British multinational retailer Marks & Spencer is striving to roll out universally skin kind jewellery as part of its ethical and environmental goals.

The retailer made 100 commitments as part of a strategy called ‘Plan A’, which were originally launched in 2007 with the intention of making the business carbon neutral within five years. Having achieved this ambition the company is now looking to complete a new set of goals as part of Plan A 2020.

The project to meet new hypoallergenic standards began when Marks & Spencer discovered that more than one in four (28%) of consumers didn’t wear fashion jewellery pieces because they were concerned about potential allergic reactions.


“Fashion jewellery is one of the easiest ways to update an outfit or transform from a casual to evening look and should be something everyone can wear,” explains jewellery technologist Victoria Gallant.  “We were surprised to hear so many customers were worried about buying jewellery because of allergy fears and we wanted a solution to put their minds at rest.”

A dedicated project team analysed data from over 1,000 individuals with known skin reactions to identify the most common metal allergens.

The research uncovered 16 different metals most likely to cause a reaction. While most people know about Nickel, and there are already legislations in place to protect customers, metals such as cobalt and chromium were also highlighted as common culprits.

Research also found that whilst more than a quarter of consumers have expressed concerns about allergies, the reality is that only 10-15% of people suffer an adverse skin reaction to certain metals.

Using these insights, Marks & Spencer and the AnchorCert Group worked together to develop a brand-new testing method to assess the presence and reactivity of metals within fashion jewellery. From now on this testing will be applied to all M&S jewellery to help prevent any skin reactions and give consumers complete confidence in the retailer’s offering.

If a piece of jewellery ticks all the test’s boxes, it is very unlikely to cause the customer any kind of irritation. Furthermore, Marks & Spencer has now worked with its suppliers to change the specification and manufacturing processes of its jewellery — minimising the effect of the most common metal allergens.

With these changes now complete, all the store’s jewellery has now been labelled Skin Kind and meets new hypoallergenic standards.

Gallant explains: “It’s really setting a new standard in hypoallergenic jewellery. We all talk about hypoallergenic jewellery, but what does it mean? What we’ve really done is we’ve partnered with the Assay Office to do research into what does hypoallergenic actually mean? What are people allergic to? And what can cause the skin reaction? We then fed all of that back into our jewellery, so we really feel we are doing more than any other retailer to make sure that our jewellery is suitable for people with all kinds of skin.”