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Having first joined M&S almost 20 years ago, I believe we’re at our best when we listen and respond to our customers with innovative, first to market solutions. That’s exactly what we’ve done with the launch of Skin KindTM jewellery – setting a new standard in hypoallergenic jewellery. 

When I tell people I work in fashion jewellery, the most common response I hear is “I can only wear precious metal, otherwise I have a reaction”. In fact, when we asked our customers, over one in four of them told us that they held off wearing fashion jewellery because of fears of an allergic reaction. I felt this was such a shame, as fashion jewellery is such an easy and affordable way to update an outfit. Myself and the team wanted to find a practical way to help those customers who were missing out to wear M&S jewellery with confidence. 

This is what lead us to partner with the expert team at the AnchorCert Group’s testing laboratory in Birmingham. The company houses the Birmingham Assay office, which has over 250 years’ experience in the field of metal analysis and certification. Together, we analysed the data of over 1000 individuals with known skin reactions to identify the most common allergens. The research uncovered 16 different metals most likely to cause a reaction. Most people know about Nickel, as there is already legislation in place to protect customers, but both cobalt and chromium were also highlighted as common culprits. 

Using this insight, we developed a new testing method to assess the presence and reactivity of these metals within jewellery. The next step was to work with our suppliers to change the specification and manufacturing processes of our jewellery to limit the effect of the common allergens and help prevent any skin irritation.  For example, all our earring posts are now made of titanium - one of the most non-reactive metals. 

Whilst more than a quarter of customers have allergy concerns, the reality is that around 10 to 15% of the population suffer some form of adverse reaction to certain metals. But it only takes one bad experience with fashion jewellery to put you off. The irritation consumers experience might not be the result of an actual allergy – it could be other factors such as earrings being too heavy to wear for long periods or sharp edges that rub against the skin.  

With this in mind, we wanted to ensure our Skin KindTM standards also incorporated comfort focussed product features across the range. This includes strict weight limits on earrings to make them easier to wear all day and our jewellery must pass what we refer to in our team as “the silk test.” Put simply, this means that all our clasps, hooks and fastenings must be smooth enough to be rubbed against fine silk without snagging the material. 

From May, every single item in our jewellery range will meet Skin KindTM standards and customers should look out for the Skin KindTM sticker on products. I hope even customers with the most sensitive skin will now be able to enjoy our stylish accessories with confidence.