Surgical Stainless Steel – 316L and 316LVM

316L or 316LVM are pretty much the only acceptable grades of stainless steel for the use of body jewelry. 316L being the most popular, and the most widely used metal for body piercings due to being low in cost. 316L is also an implant-grade surgical stainless steel. Obviously the higher the grade of the metal is better, which 316LVM comes into place. 316LVM is the same as 316L, but having it being processed through a vacuum and being melted is has the upper advantage, which means it has a virtually flawless finish and less chance of minor alloy inclusions, which can irritate the wearer.There is no lab test that can prove that steel has been vacuum melted, and Suppliers who says that their steel are vacuum melted, are doing it  on their own merit. Basically vacuum melting does not change the way the steel is made, and will show the same composition both before and after the vacuum process.

316l body jewelry starter package

Nickel-Free surgical stainless steel? There is no such Surgical Stainless Steel that does not contain nickel, so if you see or hear someone or someplace has them, it is not true. Surgical Stainless Steel does contain nickel, nickel is needed to make/hold the metal in place, but the amount of nickel that is used is at a very low percentage. Many of the European countries and other countries have banned the use of Stainless Steel for new piercings nor for healed piercings, they require a Mill Certificate stating that the body jewelry does not contain any nickel, and the reason for that is due to the high rate of allergic reactions and infections caused by it. If you feel any discomfort, irritation or a piercing that just isn’t healing, try niobium or titanium where it is nickel free, and is safe to use on fresh piercings.  It is up to you, a piercer who has been piercing for over 10+ years using 316L, and never really ran into any big problem or a piercer who is still learning using 316LVM. If you don’t take care of them daily, it is your own fault for having them infected, which is mostly the case, even Titanium can get your ears infected if not taken care off. So before you go telling your customers/clients 316L is cheap metal and should never be used in any type of body piercings, you probably started off  piercing or your first pair of body jewelry was an 316L.


316L? 316LVM ASTM? – What are they?

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.


  Below is a table of Mill Cert. comparing the 3.

AISI max % ASTM max% ISO max%
Carbon .03 .03 .03
Manganese 2 2 2
Phosphorous .045 .025 .025
Sulphur .03 .01 .01
Silicon .75 .75 .01
Chromium 16.0-18.0 17.0-19.0 17.0-19.0
Molybdenum 2.0-3.0 2.25-3.0 2.25-3.5
Nickel 10.0-13.0 14.0-15.0 14.0-15.0
Nitrogen .1 .1 .1
Copper n/a .5 .5
Iron Balance Balance Balance


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.