Yes, anodized jewelry is perfectly safe for an initial piercing (assuming the jewelry itself is an implant grade material with a proper surface finish and appropriate threading).
So, there’s two kinds of colored jewelry you’ll find with body jewelry.
PVD (physical vapor deposition)
In a nutshell, this is considered bad for fresh piercings, and arguably for healed piercings too.
This method of coloring jewelry consists of thin films of a material being applied to the jewelry via a vacuum deposition process. You have likely seen this kind of jewelry at some retail stores that carry costume-type body jewelry.
This added film of material has a tendency of flaking off rather quickly when worn inside a body piercing. This can be problematic as the jewelry becomes quite unpleasant looking, and the small flakes can sometimes cause discomfort or irritation in a fresh piercing.
For jewelry that needs to be bent to get on or off, captive bead rings for instance, the coating is even more prone to flaking off as it cannot flex or bend with the metal, the coated material breaks off.
The metals we use in body piercing that can be anodized (titanium & niobium) cannot naturally turn red, white, orange or super shiny black, so you can easily spot PVD coated jewelry when you see these colors.
Here are some examples of jewelry that I found labeled as “anodized steel” or “matte finish steel”. These are bad.
^^The blue color on top can be achieved when anodizing titanium or niobium, but the red cannot. These are both PVD coated steel pieces.
^^Here is another example of a color that body jewelry cannot safely turn to. This one is labeled as a “matte finish steel” ring. This too is not appropriate for fresh piercings.
Niobium can turn black, but that is done with a heating process, causing the metals color to turn black from the inside out, not just on the surface, and it’s perfectly safe and will not flake off.
Though niobium can have a very nice dark black finish, it’s not that Batman super super black you see on PVD coated pieces.
Currently, no body jewelry manufacturer that offers PVD coated jewelry can provide documentation (MSDS) to show the material they’re coating with is safe for long term wear inside the body.
Here’s an example of niobium that has had the heating process to change it’s color naturally to black:
Titanium or Niobium anodized jewelry achieves its colors in a process where electricity is introduced to the metal, and is perfectly safe for fresh and healed piercings.
There are other metals and alloys that can be anodized, and some can turn other colors, such as red, but for the sake of body piercing jewelry we’re only dealing with titanium and niobium.
Anodizing forces the titanium or niobium’s oxide layer to grow thicker. Basically, it screws up the way light bounces off the surface of the jewelry, giving us the effect of a copper, bronze, purple, etc. colored piece of jewelry.
Here’s a nice video from APP member AJ Goldman demonstrating how anodizing is done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE-ZbAdJfWI
In some instances with anodized jewelry, the colors can start to fade or go back down the color chart (pictured below). This isn’t always the case, but sometimes this can be caused by body cleaning products or even your body’s own pH. This fading is not anything flaking off into your body, but rather the oxide layer being worn away, which poses no health concern to you or your fresh piercing.
So some key notes regarding the metals we use in body piercing:
Steel does not anodize. Its color cannot change unless it is PVD coated. Jewelry labeled as “anodized steel”, “titanium coated steel” or something similar is not appropriate for a fresh piercing.
F136 or F67 titanium does not turn black. So jewelry labeled as “black titanium” is not appropriate for a fresh piercing.
Hope you find this helpful with picking out your future jewelry for initial piercings.
Cody Vaughn - APP Outreach Committee