Body piercing has been increasing in popularity in recent years, and better piercing practices, understanding and knowledge along with a little bit of celebrity endorsement have helped to main-stream many piercings, so things such as navel, tongue and lip piercing which were relatively rare twenty years ago are now everyday. As piercing has become more popular, the choice in jewellery to wear through your holes has expanded along with it! But how do you choose?
Well, first you establish where your piercing is. This dictates the shape of the jewellery you can wear through it. This guide will be dealing with navel piercings.
Types of Jewellery
For navel piercing there are a few choices in the shape of jewellery. The most popular shape is what is usually just referred to as a ‘belly bar’ or ‘navel bar’. The bar is curved (straight barbells aren’t suitable for navel piercing), with a large ball which sits inside the belly button and a small ball on the other end. The small ball is generally the one which is removed to insert the jewellery, but on some styles the large ball will also unscrew.
Navel bars range from plain bars with just balls on the ends, through jewelled versions such as the double jewelled titanium bars in the picture, to amazing fancy creations with gems and dangles and all manner of sparkly goodness.
Dangle navel bars generally have the dangle hanging from the bottom ball, but it can also hang from the top. This type of piercing is popular with people who dislike their belly button for whatever reason, or if the piercing is slightly crooked, as the dangle hangs over the piercing and conceals it. It is also good for those who have the bottom of their navel pierced rather than the top rim.
So whether you’re after sweet or scary, you can find it all in a navel bar! As this is the most popular style of jewellery, the range of styles available is vast.
The other types of jewellery suitable for navel piercings are ball closure rings, spirals and circular barbells. The choice for these is more limited but you can still find plenty to choose from if you look carefully.
Again, rings for the navel range from plain and basic through fun colourful and logo rings to fancy jewelled spirals.
Ball closure rings are sometimes used as jewellery for the initial piercing, as they can be rotated and are therefore easy to clean. The ball is held in place by the tension of the two sides of the ring around it (it doesn’t screw off, like many people try to do!) so has to be ‘popped’ out, or the ring opened with pliers to release the ball. The ball has dimples on either side of it to keep it securely in the ring – to fasten the ring, line up one dimple with the edge of the ring and then push the ball in to clip the ring into the other dimple. This can sometimes be a fiddly process – having a friend on hand to help, or visiting your piercer to have the ring fitted can make it easier.
Circular barbells (often referred to as horseshoes) are a good choice if you like the look of a ring in your piercing, but can’t be bothered fiddling with ball closure rings. The balls on a circular barbell screw on and off, making it much easier to insert.
Spiral rings are the second most popular type of jewellery for belly buttons after the navel bar. Like the circular barbell, the balls screw off on a spiral ring to make insertion easy. There’s a wide variety of different spiral rings available on the market. Spirals are a good choice if the piercing is deep, as people with a deep piercing can often have difficulty in finding a bar to fit their piercing. Spirals can also effectively disguise a crooked piercing!
The standard thickness for a navel bar is 1.6mm (14 gauge), and the standard length is 10mm (3/8″). A 12mm barbell is generally used for initial piercing to allow for swelling.
Depending on the piercee’s anatomy though, sometimes it is necessary to make a piercing smaller or larger than the 10mm standard. The gauge should always be 1.6mm. Due to the growing number of people with piercings not of the average size, there is more jewellery available now in a larger variety of sizes than there used to be. Bars are now available from as small as 6mm to as long as 14mm and even beyond. The three most common sizes are 8mm, 10mm and 12mm.
Navel bars generally have an 8mm large bottom ball, and a 5mm top ball. Balls smaller and larger than this are available though, choosing a size is down to personal preference. Always make sure to choose the correct thread size though – a 1.2mm (16 gauge) ball won’t fit a 1.6mm navel bar!
There are a few different materials which are suitable for use in body piercing jewellery – these include high-grade surgical steel, titanium, gold, acrylic and PTFE.
Surgical steel (not stainless steel – stainless steel is what knifes and forks are made out of, not navel bars!) is the most common material for navel piercing jewellery, as it is strong, scratch-resistant, smooth and hypoallergenic. It is a shiny silver colour. The internal bar and balls of most navel bars are made of surgical steel – if the material isn’t specifically stated, chances are it’ll be surgical steel. On fancier bars, the dangles are generally made of other metals such as rhodium which is easier to shape and still nickel-free, or sterling silver.
Many people think of sterling silver as being the material ‘real’ jewellery is made of and it is perceived as being high quality, but this is not always the case. Sterling silver is only 92.5% pure silver, and the rest is made up of cheaper metals, including nickel, making it unsuitable for wearing in a body piercing. Sterling silver oxidises (goes black) and this can cause skin irritation. It is also soft and easily scratched. If a navel bar is advertised as being sterling silver, this generally refers only to the attachments – the internal bar will be of surgical steel or titanium.
Titanium is also a popular choice for piercing jewellery. Initial piercings should always be performed with titanium jewellery. Titanium is light-weight, hard-wearing and contains no nickel, making it ideal for those with sensitive skin. Another feature of titanium is that it can be treated to change its colour without applying a coating or changing the composition of the metal – it is available in a range of colours – not red or orange though.
Gold remains a popular choice for decorative piercing jewellery. Navel bars are generally made of 9 carat or 14 carat gold. Gold of higher grades is too soft to withstand the wear and tear of being worn in a navel piercing. The range of gold jewellery available is more limited as the high price of gold means there is not as much demand as there is for cheaper jewellery therefore not as much choice.
Like sterling silver, gold is often regarded as a ‘pure’ metal. 9 carat gold especially though contains a high amount of other metals, and can cause skin irritation for those with sensitive skin. 9 carat gold should never be used in new piercings.
Acrylic navel bars are very popular. The bright colours and the fact that acrylic is generally uv reactive make them the favourite choice for people who like to have fun with their piercings. Their pocket-friendly price tag helps too! There is a vast array of rainbow colours and designs available on the market, either with surgical steel or titanium internal bars, or with ‘flexi’ acrylic bars. Acrylic internal bars are good for sport as they have more give than rigid metal bars, and can also be used if skin is extremely sensitive and metal is not an option.
PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) is used for piercing jewellery as it is flexible, very unreactive and bio-compatible. It can be used for initial piercing. It’s main use is in the making of maternity belly piercing jewellery. A growing bump significantly changes the shape of a woman’s piercing, making the wearing of metal jewellery difficult for the majority of people. A flexible pregnancy retainer bar can be used to keep the piercing open during pregnancy. The piercing often gets longer, so maternity belly bars tend to be around twice the length of standard belly bars.
Choosing the right navel bars can really make a difference to the health of your piercing, but with the huge range of belly bars available you’re sure to find something to suit you whatever your style and budget!