Saturday, September 8, 2012

The wonders of Niobium!

Metal allergies/reactions are possibly while wearing everything from gold to copper…I don’t think a Market or show goes by without someone talking to me about their issues with metals.  It can range from something as simple as a discoloring of the skin to painful blisters.  For many people it is thought the nickel content is the culprit.  Most of the time people don’t take their concerns to the doctor, but deal with the problem by avoidance.
A few years ago I began researching metals to use for ear wires or wire wrapping and came up with Niobium…100% guaranteed hypoallergenic!  I always have a supply of this wire on hand…it only takes a couple of minutes to make a pair of niobium ear wires and put them on the earrings.  Niobium is more expensive than silver so there is an extra charge for these ear wires.  I always give a “money back” guarantee if my customer has any issues.  I’m confident they won’t!
I’ve changed ear wires to niobium for a few people who have since become regular customers…but...for the most part I don’t think people are willing to trust niobium is hypoallergenic.  I thought if I could pass along a few facts, people who have minor issues, may consider giving niobium a try.

This is niobium I have on hand in the photo on the left and sterling silver on the right...the color difference isn't that drastic looking once the wire is in the looks similiar to the stainless steel ear wires I've used in the past.

#1.  Anodized niobium made by Mauro Cateb,Brazilian jeweler and metal-smith

Interesting Facts:
  •  Niobium and some niobium alloys are physiologically inert (will not react with the body) and thus hypoallergenic.  This metal is used in pacemakers, plates, dental implants, and joints.
  • Is a matt grey color, see photo below, looking like steel, but if polished takes on the look of platinum,  but can be “anodized”, a process using electricity, water and chemicals, ­that allows for the metal to be colored a rainbow of colors.  See photos #1 and 3...
        #3 niobium, photo by Mauro Cateb, Brazilian jeweler and metal-smith
  • Niobium is pronounced as ni-OH-bee-um.
  • Found mainly in Brazil, with deposits in Canada,( Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and Manitoba have ferrous-metal mines), Nigeria and Zaire­­­
  • This metal is considerably more expensive than silver.
  • Resists corrosion.
  • Absorbs shock well.
  • Withstands very high temperatures
  • Used in making hot-pressing dies and cutting tools, in superconductive magnets, in MRI scanners in hospitals
  • Used in electronic devices due to its conductivity
  • Niobium combined with nickel becomes a high-temperature alloy, add this and iron to stainless steel and it offers great stability when welded or heated.
  • Since niobium alloys do not react to uranium and is resistant to corrosion it is used in the construction of nuclear reactor cores
  • It is used in the making of glasses...adding niobium to glass allows for more refraction, which means thinner and lighter lenses… great for those who wear glasses.  My son’s first pair of glasses at the age of four had heavy, thick lenses like the bottom of a pop bottle …as soon as I was given the option to switch to thin light lenses I did so, even though they were very expensive.  Niobium is also used in the lenses for optical testing equipment
  • It is used in numerous alloys…in even small amounts; it contributes to the strength of steel greatly, allowing for steels use in gas pipelines. Used in engine parts for the aerospace industry as part of very high temperature-stable super alloys.
  • It was originally used as the filament in incandescent light bulbs as it has a melting point of 2468 centigrade, although it was replaced by tungsten, which has an even higher melting point, rather quickly.
  • Niobium is used as in the making of commemorative coins and jewelry, the color ranges from blue, green, brown, purple, violet, or yellow, through the anodizing process.
  • Though still referred to by some as columbium, its official name since 1950 has been niobium
#2: anodized niobium made by Mauro Cateb, Brazilian jeweler and metal-smith

I think the uses of Niobium are truly fascinating…my goal was to pass along interesting information regarding such a versatile metal…for you with mild allergies I was hoping to give you something to think about.
Any questions or comments to or leave a comment on my blog…

***Special “thank you” to MauroCateb, an amazing Brazilian jeweler and metal-smith who graciously allowed me the use of his anodized niobium metal photos…please take the time to either click the link or copy and paste to visit his Flickr site, he has many more wonderful photos, including those of metals and his jewelry.  His photo stream begins here:

Information Source                                             


  1. Heard a lot about this metal but I still haven't got the chance to try it out. Can't find them here in Kuching though. One day.....:)

  2. Thanks for the valubale info. I always use Niobium earwires for my Copper, Brass and Bronze earrings and also if clients are allergic to gold-fill or sterling silver. I have not had any complaints thus far. Happy weekend!

  3. This is a great article. We love niobium earwires at Artbeads, too! They're still stylish and make it safe for anyone to wear them, so it's a win-win :) I actually wrote a cool blog on the process of anodizing niobium to create different colors ( and they continue to grow in popularity.

    -Marissa Foss,


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