Piercing materials

Piercings come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in a wide variety of materials. In our previous blog ‘All information about piercings’ we started with a brief history of the piercing and went on about getting pierced and giving it the appropriate aftercare. This blog will continue with the available piercing materials.

The most important piercing materials

It might always occur that you find piercings made of (or having parts made of) materials that are not in this blog. This blog will only address the most important and most common materials:

  1. 316L surgical steel
  2. Gold plated
  3. Titanium
  4. Solid gold
  5. Acrylic
  6. Bio-flex
  7. Titanium plated
  8. Wood
  9. Organic

316L surgical steel

By far the most common and most used material for piercings is 316L surgical steel. Piercings made of surgical steel are pretty, cheap and widely available.

The name, however, does implicate certain qualities which simply aren't true. The term ‘surgical’ might imply that the quality is similar to titanium, this is not the case. Surgical steel is stainless steel. This might implicate that surgical steel doesn’t stain, which is also false.

Stainless steel contains chrome, making it stainless. Normal steel would immediately start corroding after contact with water and oxygen. Adding chrome protects the steel with a protective layer. Surgical steel has a low carbon level making it less vulnerable for corrosion.

This creates confusion as it implies that the steel couldn’t corrode. Adding chrome for protection doesn’t mean that is impossible to stain, it just makes it a bit harder. Steel also contains nickel to harden the steel. Adding nickel improves durability making it last longer.

You shouldn’t be surprised when surgical steel body jewellery start to show stains, the belly bars for example. Especially when they come in regular contact with water, soap and sweat. The amount of nickel in steel also makes them unsuitable for people with a nickel allergy. On our blog we have a more extensive article about 316L surgical steel.

Gold plated piercings

Gold piercings are always high in demand. There obviously is a big difference between a gold plated piercing and a solid golden piercing. But what is a gold plating exactly? Gold plated piercings are piercings which are made of surgical steel with a thin layer of gold on top. This layer is often 14 kt, sometimes 18 kt. You should realize that the layer of gold is very thin.

Gold is expensive, therefore there is a huge price gap between solid golden piercings and gold plated ones. The most important thing to know about gold plated piercings is that they are very vulnerable to friction and that their beauty has a very limited timespan.

Depending on the exact type of piercing it is likely to be exposed to a lot of friction through movement, water, soap and sweat. Al these elements will wear the golden layer down or create stains. Especially changes in colour is something which is known to happen to gold plated piercings.

The piercing will start by losing its shine, and keep on getting duller until it starts to show black spots.

Piercing Mania therefore gives the following simple advice. Get a gold plated piercing if you really fancy golden piercings but can’t (or won't) pay the full price for a real one. Take notice that the beauty of gold plated piercings is mostly short-lived. Being really careful with your piercing might expand its duration. The less you expose your piercing to previously mentioned elements, the longer it will stay pretty.

You only pay a fraction of the price which does allow you to buy several so you can keep changing your jewelry. Are you looking for that golden piercing that you want to wear on a day to day basis without having to worry about its durability? Then you should definitely go for a solid golden piercing.

Titanium piercings

Titanium is a well known material and most people are likely to have started with a titanium piercing in their healing process. In Europe it is obligated by law to pierce with nickel-free jewelry, therefore most piercers choose titanium jewelry.

Titanium is incredibly strong and scratch proof. It is also a lot lighter than steel and free of nickel. Titanium is also insensitive for rust, corrosion or other discolourations. All traits that make titanium the perfect material to be used as piercings. Then how come the range of products is so limited?

Firstly, titanium is very expensive. Besides the price it is also very hard to work with,(because it so incredibly strong) requiring more time to process which also adds up to the price. In the end a titanium piercing might costs you as much as three times the price of steel piercing.

Piercing Mania would advise at all times to choose titanium as your new piercing, but with an important side note. It only applies when you’re looking for one single piercing to wear on a day to day basis. It might be a bit more expensive but it will pay out on the long term. It’s durability and insensitivity to discoloration are impressive to say the least. Also for those with a nickel allergy titanium is advised.

Would you rather keep changing your piercing every now and then, or are you looking for the lowest prices? Then you should go for surgical steel. When you have a nickel allergy you can always look for other options such as replacing the steel bar with a titanium bar.

Golden piercings

Piercings made of solid gold. Jewelry and gold have been inseparable since the dawn of times. Body jewelry is no exception.

Just as with normal jewelry, golden piercing are the most expensive. A simple nose piercing might still be quite affordable starting around € 20, but a simple golden belly ring is easily going to set you back over a € 100.

Solid golden piercings are expensive, no doubt about it. Considering it to be too expensive is a personal matter. For now we shall point out the traits of this highly demanded material. Just like titanium is gold free of nickel. Because pure gold would be an incredibly soft metal it is mixed with other materials. The ‘pureness’  of gold is expressed in karat, the higher the number the higher the amount of gold. Solid golden piercings from Piercing Mania are made with 14 Kt gold. It is a tad tougher than 18 kt gold and therefore better suited to wear as body jewelry.

Gold will not discolor if you give it a brush every once in a while, it will even keep its famous golden shine. A solid golden piercing will provide long-term satisfaction. When looking for a golden piercing that you can wear every day, always go with solid gold, never with a golden plating.

Acrylic piercings

Acrylics might not immediately ring any bells, perhaps you know it as plastic. In our blog about acrylic piercings, we spend more time on the exact composition of acrylics.

The traits of acrylic piercings are quite good. It's cheap, very lightweight, free of nickel and comfortable. Especially tunnels and plugs made of acrylic. Because they weigh only a fraction of steel they are less likely to stretch out your ears.

Acrylic is also often combined with steel bars. It is also possible to see piercing with only a few parts made of acrylic. That's because acrylic offers an easy and cheap way to give color to a piercing.

Other benefits are that acrylic piercings are easy to clean and that the product range is quite large.

Bioflex piercings

Bioflex is also made of acrylics but has other qualities. As the name implies it is more flexible than normal acrylic.

Bioflex is therefore used in pregnancy rings. They require a very flexible material making bio-flex the perfect candidate. Labrets are also often made of Bioflex. Due to the their flexibility and placement in the mouth (or worn in ears) they are less likely to snap.

Want to know more about Bioflex piercings? Read our extensive blog.

Titanium plated piercings

Earlier in this article we already mentioned titanium piercings. The conclusion was that titanium is considered to be the best piercing material. But that the product range was rather limited. Just as with solid golden and gold plated piercings, there are titanium plated piercings.

Just like with a gold plated piercing the titanium plated piercing is made of surgical steel and then enriched with an outer layer of titanium. Titanium plated piercings are often brightly colored or finished with a metallic finish. Overall, titanium piercing offer great piercing with a long durability. But they simply aren’t as great as a solid titanium piercing.

Wooden piercings

No, this won't really apply for those with a tongue or belly piercing. But there are pierced places that can carry wooden piercings. Especially the ear.

Ear tunnels, ear plugs and ear stretchers are piercings that can be made out of wood. Wooden piercings have very unique traits, you can read all about it our blog. Here we will just summarize the most important pro’s and con’s.


Very comfortable
Luxurious looks
They are unique


Sizes can slightly differ
Sensitive for dirt/filth
Can't handle liquids

Considering buying wooden piercings? Perhaps you should first read our blog on wooden piercings to make sure you are well informed.

Organic piercings

We end this article with perhaps the most strange material, piercings made of organic material. This might sound a bit unusual, but Piercing Mania uses it as an collective noun for different (organic) material types. Below a shortlist of the most common materials:

Piercings made of horn
Piercings made from bone
Piercings made of stone

You can find more extensive information in our organic piercing blog. For now we will shortly mentioned the differences between these three.

Piercings made from horn are made of the horns of water buffalo's. Do not worry, these animals are not bred for their horn. They are bred for meat consumption, the horn is considered a waste product. Piercings made of bone are also made of water buffalo.

Piercings made of stones are made of, you guessed it right, stone. The most used stones are gemstones. Which stone exactly is often mentioned for each individual piercing.

This concludes this article about the different piercing materials. There is a more extensive blog available for each material type.

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