Why Does Fake Jewelry Turn Your Skin Green? That annoying (and embarrassing) tinge of green on your skin. There isn’t anything more annoying than that greenery, one because it lets everyone around you know that you are wearing cheap jewelry, and also because it makes you feel duped!
In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about fake jewelry and why that jewelry turns your skin green. So, keep reading!
But first, let’s clear the air – when we say fake jewelry, we don’t actually mean FAKE jewelry. Instead, fake jewelry in this aspect refers to the inexpensive jewelry that’s made of cheaper, alternative materials like copper and other metal alloys.
That said, it’s time to figure out where that green tinge comes from.
Why Does Fake Jewelry Turn Your Skin Green?
You know how it goes – you buy this beautiful piece of jewelry, wear it on a big day or to a big event, and just like clockwork, you see that green tinge around your neck, wrist, or finger. I mean, what’s really up with that. You had high hopes for that jewelry piece, but here you are, stuck with green stains.
Well, if you are here, you’ve had enough with the green stains, and you just want to understand why it keeps happening. So, keep reading.
Even if the ring you are wearing has an 18K or a 24K stamp, there is a very high likelihood of the ring reacting with your skin, leaving you with a green tinge. To understand why this happens, we need to look at how the jewelry is made and what metals go into it.
You also need to bear in mind that there really isn’t any jewelry made of 100% pure gold or sterling silver, and most of the flashy jewelry you see around is gold or silver plated.
Pure gold, for example, is extremely soft to hold, and it cannot be molded into a ring or go a day without changing color.
To create sturdier gold jewelry, the pure gold is mixed with other metals to form a metal alloy – the metal added to gold could be copper, nickel, tin, or palladium, among others. So, a 24K ring is often a ring made of other materials but plated with the soft, pure gold.
When you buy jewelry that turns your skin green, the most common culprit behind the discoloration is copper. Cheap/ Fake jewelry that features copper will cause that green tinge from the reaction between the jewelry is worn and sweat/ acids in your sweat.
When you sweat, the metals present in that ring will react with the acidic component of sweat, causing a chemical reaction whose product/ salt has a green color. The acids cause the corrosion of the copper on the metal’s surface and the salt compound results. The salt compound is then absorbed into your skin, hence the green stains.
What these reactions and the resultant stains mean is that the jewelry you are wearing is made of cheap alternative metals, and you are not wearing the best quality item of jewelry as you expected.
Besides the reaction with sweat, the other reason for the green tinge/ stain is an oxidation – where the jewelry is also made of copper. Oxidized copper causes copper oxide, which turns green slowly.
Keep in mind, however, that the green discoloration from fake jewelry isn’t an allergic or a skin reaction, but a chemical reaction between metals, one that is unlikely to harm or hurt your skin. This means that if your jewelry causes a red bump and/or itchiness, you are looking at an adverse allergic reaction to the metal(s) in the jewelry, and not a chemical reaction.
What jewelry metals or materials turn your skin green?
As mentioned above, copper is the main culprit behind the green discoloration on the skin. However, this doesn’t mean that copper is the only metal guilty of the ugly discoloration since you’d still get that discoloration from other silver and gold metals. How/ Why?
Gold or silver jewelry isn’t made entirely out of one of these metals on its own. Though they are both precious metals, the physical characteristics of gold or silver make these metals unable to be molded into jewelry on their own – gold is too soft in its natural state while pure silver is in liquid form.
But since we all need jewelry made of these precious metals, jewelers note that the only way to make this possible is by adding other metals to the silver or gold to form metal alloys. Copper and nickel are two of the metals that are commonly used and added to either gold or sterling silver jewelry, hence the discoloration.
So, does this mean that everyone who wears gold or sterling silver jewelry with copper or nickel will have discolored skin? Unfortunately (or fortunately), no. Some people are biologically predisposed to skin discolorations, which is why two people wearing the same fake jewelry might not have the same reaction – one might have the discoloration but not the other.
To understand why this happens, we’ll revisit the point made earlier in the article – that copper reacts with the skin’s perspiration resulting in chelated pieces/ salts that will be absorbed into the skin to form a green tinge.
So, before you start judging jewelry as being cheap and worthless, you first need to be aware of the metal used to make the gold or sterling silver alloy. The presence of copper or nickel increases the risk of the jewelry causing discoloration.
Besides copper, some elements like sweat, oils, and humidity will turn brass jewelry (and your skin) green.
Is it bad if copper turns your skin green?
It looks bad, but is that green discoloration from copper bad or dangerous to your health?
Well, no. It turns out that the oxidation process and the chemical reactions that result in the green discoloration has some health benefits, for example, relief from circulation issues and arthritis, among others.
Copper is believed to hold healing powers. For starters, copper is one of the essential minerals needed by the human body, which means that wearing copper jewelry results in the slow absorption of copper into the body, which results in the right assimilation of the metal.
Copper has also been said to be effective in treating/ managing arthritis, headaches, joint pains, along with many other deficiencies.
Note that the oxidation of copper (when copper is exposed to the air) is not a bad thing entirely, for example, on sculptures. The copper oxide layer turns into a protective later that will curb further corrosion, hence the green you see on copper gutters, sculptures, roofs, statuary, etc.
Tips To Prevent Fake (Inexpensive) Jewelry from Turning Your Skin Green
Here are some of the things you could do to prevent your fake/ inexpensive jewelry from turning/ discoloring your skin green.
- Minimize wearing your copper jewelry or wear the jewelry sparingly. You could also try wearing the jewelry for shorter spans of time.
- Get your copper jewelry rhodium plated. If you are worried about that green layer making your jewelry look old, fake, and ugly, you might want to get the jewelry piece rhodium-plated. This plating will add a layer of protection to your jewelry while increasing its lifespan.
- Avoid wearing that jewelry that always turns your skin green on the hot days. You’ll be sweating a lot more, which means a faster rate of chemical reactions higher risk of increased discoloration.
- Don’t swim with your jewelry on – copper and chlorine react, and the reaction might cause an intense reaction on your skin.
- Clean the jewelry regularly to get rid of lotions, dirt, soap particles, or liquids that could cling to the jewelry, worsening oxidation reactions against/ on your skin.
- Either wear gloves or remove your jewelry while cleaning. The reason for this is that the standard cleaning supplies contain chlorine, which means more discoloration.
- If you have to wear the jewelry made of copper, remove that item of jewelry intermittently to reduce the extent of skin discoloration and also to give your skin the change to breathe.
Is wearing (inexpensive) fake jewelry safe?
Well, there is no clear cut answer to this question because the safety of the jewelry you wear pretty much depends on the metals it’s made of. So, you need to know what the jewelry is made of your allergies and allergy triggers.
For example, gold or silver-plated jewelry made with nickel would be a bad and unsafe idea if you are allergic to nickel, while any jewelry would be unsafe if it contains lead.
To be safe, especially around the fake/ inexpensive jewelry, you first make sure that the metals used to make the gold or sterling silver alloy is non-reactive and safe.
If you are unsure, opt for inexpensive jewelry made of stainless steel or stainless steel with the PVD gold tone/ gold finish/ gold-colored titanium treatment.
For gold or sterling silver, the jewelry should be free of nickel and copper to avoid allergies and discoloration, respectively. Palladium would be a good option. You could also get a rhodium-plated jewelry piece to be safe.
Other safe options include jewelry made of titanium-treated steel, actual brass, or anodized aluminum.
Should I wear (inexpensive) fake jewelry?
Yes and no. Yes, if you are certain that the jewelry is made of safe components, if you don’t mind the copper discoloration because of the associated health benefits, or if you are not predisposed to skin allergies/ reactions.
However, if you are allergic to nickel, are worried about green copper discolorations, or you tend to react to just about every (unknown) metal, you might want to opt for more expensive, nickel-free jewelry.
But as mentioned above, there are other safe options you could try.
Just because the jewelry you are buying is inexpensive doesn’t always mean that you will have issues with it – especially if the metals used are free of nickel.
But it’s important to keep an open mind because most inexpensive jewelry will either cause discoloration or skin allergies. If you don’t mind a green discoloration on your finger, then the tips shared above should help you take care of the jewelry and avoid the green tinge.
Remember that the green discoloration from jewelry is a natural chemical reaction that safe on the skin, and you shouldn’t freak out about it.