The Snobby Myth About Green Skin

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

Until now, I have primarily worked with copper wire. A little bit of stainless steel, a little bit of brass. But copper wire was the best wire to learn with. It's the most affordable, the softest, and still allows you to patina or oxidize it easily. It compliments most stones and is just beautiful.

That being said, sterling silver is what the majority of people seem to prefer when they aren't preferring gold. Sterling silver is perceived to have an air of refinement, elegance, and luxury, whereas copper is seen as "cheap" and unrefined by a vast majority of jewelry wearers.

If you ask someone why they dislike copper, they may tell you that it's because copper turns their skin green (a phenomena caused in part by the levels of acidity in your skin, and in part by dirty jewelry). This is seen as an indicator of low quality metal. Cheap.

But did you know that sterling silver can also turn your skin green? It's true! And, shocking revelation, it does NOT mean your silver is fake or cheap (is it just me who hears this word said in a snooty old rich British lady accent?).

Pure silver is too soft to create durable items with, so they mix it with another metal to make an alloy that is tougher and better able to withstand wear. Sterling silver is 92.5% fine silver, and 7.5% copper. When your skin turns black or green from sterling silver, is reacting to that small amount of copper. Some people, however, are lucky to have low skin acidity and do not react to sterling silver this way.


I accept that my silver isn't fake or cheap, and that copper is beautiful in it's own way, but how do I stop my skin from changing color?


The best way to stop this phenomena is to remove your jewelry at night, and wash your skin before you put it on again. Wash your jewelry with mild soap and water and wipe it with a soft cloth to remove the oils left by your skin on a regular basis. You should also dry your skin and your jewelry if it gets wet while you are wearing it (mainly with rings or tight bracelets). There are a number of products out there that also help slow the rate at which your skin reacts to metal, such as Renaissance Wax (a polish), or something such as Jewelry Shield (a varnish similar to nail polish).

While I have used Renaissance Wax before, I have not tried a varnish such as Jewelry Shield, but I have seen it highly recommended by associates. My main items are necklaces and earrings, and the occasional loose bracelet, all items that tend to have very little reaction with one's skin. For my purposes, a finishing polish of Renaissance Wax will keep items looking shiny and new for quite a while, but they will eventually need to be cleaned and polished again. That's just science.

Jewelry Shield is something more durable, meant for pieces that have a lot of close skin contact such as rings or cuff bracelets. Some people will tell you to just apply clear nail polish, but it yellows and chips over time. While Jewelry shield will be similar to the nail polish, it is intended to be longer lasting and of better quality. Now that I have started to dabble with making rings, I plan to order some of the jewelry shield for myself to try it out and see how I like it. I'll try and remember to update this post when I do! For in depth tips on caring for your copper jewelry, please check out my help file on Copper Jewelry Care. Do you have any tips or tricks for avoiding green skin? Share it in the comments below!


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