Can Sterling Silver turn my finger green?

“Can Sterling Silver turn my finger green?” Yes.

Let me quickly tell you why that happens and what to do about it.

Why silver may leave green marks?

Statue of Liberty
I’m sure you recognize distinctive look of the Statue of Liberty. She looks majestic and seems to glow with her bright green colour. The tint doesn’t come from paint – it is a natural patina that covers copper. The same phenomena can be observed on roofs of churches and even old copper or copper plated utensils left for a while in the attic. The characteristic green layer is called Verdigris and is mostly made of copper carbonate – CuCO3.

But that’s about copper – what about my silver?

Pure silver is too soft to use in jewellery making. Ring made of 99.9% silver would bend and soon lose its shape, would get scratched and may lose stones. We don’t want that and that’s why jewellers around the world use Sterling Silver instead, which is an alloy of 92.5% silver and other metals – usually copper and zinc. This makes the material much more durable and lets us enjoy our jewels for years.

When this small amount of copper meet favorable conditions it will start changing colour. Unfortunately for some people their sweat have the perfect chemical compounds for the process to take place.
Fun fact: eating a lot of tomatoes and apples makes your sweat more acidic, which may be enough to trigger the reaction under the band of the ring. What’s good for you is not always good for jewellery!

What can I do to remove the green patina?

Do you remember poor old Richard Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances polishing Hyacinth’s silvers? This is the answer! In most cases a regular cleaning of the jewellery will be enough to stop it from marking your body. This will also remove grey tarnish from the silver and restore its shine. Cleaning the ring with silver polishing cloth should stop the reaction from reoccurring in couple of days.

Other way is to have the inside of the ring coated in something that will isolate the metal from your skin. People reported great results with just a bit of transparent nail polish, which can be applied in seconds and reapplied when it wears out.

So it is normal for a ring to leave a mark? Undesirable, but yes, it is normal. Luckily you can prevent and fix it.