying the alloy but the EU has much tougher requirements for body piercing jewelry. So, the country of origin does affect the purity of the alloy and is easier to verify.


Hand Polished vs Machine Polished is an ongoing debate. Decidedly there is going to be a higher level of attention to the finish of each piece if it is done by hand but at what cost and does it really make that much of a difference? Maybe, yup I said it, maybe. Though the finish of the jewelry is important, it is what protects the body from some of the materials in the alloy the jewelry is made off from contact with the body. It also reduces and eliminates erosion and corrosion. However, there may be an increased likelihood of imperfections due to human error with hand polish. It's why even those manufacturers that go on and on about hand polish all machine polish first and then hand polish. Either way, the most effective method is to polish a number of times.


Now how much does the finish of the jewelry matter to the average person? Over the years I have seen terrible jewelry with little or no finish and people heal out the piercing without a single issue. However, it is not the best case situation. In fact, back in the 90s, there were a couple of local shops that were making their own jewelry. Basically, they bought 316L wire, bent them around a rod and used wire cutters to cut the ends. Then they used a dermal drill to brushed off the burs, put a bead on it and sold it to the general public. No polishing involved at all. I was amazed time and time again that the person didn't have a reaction to this jewelry. Now over time, there might have been an issue but unless the person is highly sensitive to metals, chances are they are not going to be prone to a reaction if it isn't handed polished.




Yes, I will admit that I have worked with high-end jewelry and there is a difference in the level of quality from manufacture to manufacture. This is especially true of threaded jewelry and how the ends fit together almost seamless. However, the difference is often minor and unless you were trained to look for the difference, you would be hard-pressed to notice. It often comes down to what is going to get the job done and the client's budget. A good example is do you need a Mercedes Benz AMG R Coup to get from your home to work safely? Yes, it would be incredible to drive, the car would be flawless and seamless but you could easily drive a Ford Focus and get to work and back safely for about $150,000 less.



This is always a touchy subject with people but like any brand, it always comes down to marketing. When I first started piercing there were only a handful of manufacturers make jewelry especially for body piercing. It was a very small market, very expensive by today's standards and designs were limited, That said, most of the jewelry produced at that time would be considered by the more snobbish side of Body Piercing, sub-standard. Of course, this is in part because the business has evolved and better techniques and designs have come about because of it. 


However, some of the manufactures that were considered upstarts and junk, have caught up. They are producing jewelry that is close to the quality level of much more expensive manufactures. Which begs the question, is most of this more the perceived ideal product or the truly ideal product? Does that $120 piece of jewelry truly increase chances of the piercing healing that warrants the huge price difference or is it all just smoke and mirrors?


Starter or Healing Jewelry


I explain this to clients on a regular base, often the jewelry that is best to pierce with is not the jewelry that you will wear in the piercing after the healing is over. Factors like simplicity, additional size for swelling and all the factors that need to be considered to increase the likelihood of the piercing healing without problems, will not be a much of a factor once the piercing is healed. When piercing with post jewelry, the jewelry needs to be replaced once the healing is over to a short length. This is not only because it usually looks better when the jewelry is tighter fitting but shorter posts will decrease the chances of the jewelry getting caught on clothing, bedding, etc...


This concept of starter jewelry completely goes against the idea of spending a huge amount of money for a piece that will be replaced in a few months. I know that for a lot of people they want the piercing and jewelry to look just as they envision it from the start but the reality is that isn't the cheapest or the best option. When you consider the short healing time compared to the rest of your life, it is a short wait until you get that fancy jewelry.


Suggestions to Piercees


  1. Do not just call every studio in town and search for the best price  Contact or visit the studio. Ask about the experience of the piercer, their apprenticeship, and training, procedures, what they suggest for aftercare and if they go through the aftercare instructions verbally or just give you a sheet.
  2. Higher prices do not reflect the quality of the piercing or jewelry. With any piercing mainly what you are paying for is the expertise of the person doing the piercing. It's easy to raise prices but it's more difficult to become an expert in your field.
  3. Ask if the jewelry is included in the price. You would be surprised how many studios will use bait and switch where they say the piercing is $__ and then when you get there, in fact, $__ for the piercing plus $___ additionally for the jewelry.
  4. Ask your piercer about all your jewelry choices. If there is a cheaper option, ask them why they are suggesting the more expensive jewelry. 
  5. Ask yourself, is the price higher because of the experience, expertise, ability, and knowledge of the piercer or the location of the studio. If it is in a high traffic mall, that might have more to do with the cost than the quality of the jewelry and/or the piercer.
  6. Research the studio and the piercer. If they only have a Facebook page and a one-page website it might reflex how focused they are on things like education and support after the piercing has been done. 
  7. Consider getting the piercing done with more simplistic jewelry until the piercing is healed. Then switch to that sweet piece you want. Jewelry is not present and can be changed later.
  8. Get jewelry that does the job and still fits within your budget.

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