Why Does Sterling Silver turn my finger green?

Posted by Stacey Hodkinson on

It’s time to talk about that infamous green finger stain that may  appear after removing sterling silver rings. It’s certainly frustrating, but it’s not always clear why it happens. Some of us blame the quality of the silver. But is that really the problem?

Read on to find out exactly why it occurs, how you can treat it and how to stop it from happening again.

Why does sterling silver turn my finger green?

The short answer is a chemical reaction. The longer answer is due to three main reasons: the composition of the metal, an allergic reaction/ring rash and ring care.

The composition of the metal 

The first reason is when sterling silver is made with a copper alloy, a chemical reaction between metal and moisture takes place. Fashion magazine somethingborrowedpdx.com discusses in ‘10 Tips to Stop a Ring From Turning Your Finger Green’ that the metal or alloy can react with the moisture causing the metal/s and corrode, forming a dark coloured compound under moist conditions. What happens is an oxidation process, with the copper reacting with chemicals, oils or moisture. The green mark is the corrosion left over from this process. 

Have you seen the faded grey colour of antique silver? It darkens over time due to the same oxidation process called patina. That is essentially what happens to our fingers. 

We sweat, we wash our hands, we go outside in the humid air and our skin also contains natural oils. All these things can contribute to the moisture that gathers on our skin and under the ring. So if the question is does sterling silver turn my finger green? Then the answer is yes, if the oxidation process occurs.

You might ask why copper needs to be mixed with silver if there is a small chance it will stain your finger? Pure silver by itself cannot be used for jewellery as it is very soft (we have written all about sterling silver and what it is here). Consequently it needs to be combined with another metal to harden it, making it firm and durable in a compound a silversmith can work with.

Aquila Jewellery chooses copper as the alloy metal with our silver jewellery because it is hypoallergenic, it maintains the beautiful sheen of silver and it strengthens the silver so that it is malleable but still strong and long lasting.Copper is the most common metal alloy used in sterling silver due to these qualities.

An allergic reaction or ring rash

The second reason may be down to an allergic reaction. Some people are allergic to the copper or nickel found in jewellery or in alloy compounds. Some are even allergic to silver itself. Both are due to a metal hypersensitivity, an immune disorder known as the skin condition contact dermatitis. Nickel is the most common metal allergy and is usually to blame for a majority of reactions and ring rashes. 

Just so you know, we never use nickel, Chromium or lead in our pieces, making our silver collection perfect for those who need hypoallergenic jewellery.

The reason a ring rash occurs is due to contact dermatitis formed by an irritant (e.g nickel). When the wearer’s skin makes contact with the ring’s metal a biological process occurs where your body produces chemicals that cause the area to itch and become irritated. As with the metal leaving a mark on your finger, the moisture trapped on the finger can also cause irritation through trapped bacteria, and reacts in a rash.

Ring care

Do you tend to sleep in your rings? Take a shower with them on? Keep them on during your skincare routine? Maybe you forget to take them off when you go for a swim? If the answer is yes, then you may be unknowingly contributing to that green stain. 

The impact of soap, lotions, sweat, chemicals and debris that build up under the ring is quite damaging on the metal. Over time they will start to leave a green mark on your finger as the elements react with the metal, skin and the skin oils. But don't worry, the dreaded green mark is preventable. Here’s how you can care for your rings like a pro so that green fingers are a thing of the past.

Can sterling silver turn my finger green?

Yes it can, if you don’t practice proper ring care and/or you have sensitive skin to the copper or nickel alloy. 

Will 925 sterling silver turn my silver green?

If you practice good ring care and don’t have sensitive skin or an allergy to copper or nickel alloy then the chances of a green finger are minimal. 

What silver does not turn your finger green?

It is possible for sterling silver not to turn your finger green if you treat your jewellery well and don’t have metal allergies. However for those looking for something extra, plating your sterling silver jewellery is probably your best option, though at added cost. The superior choices for tarnish free wear are rhodium-plating or platinum plating.

How to stop sterling silver from turning my skin green?

Make a habit of removing your jewellery pieces before bed. When you wake, do your skincare routine and bath/shower before putting your jewellery back on. Make sure your hands are dry when you put your pieces on. If you go to the gym, swim (particularly in salt water), apply hand lotion, wash your hands with soap or do any cleaning, remove your jewellery. 

Basically, always remove your jewellery when you know your hands are going to come into contact with any moisture - and you’ll reduce the chance of a green ring mark significantly.

How to get rid of a green stain on my finger

The good news is that you may have some products lying around at home that can help with removing the green stain straight away. From lighter stains try soap and water or rubbing alcohol. If those both fail try non-acetone nail polish remover (but don’t use this method if you have any cuts on your hands).

Soap and Water

Wash your hands for at least 30 seconds concentrating on the finger in question.

Rubbing alcohol

  1. Apply a little to a cotton pad or ball. 
  2. Gently press and ruby your finger with the pad or ball until the stain has shifted.
  3. Thoroughly wash your hands quickly after then pat them dry, 

Non-acetone nail polish remover

Follow the same steps at the rubbing alcohol.

How do I keep my silver jewellery clean?

Keep your favourite pieces in tip top condition by following our jewellery cleaning guide so that your jewellery collection can shine without the grime. 

That’s it! Now you are armed with the information about why sterling silver rings turn your fingers green and what can be done to prevent it. We hope that you’ll enjoy wearing your silver jewellery for many years to come without worrying about a green stain, but if it does happen now you know how to treat it!

Why not check out our hypoallergenic sterling silver collection for inspo for your next silver boho ring? 

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  • Can I clean my sterling ring if it turns green? It says it’s rhodium plated. Does that make a difference?

    Diane McDonald on

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