Stainless steel or surgical steel – what’s the difference?
Surgical stainless steel is a generic term for a variety of different grades of steel. Whether you drop the surgical or the stainless, it doesn’t matter much. (We prefer surgical steel – stainless steel reminds us of knives). This name isn’t in any medical or metallurgical reports – it’s too broad. There are no standards set for this type of metal. So… why it is in body jewellery?
Surgical steel is available in implant grade. What does that mean? Standards are set for what materials get the coveted title “implant grade.” There’s currently two types of surgical steel matching these standards: 316L and 316LVM. These grades have successfully worked in human implants. These implants are in contact with soft tissue and bone for more than a decade – impressive!
316L is a low carbon variety of 316 steel. 316LVM is 316L’s cool big sister. How so? Get ready for some science. LVM stands for Low carbon Vacuum Melted. The vacuum stops air or airborne contaminants from attaching to the metal’s molecules. This results in more consistent steel.
316L + 316LVM’s official qualifications:
- ASTM designation F138 for Implant Grade Stainless Steel
- ISO standard 5832-1 and 6892 for Surgical Implant Material and Requirements Against Nickel Allergies.
316L+ 316LVM surgical steel contains several metals that some people may react to. Nickel is one of the better known metals you can be allergic to in steel. The specific mix of metal in 316L + 316LVM allows for limited exposure to nickel. This reduces the risk of reacting to being almost non-existent.