ORGANIC: Natural Body Jewelry

General and Material Information

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Natural Materials: Bamboo | Amber | Horn & Bone | Stone | Hardwood | New Silver & Bronze
Newly Acquired Jewelry | Labrets | Septums | Singles | Bracelets | Other Goodies | Twilight
Ethnic: Intro | India, Nepal, Tibet | Mainland & SE Asia | Middle East | Africa | The Americas | Sold
Support & Info: Care Instructions | Material Information | Wood Hazards | Wood Anatomy
Size Conversion Chart | About Us | Trades | Photo Gallery | Links & Books

Please click on the following links to jump to the different parts of this page:
Conversion Chart and Size Information |
Definitions: Shape, Measurement, etc. | Colors of Jewelry Materials |
Bamboo Information | Hardwood Information |
Endangered Wood Species | Possible Allergic Reactions to Wood Species |

Care instructions have been moved over to their own page.
Please update your bookmarks accordingly. Enjoy!

Conversion Chart and Size Information

Please check out our comprehensive conversion chart and size information page
which covers gauge sizes, fractional inches, decimal inches, and millimeters, up to 3".
It also covers circumference, useful for figuring out sizes of oval, teardrop, or other oddly-shaped plugs.
Keep scrolling down for information on image sizes, and to compare how your monitor displays them.

Shape, Measurement, Other Terminology and Definitions

  • Saddle shapes are plugs with two flares (double flared); the flares follow a continuous curve like a parabola. There is no distinct area where the wearing surface ends and the flare begins.
  • Cylinder shapes are plugs with straight shafts and no flares.
  • Rods are long cylinders.
  • One flares have, well, a single flare. Sometimes we'll get crazy and hyphenate it thusly: one-flares. Wow!
  • Labret shapes have a straight shaft with an attached round or oval disc at one end. They might be used for a variety of purposes, as they are essentially one-flares, but we call them labrets as they have most frequently been utilized in labret piercings, and the flare tends to be at a right angle to the wearing surface like a nail head, instead of a sloping transition between the two.
  • Tapers are like mildly angled cone shapes that are small on one side and larger on the other. They are generally straight. We've heard these called expanders, but strongly prefer the term tapers.
  • Talons have a mild curve, like a slightly bent finger, and are tapered from large to small.
  • Claw shapes have a dramatic curve, like a C shape, and are tapered from large to small. They often have a nail head or ball shape at the big end, acting as a sort of flare to keep the claw in.
  • Spikes (usually used when referring to septum shapes) are straight, long cylinder shapes that are tapered down to points at both ends. Porcupine quills have this shape also.
  • Tusks (usually used when referring to septum shapes) are slightly curved shapes, like a slightly bent finger, that taper down to points at both ends. However, boar tusks are only pointed at one end.
  • Crescents are tusks that are not tapered down to points at both ends, but instead maintain their diameter until ending in flat or convex ends, like a slightly bent cylinder.
  • CBR stands for captive bead ring. Ours are tapered down to pointed ends and are not set with beads.
  • Pinchers are very tight diameter pieces often seen in septum jewelry. They are much smaller overall than CBR shapes and are also not set with beads.

  • Solid means there are no drilled or naturally occurring holes.
  • Hollow means there is a hole drilled through the plug lengthwise, or a naturally occurring hole that runs lengthwise, as with bamboo. Light can normally be seen through the hollow part. Drilled usually means a very small hole was drilled for the piece to be strung as a bead; light may not pass through these tiny holes. As natural materials tend to be brittle, walls on hollow plugs made out of natural materials are normally thick to avoid breakage. Horn and some types of bone are exceptions which may remain sturdy at thinner measurements. Other terms used to describe hollow plugs include flesh tunnels, tunnels, earlets, and eyelets. As these imply thin walls, we try to avoid those words.
  • Some items may have one side solid, one side hollow, as with boar or warthog tusks, whole dentalium shells, some metal plug-shaped ethnic jewelry, or bamboo pieces cut on the node.

  • Convex means a round end, going outward like the surface of a ball.
  • Concave means a recessed surface, going inward like the shape of a cave.

  • Diameter is the measurement used in a similar way as when referring to the size of a body piercing, for example: 0ga aka zero gauge, >5/16", or 8.25mm. Diameter is measured at the part of the jewelry where it would normally be worn, for example, the smaller part on a saddle shaped plug (NOT the flare), the larger end of a taper, a bit back from the tip, or the largest measurement on a curved shape (for example, a spiral) that can be used. This is sometimes referred to as the 'wearing surface.' All of the diameters mentioned on our website are measured on the wearing surface of the jewelry.
  • Sizes listed are diameters, measured at the wearing surface (the part of the jewelry where it would traditionally be worn).
  • The gauge system is a way of measuring diameters and only goes up to around 7/16", beyond that, we use fractional inches. Gauge is abbreviated 'ga'. Gauge is a unit of measurement. To increase the size of a body piercing is called 'stretching.' Calling plugs 'gauges' or using it as a verb as in 'to gauge a piercing' or 'she gauged her ears' may elicit eye rolling. You wouldn't say, 'she just got new wooden inches' or 'I plan to millimeter my conch piercing,' would you? No, you wouldn't. So cut it out.
  • Length refers to the measurement from front to back on a plug or labret, or from side to side on a septum; length runs along the same axis a piercing needle would go through a piercing. All stated lengths are total from edge to edge (not merely tip to tip of flares, which would not allow for convex ends or thick flares). In addition, the length 'between flares' is often not possible to accurately determine since saddle-shaped jewelry has a seamless transition between the wearing surface and the flares; they are not distinct areas which can be measured separately. Oftentimes lengths will not be mentioned unless they are particularly longer or shorter than a general average, or when the image makes this obvious. Please ask for various length measurements when clarification is needed.
  • Flare sizes and lengths (overall, or tip-to-tip on flared plugs which may have convex ends) are generally not mentioned unless dramatically differing from what we have experienced compared to similar jewelry in the same genre. Please have us measure these for you before purchasing jewelry from us if these measurements are critical to you.

  • We have all types of sizes, in fractional inches, gauges, and millimeters. We'll be happy to translate between the different measuring systems for you-or check out our conversion charts!
  • We carry 'in-between' and odd sizes as well. Though we will have smaller sizes in the wires of metal ethnic jewelry and hair thin porcupine quills, our jewelry generally covers the whole range, including:
    18ga, 17ga, 16ga, 15ga, 14ga, 13ga, 12ga, 11ga, 10ga, 9ga, 8ga, 7ga, 6ga, 5ga, 4ga, 3ga, 2ga, 1ga, 0ga, 00ga,
    7/16", 1/2", 9/16", 5/8", 11/16", 3/4", 13/16", 7/8", 15/16", 1",
    1-1/16", 1-1/8", 1-3/16", 1-1/4", 1-5/16", 1-3/8", 1-7/16", 1-1/2", 1-9/16", 1-5/8", and beyond.
    Because our jewelry is made by humans and not by machines (and often initially in millimeter sizes), it's not unusual for some jewelry to measure in between sizes, for example: 'greater than 4ga but less than 3ga' (aka >4ga but <3ga), '±0ga,' '<7/16",' '13.5mm,' or even 'between 1/2" and 9/16".'
  • We are happy to find jewelry for you that is odd-sized, in-between sizes, or even one a bit bigger than another. We can even make custom wood or bamboo plugs in 'weird' sizes.
  • The symbol '>' means greater than. A bit bigger than.
  • The symbol '<' means less than. Just think: it looks like an L. Not so hard to remember! <L<Less than.
  • Greater than (>) or less than (<) refers to a bit, a hair, a smidge, roughly up to 1/64" or so off.
    For example, >1/2" means greater than half inch, roughly 33/64" (since 1/2" dead on is equal to 32/64").
  • The symbols '> or =' (≥) mean greater than or equal to. It's really darn close, but ever so slightly on the big side. It could also mean one piece is right on, but the other piece is greater than (>) that measurement.
  • Vice versa for '< or =' (≤)... these symbols mean less than or equal to.
  • The symbol '±' means plus or minus. One piece is a bit above, and one piece is a bit below that measurement.
  • We despise the terms 'triple ought' (000ga) or even 0000ga, so don't even go there. Switch up to fractional inches after 00ga (3/8" or so). There's a whole discussion about 00ga on our conversion chart page.

  • SMALL STUFF (minimums): Because natural materials can be brittle, we do not carry extremely small diameters of some materials. It's not that we don't want to carry certain items in small sizes - it's material limitations. The structural integrity of natural materials can be compromised if a piece is too small or has dramatic curves. In other words, it can easily break!
    • Amber and stone: we generally do not recommend 8ga or smaller pieces, and avoid curved shapes, with the exception of thicker curved stone, such as c-shaped or keyhole weights. Jade is a tougher stone due to it's fibrous, rather than crystalline structure, so can withstand some abuse at thinner sizes. Amber is brittle and will easily break if too small.
    • Horn is more flexible at small sizes; we carry some shapes down to 22ga and plugs down to 10ga.
      Horn shapes tend to warp (no longer lie flat) in larger shapes of thin sizes, such as 8ga homegirl spirals.
    • Bone is a bit more flexible than other natural materials, but not as much as horn. We have had some shapes down to 18ga. Mammoth ivory is not as forgiving.
    • Bamboo can be quite thin and still strong, and we currently have some material down to 11ga, though our regular minimum is 7ga due to availability. Bamboo is always only straight, although some pieces cut on the node will be one-side solid with a single slight flare.
    • Wood: we tend to stick with 6ga or so for our minimum for wood plugs to prevent breakage and frustration in the manufacturing process, though we have made labrets down to 14ga in the past. We do not make curved wooden shapes or rings, with the exception of very thick spirals.
  • BIG STUFF (maximums): Some materials are extremely hard to get and expensive at large sizes.
    • Amber is priced partially on weight, and partially on the waste that it takes to make plugs. The price tends to go up logarithmically as the diameter increases; length can also make a surprising different in amber prices due to weight. The largest we have had is 1-5/8". Larger amber is harder to find and thus the price can be rather prohibitive, even if we were able to secure material that was free from areas that include fracture-like inclusions, which can be weak points where the integrity of the material may be compromised. Even then, finding two chunks that happen to have the same hue or amount of inclusions is darn near impossible. So unless you're prepared to send us museum grade material and you won't mind too much if it breaks in the manufacturing process, or you can pay our rent for a month so we can look for appropriate material for one set of plugs, then your 2" amber plugs are unfortunately just not going to happen.
    • Stone can be enormous, but keep in mind weight quickly becomes a factor as the diameter increases.
    • Water buffalo horns are hollow at the larger base, and solid only closer to the tips, so we cannot get extremely large solid horn. We regularly carry up to 1-5/8", though we have had plugs up to 2-5/8". Horn shapes that are very large in overall diameter (such as the custom 5" spirals we had made!) have a tendency to become a bit warped.
    • Bone is limited to the size of the material as well. Most bones have a porous and textured marrow center to contend with that must be avoided or worked so the marrow is in the center of either solid plugs or is carved out to make hollow plugs. Antler can be very large and dense as well-we have had antler plugs up to 1-5/8" and might be able go bigger. Mammoth ivory tusks can get quite large in diameter, though they tend to have cracks as the pieces get bigger.
    • Bamboo can be extremely large, perhaps up to 7" and beyond, but we do not stock a full range of sizes beyond 2-9/16", though several sizes up to 3" or so are occasionally available. Since bamboo is lightweight and hollow, weight is not usually as much of a factor in big bamboo plugs.
    • Wood tends to get checks (micro-splits) at larger sizes, and material costs may rise dramatically and become difficult to obtain in the 2" and up range, though this varies widely by species. Although we have made ebony plugs over 4-1/2" in the past, ebony in particular can be extremely difficult to obtain properly seasoned and without checks in diameters of 1-1/2" and up. Weight also becomes a serious factor to consider as the size of wood increases.

    ruler millimeters inches mm in

  • Size of images
    • Almost all of our images are scanned and shown at 100percent on this website and in the catalog; exceptions will be noted in the accompanying text. Monitors may alter sizes, especially so with smartphones or tablets. All of our images are posted at 72dpi (so monitors should assume this scale in order to display at proper size). Images should print at correct size as long as an 'enlarge' or a 'reduce to fit' setting has not been selected.
      For a comparison check to see if your monitor is reducing or blowing up image sizes, hold your own ruler up to the image above, centering it on the 3" or 23cm mark.

      world coins monitor size enlarge reduce
      Alternatively, match up a coin from your collection; these are uploaded at 100percent exactly like all the others (hint to those in my country of birth: spot the shiny Oregon quarter on the 2nd row, 5th over).
    • Thumbnails may be shown for larger items; the border around the image will be a different color and the text will mention to click the image to view one at full size. Likewise, in a few cases blown-up images are posted to show detail. T-shirt designs, o-ring kits, Dayak patch and wallhangings, photographs of people, posters, book and magazine covers, as well as square thumbnail-sized icons to aid in navigating around pages on this site are shown at a reduced size only.
  • Pairs consist of two pieces; most of our jewelry is priced and sold by the pair unless listed.
  • Singles are individual pieces. Examples of items that are priced and sold by the single piece include: septum and labret shapes, quills, boar and warthog tusks, necklaces, bracelets, hairsticks, and t-shirts.
  • Most plugs are only sold by the pair, and we cannot split up pairs to sell only a single piece (for example, most ethnic jewelry). However, some jewelry - though prices may be listed in pairs - may be available in singles.
    For example: amber saddles and cylinders; many horn CBR shapes; bone tapers and bone talons; horn hairpipes; porcupine quills; python ribs; bacula; boar or warthog tusks; dentalium shells; engraved bone box cylinders; large hollow serpentine cylinders; any stones that are drilled; talon or rod shaped stones; pre-made bamboo; pre-made wood; custom bamboo; custom wood; Gujarati hollow plug; old Thai hilltribe omegas; Koochi tribe earrings.
  • We now have a page dedicated to single pieces.
    Please ask if you are wondering about availability of a certain style, size, or material in singles.
  • Necklaces, bracelets, pendants, hairsticks, labrets, nostril pieces, and septums are always sold singly.

  • To avoid confusion, we do not utilize the words flesh tunnel, tunnel, eyelet, earlet, top hat, or width.

  • Weight is generally not listed, but quotes can be given in grams or ounces if requested.
  • Other types of measurements might include labret backing disc sizes and thicknesses, inside diameter on a CBR, amount of curviness on a talon, claw, or tusk shaped piece of jewelry, or, top to bottom and left to right overall lengths (for example, on a piece of ethnic jewelry or horn shape).

  • Please inquire about all specs for the jewelry you are ordering if they are a concern.
  • Please remember, as most natural jewelry cannot be sterilized, jewelry returns cannot be accepted, and all sales are final.


Colors of Jewelry Materials

The following is a general list of some of the natural and ethnic body jewelry that we have available.
Hue and saturation within each color category will vary widely by material, and many of the materials may have a range of several hues within a category, or may overlap into several color categories.

::Gold:: Indian gold, pre-Columbian gold septums, vermeil Hmong omegas, areas of gold sheen obsidian
::Copper/Bronze:: bronze fox and other earweights, light C-shaped earweights, Maasai men's copper earweights, ancient Cambodian weights, tiger's eye, tiger's iron, goldstone
::Brown/Tan:: mammoth ivory, tan or "black" bamboo, Alaskan fossilized walrus ivory labrets, New Guinea bone septum pieces, some light colored horn, porcupine quills, various hardwoods (granadillo, maple, olivewood, chechen, boxwood stash box cylinders), warthog tusks, mahogany obsidian, dinosaur bone, petrified wood, tiger's eye, tiger's iron, some agates, picture jasper, serpentine
::Black:: water buffalo horn, obsidian, black ebony, well-oiled katalox, zebrastone (striped with white), black jade, dyed agates, onyx, and serpentine, snowflake obsidian (with grey spots)
::Gray:: hematite, smoky quartz, some agates, some obsidian, snowflake obsidian (black background)
::Silver:: many types of silver ethnic and tribal jewelry, silver fox and other earweights, light C-shaped earweights, cloud weights, tree ornaments, silver spirals, hematite, areas of tiger's iron, areas of silver sheen obsidian, various iridescent shells used as inlays
::Clear:: clear quartz plugs or labrets, Naga glass earweights, citrine (with just a hint of yellow), fluorite (with green and purple bands), moss agate (with green areas)
::White:: bone, antler, boar and warthog tusks, mammoth ivory, New Guinea shell septums, Naga tribe shell ear ornaments, porcupine quills, python ribs, white quartz, zebrastone (striped with black), white onyx, mother of pearl talons, dentalium shells, howlite (with grey), base color of opal cabochon inlays
::Pink:: rose quartz, some poppy jasper, areas of leopardskin jasper, unakite (green with pink areas), some shell
::Red:: chakte kok wood, agates (Armenian, poppy jasper, red jasper, carnelian), serpentine, cinnabar
::Orange:: amber, some types of agates such as carnelian, rare instances of porcupine quills
::Yellow:: amber, bamboo, Chinese scrimshaw hollow bone cylinders, yellow jasper, some quills
::Green:: jade (British Columbian, Siberian, Happy Camp, and Wyoming), aventurine, amazonite, unakite (green with pink areas), green-gray agates, moss agate, bloodstone (very dark green with tiny red spots), serpentine, some types of turquoise, fluorite (with clear and purple bands), patina on bronze or copper jewelry
::Turquoise:: turquoise, minty colored stones, opal cabochon inlays
::Blue:: lapis, sodalite, blue goldstone, blue tiger's eye, sheen on some rainbow obsidian, opal inlays
::Purple:: plum agate, amethyst, dyed jade, fluorite (with clear and green bands)
::Rainbow:: The sheen on rainbow obsidian, the flash on some opals! Kuchi earrings can be very multicolored.

Please note that obsidian is never blue, transparent gold, or whitish opalescent colored.


Bamboo Information

Bamboo is not a type of wood at all, but consists of several thousand different species of grass. There is a great variety of bamboo, ranging from tiny plants to huge towering trees. Many species are light yellow, tan, or green, but some can even be purplish or so dark brown they are almost black; most species are solid in color, but some are striped or spotted. Bamboo grows rather prolifically; you can even watch some species grow!

Bamboo is generally hollow, and sections of culm meet periodically and are divided by a solid portion called the node. It is lightweight, and may be round, oval, or slightly cardiod (heart-like) in cross-section.
The outside of the bamboo (called the cuticle, cortex, outer skin, or rind) is naturally protective and should not be removed to make saddle or ring shapes, as the material located below this surface is much more porous and less dense; thus, bamboo plugs are cylinder-shaped. The inside is normally whitish and may have a papery lining which is usually removed in the manufacturing process.


Hardwood Information

Please visit Bastic Wood Anatomy and Behavior
to view our updated research.

The text below is an older summary.

Our wood jewelry is made out of various high-quality hardwood species. Hardwoods are broad-leafed, deciduous trees (angiospermous), such as birch, maple, oak, walnut, and cherry, as opposed to softwoods, which are evergreen, needle and cone-bearing (coniferous) trees, such as pine, cedar, and fir. The terms do not actually refer to hardness, for example: balsa is a hardwood. The part of the tree normally used is the center heartwood, normally darker and denser than the surrounding sapwood.

There are several things to be aware of when selecting wood to be worn next to the body. These considerations include, but are not limited to: the location and stage of healing of the piercing, general cleaning procedures when dealing with wood, the overall shape of the piece, the quality of the finish, the type of finish that is applied, grain structure, endangered wood species, and possible allergic reactions to wood.

Hardwoods are porous and readily absorb and release moisture, oil, bacteria, etc. Therefore, it may be harder to heal using this material. Hardwood plugs in general work best for the drier piercings, and for healed piercings. Anyone can potentially heal fine with hardwoods, but we recommend that someone be comfortable with their own healing process first, as well as being aware of their response to certain species of hardwood. Barring that, hardwood jewelry should only be worn in well-healed piercings.

Hardwoods usually have been kiln dried (or air dried) over a period of a month or more to slowly reduce the moisture content, making the woods more stable and less likely to crack, split, warp, etc. Therefore, they cannot be autoclaved; this is very likely to cause these problems. In addition, we would not suggest cleaning them with a chemical solution that is not also safe for the body, as there will be some left in the plug. They should always be handled by clean hands, and only used by one person. The strongest thing I personally would use for my own plugs is tea tree oil (but check for reactions to this first, some people are extremely allergic). In addition, they should be regularly cleaned with a non-chemical soap.

The overall shape of the piece should be consistent, of a good length to allow for possible movement or swelling, and appropriate for the particular area in which it is to be worn.

The finish should be free from scratches, pits, or tool marks, and consistent throughout. There should not be any grain (wood fibers) that have risen up; this is a normal action of wood, and should have been accounted for in the production process - the wood is repeatedly wetted and allowed to dry; the risen grain is sanded off. This is repeated until no grain will rise when it gets wet. This is critical, as many pieces will look fine, even shiny, but the first time it is in contact with moisture, it will become rough and inappropriate for wear. Wood may or may not shine; luster varies from species to species. An oiled plug may appear dull. Buffing wood plugs will likely leave a residue that can remain on the surface and in the pores; as buffing compound is essentially fine grit embedded in animal fat, it is not recommended as an appropriate way to finish wood body jewelry.

The type of finish applied is usually an oil, and sometimes a sealant. Many finishing oils and sealing products contain chemicals, toxins, solvents, petroleum or animal products, pigments, etc. Something that seals a hardwood plug entirely takes away the purpose of wearing wood at all. We usually suggest a non-toxic oil or wax. Food grade oils are generally safe but may break down (turn rancid) with heat and time. They should be washed and re-oiled periodically to avoid this. Waxes can be animal or vegetable based, but may also come off with heat, or can be rubbed off with wear or while cleaning. We also do not recommend using pigment as most are chemical and solvent based, which can fade or enter the bloodstream; some dyes, such as aniline, may even be carcinogenic.

Finally, wood has grain (fibers within the wood), which are considered to be open or closed. If you can run your fingernail across the side surface of a finished wood product and feel no texture, it's probably close-grained, if it clicks into depressions in the wood, it's probably open-grained. Only close-grained woods should be used as the open grains invite bacteria and buildup. Examples of close grained woods are ebony and maple. Examples of open-grained woods are zebrawood, walnut, paduak, and mahogany.


Endangered Wood Species

A few species of trees that produce hardwood are regulated by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). These species are classified into three Appendices based on the current level of threat.
Some species of wood you may run across being used to manufacture hardwood body jewelry are listed here, though there are many others that have not been mentioned as they are not commonly used.

  • From Appendix I (species threatened with extinction):
    • Dalbergia nigra (Brazilian rosewood)
  • From Appendix II (species that will be threatened with extinction if current trade is not drastically curtailed; export permits are required to cross international borders):
    • Bulnesia sarmientoi (Argentine lignum vitae, verawood)
    • the rest of the rosewoods in the Dalbergia genus (common names include blackwood, rosewood, kingwood, tulipwood, cocobolo, sono wood, sonokoling, etc.)
    • Diospyros spp. (ebony, specifically from Madagascar populations only)
    • all Guaiacum spp. (lignum vitae, also known as the "tree of life") (includes the trees Guaiacum officinale - Commoner lignum vitae, and Guaiacum sanctum - Holywood lignum vitae)
      That's right: the tree of life is on the endangered species list.
    • Guibourtia demeusei, Guibourtia pellegriniana, and Guibourtia tessmannii (bubinga)
    • Swietenia humilis (Mexican mahogany), Swietenia mahagoni (Caribbean mahogany), and Swietenia macrophylla (Bigleaf mahogany from the Neotropics)

We feel strongly that products made from these species should not be bought, sold, manufactured, or utilized, including furniture, wood, inlays, and earplugs - tell the manufacturer why. Ask to see their certificates or permits or those of the exporter if they do carry these species.
There are a very few select forestry operations which are sustainably harvesting these species; they must be designated so by a third party, and you should ask to see the documentation. There are some operations that are completely renewable, sustainable, the money stays within the community, and much of it is done without intrusive machinery that requires an extensive network of erosion-causing roads. Such programs include the SmartWood program of the Rainforest Alliance, the Good Wood program, and certifiers such as the Forest Stewardship Council and Scientific Certification Systems. Another option is reclaimed wood. Ask your wood suppliers, including hardwood jewelers, lumber stores, home improvement stores, guitar shops, and furniture stores if they participate in these programs or use certified woods.


Possible Allergic Reactions to Wood Species

Please visit our Wood Hazards page
to view our updated research.

The text below is an older summary.

Woods may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Some are more notorious than others, such as cocobolo, and have caused a great deal of people to react with them. These reactions can be extreme, ranging from mild irritation, rash, redness (vasodilation), swelling, blisters, itching, sensitization, and contact dermatitis, to cardiac effects, cancer, and anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening. Reactions may not be immediate as some allergic responses may not occur until a latency period of a few hours to several months has elapsed. Risks are normally greater to those who work with the woods due to the dust involved, which exposes a much greater surface area of the substance than a finished product would. We strongly suggest utilizing an appropriate respirator instead of a simple face mask when working with wood, especially the exotics (imported; not domestic), and those listed here. Prolonged exposure and repeated contact with wood or dust containing allergens may be more likely to elicit responses. Sensitization due to contact with one wood may cause cross-sensitizations to other woods containing the same or related compounds, and reactions may become more severe with subsequent exposure.

Some woods may be carcinogenic, such as red cedar and hemlock (both softwoods), and possibly beech, oak, and sassafras; some may even affect cardiac activity, such as yew (a softwood), mansonia, and greenheart. Dymondwood is comprised of layers of hardwood (likely birch) impregnated with phenol formaldehyde resin to bind it together and dyed with mono-azo dyes. These substances may cause dermatitis, be toxic, corrosive, or lead to serious long-term health effects including cancer.
Other woods, such as teak, lignum vitae, and purpleheart, can excrete oil which may cause reactions.
Compounds called quinones, naphthoquinones (such as plumbagin), obtusaquinones, benzaquinones, and dalbergiones have been repeatedly found in many of these woods and are suspected of being the culprit allergens. Other primary allergens in various woods include lapechols (lapachol), catechols, courmarins, and other phenolic or flavonoid compounds. Finally, woods such as willow (Salix spp.) and birch (Betula spp.) that contain salicylates should be avoided by those with an allergy to aspirin.
We discovered that Diospyros celebica (Macassar ebony) contains macassar quinone, suspected of causing reactions, and thus discontinued it's use. Interestingly, we suspect this may be the reason behind ebony in general being sometimes listed as a potential allergen, while our experience with over a decade of use of ebony and subsequent feedback have not produced evidence of ebony being problematic. As far as we know, macassar quinone only occurs in the wood of this one specie of ebony.

The hardwoods that seem to cause the most reactions (including finished products) include the following...
this is by no means an exhaustive list, it simply represents some of the woods you may run across.
We recommend avoiding these woods for use in piercings,
and feel that it is irresponsible to offer these as viable options for body jewelry.

  • All within the Dalbergia genera (the "rosewoods"). These include, but are not limited to:
    • African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon)
    • Brazilian rosewood aka Jacaranda (Dalbergia nigra)
    • Burmese rosewood (Dalbergia cultrate)
    • Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa) (note that cocobolo is particularly NOTORIOUS for causing reactions)
    • Honduras rosewood (Dalbergia stevensonii)
    • Indian rosewood aka Bombay blackwood (Dalbergia latifolia)
    • Kingwood aka Violetwood (Dalbergia cearensis)
    • Laos, Thai, or Cochin rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis)
    • Madagascar Rosewood aka Bois de Rose (Dalbergia maritime)
    • Mexican kingwood (Dalbergia congestiflora)
    • Tulipwood (Dalbergia frutescens and Dalbergia decipularis)
  • Teak (Tectona grandis)
  • Purpleheart aka Amaranth (Peltogyne spp.)
  • A few others include: Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Camphorwood (Cinnamomum camphora), Ziricote (Cordia dodecandra), Bocote (Cordia elaeagnoides), Bubinga (Guibourtia tessmannii), Pau Ferro (Machaerium scleroxylon), Wenge (Milletia laurentii), Padauk (Pterocarpus soyauxii), Thuya Burl (Tetraclinis articulata), Greenheart (Chlorocardium rodiei), Satinwood (Chloroxylon swietenia), and Mansonia (Mansonia altissima).

Many woods go by common names that may be confusing. For example,
there are many "Pau Ferro" or "Granadillo" woods. In addition, some woods may be very hard to identify:
for example, African blackwood can masquerade as ebony. When in doubt, be sure to ask;
knowing the genus and species (aka scientific name or Latin name) is the key to true identification.

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:: Website created by Erica Skadsen on 1 July 1997 ::
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