“Why is my jewelry leaving marks on my skin?”

Almost everyone can relate to the shock of removing a ring and finding a black or green stain encircling your finger. While this can be blamed on an inexpensive base metal used in jewelry, you might be surprised to find out that even fine jewelry (such as Sterling Silver or Gold) can react with certain chemicals and oils to produce similar effects.

Metal Alloys

In jewelry making, certain small percentages of alloy metals are added to fine metals to improve the strength or look of the piece. For example, pure silver is too soft for practical use in jewelry, so Sterling Silver has become the more popular metal choice. Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% of another metal, usually copper or sometimes nickel. While this small amount of alloy metal is typically not enough to react with skin, some people are more sensitive to these metals and can see some discoloration with extended wear.


While gold is an inert metal and will most likely not react with skin, colored gold, such as rose gold, is made using higher levels of alloy metals to create the desired coloring. 18K rose gold is typically a combination of 75% gold, 22.25% copper, and 2.75% silver. Even yellow gold (under 24K) is alloyed with metals to improve the strength, and can produce a discoloration in a small percentage of people, similar to sterling silver.


You’ve heard us stress the importance of protecting your jewelry by keeping it away from certain situations – there’s a logical explanation behind our repetition! Gold and silver are chemical elements. They even have their own unique symbols on the periodic table (Au and Ag, respectively). While these metals are resistant to corrosion, they can react or corrode in the presence of other chemicals, particularly, household cleaners, cosmetics, lotions and perfumes.


Some of the chemicals used in lotions have a higher molecular hardness than gold and silver and will flake off tiny microscopic pieces of jewelry, which show up as a dark smudge at the point of contact. Chlorine is another chemical you’ll want to avoid introducing your jewelry to, as it can eat away at gold and weaken silver; Be sure to take off jewelry before swimming or handling chlorine based cleaners.

Skin Reaction

Even if you take every measure to keep your jewelry away from the above mentioned chemicals and scenarios, it may be unavoidable to prevent your jewelry from reacting with your skin. A small percentage of people will find that they are allergic to the metals in their jewelry, and will experience anything from minor itching and irritation to red, inflamed rashes at the point of contact. Similarly, a portion of people who are allergic to nickel (far more common than a gold or silver allergy) will find they react to the minute amount of nickel in alloyed gold or silver. (Fret not, all of the jewelry you see on ShineOn is nickel free!)

Acids in your skin and sweat can also react with jewelry. People who eat highly acidic foods, like those found in a typical mediterranean diet, may find that they are more likely to find discoloration on their skin after prolonged wear of jewelry. These reactions can also cause sterling silver to tarnish faster, and may result in some of the dark tarnish rubbing off on your skin.


If your jewelry is making your skin look like Lady Liberty’s, don’t panic! Most of the time, if you take the steps to avoid exposing your jewelry to chemicals, cosmetics and lotions and clean it regularly, you’ll go green-free. Have a question about the metals in our jewelry? We’re all ears – send us an email at helpme@shineon.com.


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