316L Steel and 316LVM ASTM F-138, what is the difference? and does it matter? I am by no means a chemist, but i hope to help shed some light on this subject, and share some of the research i have done regarding these 2. What does 316L and 316LVM mean? well the number 316 is a classification code. Code 316 steel is soft, which is also easier to shape and used for body jewelry. The “L” is used to signify “Low” Carbon content, and the “VM” stands for vacuum melted, which is a process that reduces what steel makers refer to as inclusions. Vacuum melting does not change the chemical makeup of the steel, and it will show the same composition both before and after the vacuum melting process.
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316L steel is the most basic metal used in body jewelry. It is the basic requirement of metal to be used in initial piercings and for healing. There are better grades (below) but usually they cost more as well. For most people this grade of steel works just fine.
This grade of steel is top of the line. It is highly recommended, but it comes down to a personal preference on whether you want to pay a little bit more for the best. Lots of people are fine to use the basic 316L steel, but for some people with extremely sensitive skin, getting the top grade of steel usually helps.