Does Sterling Silver Turn Your Finger Green?

Upon noticing a green tint to their finger some readers ask, does sterling silver turn your finger green?

Versatile and stunning, silver has long captivated people all over the world.  According to Business Insider, silver surpassed gold in popularity in 2019.

Before getting new jewelry, let’s explore the question, does sterling silver turn your finger green?

For many people, their first experience with their finger turning green was from cheap jewelry they got as a kid. This jewelry was not expensive and was more of a toy or prop than an actual precious piece. That begs the question, why did your finger turn green, and does that happen with more expensive jewelry?

Does Sterling Silver Turn Your Finger Green?

The short answer is “yes”.  Sterling silver can turn your finger green. 

You can identify sterling silver by the 925-mark stamped on it.

If your finger turns green, don’t just assume that your jewelry was cheap or isn’t real silver. 

Just because your finger turns green while wearing a silver ring, does not mean that the ring is fake silver or low quality. Further, just because sterling silver can cause your finger to turn green, doesn’t mean it will.

Sterling silver is a composition.  92.5% is pure silver.  The balance of 7.5% is other metal or metals alloyed.   Most typically though, sterling silver has around 7.5% copper in it. It has copper in it because silver by itself is too soft to make jewelry. You can bend a pure silver ring with your fingers. This softness does make pure silver attractive for certain applications like technology manufacturing, but not for wearing on your body. 

The culprit behind turning your finger green is copper. Our sweat is acidic, and it, along with many other common things like lotion, can cause copper to develop a green patina. This patina is the result of oxidation, and that green color stains your finger. 

Avoid cheap silver rings - photo of green finger
Photo Above. Does sterling silver turn your finger green?  Don’t be alarmed if you see this.  Source: “Why does my skin do that?” by Beza Yoseph, Penn State University.

So, does sterling silver turn your finger green?   Yes, it can but one way around this used by more expensive silver rings is plating.    We’ll discuss more on that later.

Oxidation and Sterling Silver

While it is possible to have sterling silver that doesn’t turn your finger green, much depends on environmental factors. Acidic sweat and chemicals are the biggest cause of the green color. If you live somewhere that is warm, you will sweat more often so the green discoloration will be more common.

Sterling silver is an alloy, which means that it’s made from two types of metal blended together. In this case, it is pure silver and another mineral, with copper being the most popular choice. If your finger should start to turn green, don’t panic, the process is not harmful to you at all.

If your finger should start to turn green, don’t panic, the process is not harmful to you at all.

What causes this is that the copper in sterling silver loses its electrons because of the acid. Losing electrons is what causes oxidation in any mineral. It has nothing to do with exposure to oxygen. Most people see oxidation, and that is what they think. 

The word oxidation describes the act of losing electrons because of oxygen interaction. The misconception is that it only applies to the process when there is oxygen involved. Modern use of the word oxidation implies electron loss through any means. 

Is Oxidation Harmful to Me?

Copper has a lot of properties that make it useful. 

Bronze, which helped create and forge famous civilizations like the ancient Greeks, is an alloy made with copper. Almost every electronic device you own uses copper, and copper wiring is very common in your home. 

The green color that comes off on to your skin is the same thing that makes bronze patina as it ages. The presence of copper is what gives old bronze the beautiful color and variation that it has. In the case of antiques, it’s even recommended not to remove it as you could damage the value of the piece.

Copper doesn’t have any adverse effects on human health. In fact, copper has anti-microbial properties meaning that it helps to prevent the growth of microorganisms. 

This property was known to early humans. Copper, as well as honey, were known for their medicinal quality as far back as the early Egyptian civilization. 

If your finger turns green because of the oxidation of the copper in your sterling silver, you are in no danger.  Quite the opposite, the oxidation has made the skin where it occurred even more resilient to infection. 

“If your finger turns green because of the oxidation of the copper in your sterling silver, you are in no danger. Green fingers may be aesthetically displeasing, but they are not a health hazard!”

Something else you may want to consider is that cleaning your silver jewelry will prevent this discoloration to a point. Most of the tarnish that is associated with oxidation can be wiped off by a cloth. This means that you won’t even see the discoloration because when you wipe off the ring, the tarnish is removed without you noticing.  

Not All Sterling Silver Rings Are the Same

Just because sterling silver can cause your finger to turn green, doesn’t mean it will. Keep in mind that everyone’s skin reacts differently to copper and the vast majority of wearers will experience no reaction.

One way which is helpful in combatting any reaction is to get a high-quality silver ring plated in rhodium. That will decrease the speed with which the ring tarnishes and make it harder and more durable.

One way which is helpful to combat reaction is to get a high-quality silver ring which is plated in rhodium. That will decrease the speed with which the ring tarnishes, plus make it brighter, harder and more durable.

The rhodium plating will protect the ring from oxidizing as fast as standard sterling silver. Oxidation can change the color of the ring, darkening it. Rhodium is a bright and reflective material. So when the ring is covered with rhodium, there won’t be the darkening you can expect from other types of sterling silver.  Do note though that plating is not permanent and wears off with time.

Rhodium plated silver rings help prevent green fingers Luxuria
Photo:  Preventative measures helpful against getting a green finger from silver rings include rhodium plating.   Seen above is the Luxuria® ACCAREZZARE rhodium plated 925 sterling silver & diamond simulant engagement ring.

There are other materials some sterling silver is mixed with in order to prevent oxidation and tarnishing. If you’re interested in sterling silver, but don’t want to deal with the discoloration, look into your options. At Luxuria Diamonds, we have chosen rhodium because it is both valuable and practical. 

Beautiful Engagement Rings and Sterling Silver

If you want a ring that can be displayed with pride and look like a million dollars, we can help you. You won’t have to worry about does sterling silver turn your finger green when you are wearing our high-quality rings. You will be able to wear your ring without concern. 

At Luxuria, we pride ourselves on quality and value. We use only the finest sterling silver and diamond simulant to give you a beautiful ring without an account crushing price tag. There are a lot of benefits to wearing a fake ring in place of a more expensive one that you should consider. 

Putting tens-of-thousands of dollars into a ring that can be lost, damaged, or stolen needs careful consideration.   In many situations such as marriage proposals, vacations / travel and office wear, sterling silver rings are a very sensible choice.  Just be sure to look for higher quality silver rings with rhodium plating.  That way, at least until the plating wears out the question, Does Sterling Silver Turn Your Finger Green will be less of a concern. 

Want to learn more?

Sales of fake engagement rings which largely use cubic zirconia and are set in 925 sterling silver have skyrocketed in recent years.   In this article we discuss why.   One key reason is that prospective grooms are seeking to eliminate the financial loss of buying the wrong natural diamond engagement ring. 

Is it ok to propose with a silver ring?    In 2020 the reasons and results may surprise you!  In this post we outline why sterling silver rings have become so popular.

As a member of several prestigious jewellery associations we are often asked – what are the best fake diamonds?  Read our article to learn more.  

We also welcome any comments you have on the topic Does Sterling Silver Turn Your Finger Green?     Please use the comments section below to share your thoughts.

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