Barbell jewelry — one of the most common kinds of jewelry used for body and facial piercings — can differ in size, shape, and the material from which it is made. Generally, these options are tailored to the specific area of the body where the barbell jewelry will be worn. Certain circumstances may require some people to wear a flexible plastic piece of jewelry to allow for movement and bending of the piercing site, such as in a navel piercing during pregnancy. There is also an option to have an internally threaded barbell as opposed to the more common external threading, which may help avoid irritation to the piercing site, but is often chosen based on personal preference.
The size of the barbell jewelry is called the gauge. Smaller posts have a higher gauge, while larger ones have a lower gauge. Usually, a body or facial piercing is pierced with a fairly modest gauge, such as 14. Once the wound heals, the wearer has the option to stretch the piercing to accommodate jewelry of a larger size.
Barbell jewelry comes in several different shapes as well. A straight barbell is a straight post with two objects at either end to prevent the post from slipping out of the piercing site. Circular barbells are structured similarly to straight barbells, as a post and two end pieces, but the post itself is curved into a circular position. Banana barbells are a sort of middle ground between straight and circular barbells, where the post is bent into a banana-like shape. Generally, barbell jewelry features small balls at either end, but they may also have blocks, discs, and other shapes.
Straight barbells are commonly seen in piercing sites where the openings of the piercing are directly opposite from each other, such as in tongue piercings and certain kinds of ear piercings. Circular barbells are frequently seen in the type of nose piercing called a septum piercing. Banana barbells are the barbell of choice for navel piercings.
Barbell jewelry can be found in many types of materials, from metals to plastics. Fresh piercings usually require surgical-grade metals to heal properly. Titanium is a popular option for people with sensitive skin or allergic reactions to other kinds of metal. Occasionally, the balls or other objects on the ends of the barbell can be replaced with plastic alternatives. Individuals with tongue piercings commonly do this to avoid tooth damage from accidentally biting the balls while eating or speaking.