Does Sterling Silver Turn Your Finger Green? 

Tons of jewelry lovers flock to purchase sterling silver jewelry every year. Not only is it a beautiful metal that can look very similar to platinum or white gold, but it's also less expensive than both of these metals. Some metals are known to turn your finger green after a few hours or days of wear. Is sterling silver one of these metals? We've looked into this and will answer this question.

Yes, sterling silver jewelry can cause temporary skin discoloration. The green discoloration commonly occurs when moisture is on the skin, such as sweat or lotion, or when the jewelry is exposed to a moist climate.

Sterling silver jewelry varies in grade, and lower quality sterling silver is more prone to turn your fingers green than high-quality jewelry. Continue reading to learn more about why sterling silver jewelry may cause skin discoloration and how to prevent it.

Close up detail of a hand wearing elegant ring, Does Sterling Silver Turn Your Finger Green? 

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What Causes The Green In Sterling Silver Jewelry

The green residue formed on some metals is called patina. It develops when a metal is exposed to oxygen and moisture simultaneously, and as a result, oxidizes. This form of tarnish is created when the metals react to the pH levels of your skin. If you are someone who is prone to sweaty skin or wears lotion on your fingers (particularly when wearing jewelry), you may see this quite often.

Patina is typically caused by the copper content (or other metals and/or alloys) in the jewelry, not by the sterling silver itself. Copper is commonly added to make jewelry as it is a stabilizing material and is beneficial and making jewelry more durable. It's particularly helpful with gold plated and silver jewelry, as these metals are softer. The most common grade of sterling silver used to make jewelry is 925, made from 7.5% copper and 92.5% silver.

This is the highest quality sterling silver that you can purchase and is often seen with quality brands. Patina isn't known to cause allergic reactions or any severe skin irritation, particularly if it is cleaned off within a reasonable amount of time. One main benefit of sterling silver jewelry is that it is generally hypoallergenic, particularly high-quality sterling silver. This means if you have a metal sensitivity, sterling silver jewelry will be unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction (which can include skin rashes, irritation, and dryness).

Preventing Green Fingers When Wearing Sterling Silver

A new bride and groom place their hands together, showcasing a silver wedding rings

There are ways that you can prevent your fingers from turning green when wearing sterling silver. Let's discuss how.

Protect Your Sterling Silver From Moisture

As mentioned previously, the most common metal that causes sterling silver to turn your fingers green is copper. Copper quickly reacts to moisture and can tarnish within hours. To minimize this, try not to wear sterling silver jewelry in an environment where there is a significant amount of moisture. For example, if you plan to go swimming or to the gym, take off your jewelry first and leave it at home.

You may also want to leave your jewelry at home on days where the outside humidity is more than 50%. Other times where it may be best to remove your jewelry include before taking a bath, washing dishes, or washing your hands. If you frequently wear lotion on your hands, try to apply it at least 30 minutes before applying your jewelry so that your hands may have more time to absorb it.

Wear High-Quality Jewelry

Purchasing high-quality sterling silver jewelry is one of the best ways to ensure that your fingers will not turn green once you wear it. This will also be the case with other types of precious metals such as platinum, silver, and gold. Unless the jewelry is made with 100% sterling silver (which is rare in jewelry making), there is a chance that it may turn your finger green.

It's always best to ask a jeweler what metals the piece of jewelry contains before purchasing it. Also, be sure to only buy sterling silver from trusted retailers known to provide authentic sterling silver (not silver-plated imitation) and quality products.

Use Clear Nail Polish

Even high-quality sterling silver jewelry will contain at least a small amount of copper to increase its durability (this is the difference between it and pure silver). If you are allergic to copper or want to prevent the jewelry from turning your finger green, you can purchase a high-quality nail polish to serve as a shield from the jewelry.

The nail polish will not damage the jewelry. It will work to prevent any discoloration from leaking onto your finger (the coating prevents the copper in the silver from oxidizing). However, the effects will only last about a week before the nail polish peels off. Once it does, you can just reapply another coat. You can do this continually, and it will not damage the surface of the sterling silver jewelry.

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How long does it take sterling silver to tarnish?

It depends but can be anywhere from one month to over two years. The amount of time that it takes for sterling silver to tarnish depends on a few factors. These factors include the environment in which the sterling silver is kept and the amount of moisture on your skin when you wear the sterling silver jewelry. If the sterling silver does tarnish, you can clean it with a soft cloth or another method to remove it.

How do you keep sterling silver jewelry shiny?

It's common and almost expected for sterling silver jewelry to tarnish at some point. The tarnish amount will be exacerbated if the jewelry is kept in places with high moisture or placed on moist skin. Other things that can speed up the tarnishing process are perfume, body lotion, deodorant, and body oils. Nevertheless, there are ways to remove the tarnish from your sterling silver jewelry and restore its luster and shine. Let's take a look at some of the most common ones.

Use Dishwashing Liquid

One of the quickest ways to clean your sterling silver jewelry is to use mild dish soap (that's phosphate-free, such as Dawn) and warm water. Not only can the dishwashing liquid easily remove the tarnish from the surface of the sterling silver, but it can also disinfect the jewelry as well (if it is anti-bacterial properties).

To use this method, combine a few drops of dish soap with water and wipe down the jewelry with a soft cleaning cloth or rag (you can use a piece of an old t-shirt). If there is significant tarnish, you can also use a disposable toothbrush to help remove it or get into hard-to-reach crevices of the jewelry. After cleaning the jewelry, rinse it with cool water and pat it dry.

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Professional Jewelry Cleaning Services

If your jewelry is it's expensive or has a considerable amount of tarnish, you can take it to a professional jeweler to be cleaned. Jewelers have a variety of methods that they use to clean precious metals. The cost will depend on a couple of factors, most notably the type of jewelry and your location. Also, sometimes you may feel more comfortable knowing that a professional is cleaning the jewelry for you. Additionally, be sure to ask the jeweler about their insurance clause or warranty if they damage the jewelry.

Use Lemon Juice

You can also use lemon juice as an inexpensive way to get rid of the tarnish on your sterling silver jewelry. Mix two teaspoons of olive oil with one cup of fresh-squeezed or store-bought lemon juice by pouring them into a small bowl. Next, use a microfiber cloth or rag and soak it in the mixture. Wipe down the sterling silver jewelry down using the cloth and make sure to get the jewelry side that makes contact with your skin.

This is normally where the highest amount of tarnish will be. You can also use a toothbrush to scrub away the tarnish. After you have removed all of the tarnish, rinse the jewelry under warm water and pat it dry with another soft cloth.

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Baking Soda & Aluminum Foil

If your sterling silver jewelry is extremely tarnished, you can actually boil off the tarnish using this method. To do so, take a small pot and line it with aluminum foil. Next, boil two cups of water in another pot and pour it into the pot that's lined with aluminum foil.

Then, add two tablespoons of baking soda to the pot. Drop the jewelry inside (this method reverses the chemical reaction of the tarnish). Make sure that the jewelry is actually making contact with the aluminum foil. Allow it to sit in the water anywhere from 7 to 20 minutes, depending on how tarnished your jewelry is. Afterward, remove it and rinse it with warm water. Finally, pat it dry using a soft cloth.

How long does sterling silver jewelry last?

Close up detail of a hand wearing elegant ring, Does Sterling Silver Turn Your Finger Green? 

Sterling silver jewelry has been known to last anywhere from 25 to 30 years or more. The lifespan of the sterling silver depends on the environment in which it is kept and how well it's maintained. It's best to store sterling silver in an environment with no more than 50% humidity to prevent tarnish and discoloration.

Is sterling silver good for everyday wear?

The most common grade of sterling silver, Grade 925, is recommended for everyday wear. This is because this high-quality grade contains the highest amount of sterling silver, which means that it will not tarnish as quickly as other grades. In other words, you can wear sterling silver jewelry while performing household chores, washing your hands, or performing everyday tasks--even if your hands begin to get moist. If you wear sterling silver jewelry that contains a silver alloy, it may tarnish faster from daily wear.

Can I shower with sterling silver?

While showering with sterling silver jewelry will not damage the jewelry itself, it may tarnish it. The amount of tarnish will depend on the amount and level of minerals in your shower water, including salt, chlorine, and other chemicals. Many manufacturers and jewelers recommend removing sterling silver before getting in the shower to prevent tarnishing.

Wrapping Things Up

To sum things up, sterling silver jewelry can turn your fingers green. This can be minimized by purchasing high-quality sterling silver jewelry and keeping moisture away from it.

Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts:

Do Necklaces Stretch?

Should Bracelets Be Loose?

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