This is a legitimate question we often encounter here at GEMaffair. We get angry, upset customers who throw out questions like, “Is this even real silver?” or “Why is my finger turning green!”
We totally understand, but in actuality the fact that your finger turns green indicates that it is indeed silver (and maybe some nickel, too)! What your question should really be, “Why is my silver jewelry reacting this way?”.
Causes of Tarnishing: The biggest and most common reason silver tarnishes is the high acidity of the skin. Like some people are genetically prone to acid reflex, other people produce a high level of acidity emitted through their skin. The composition of the human body at a base is the same person to person, but like our personalities nobody is the same. That is why everyone reacts differently to a cold or even medicine, and in this case to jewelry.
It is common for both gold and silver to be alloyed with other metals to increase the durability and life of the jewelry. Additionally, one of the most common types of alloyed metals are nickel, which like silver, is prone to tarnishing.
Tarnishing, like rusting, is a reaction with oxygen. Precious metals tarnish while iron metals rust. Acid increases the rate of oxidation so that a piece will tarnish faster. Or, it may be, that a piece is exposed to more oxygen than another. It really depends on the use and environment. Water and air is an unwanted combination for most metals.
A metal stamp somewhere on the piece will determine what kind of metal your jewelry is. These stamps are required by law, any piece of metal with a percentage of gold or silver must be stamped with that percent, e.g. 925 sterling silver.
If a piece of jewelry is plated, it will not have a stamp. It must be, by definition, a solid metal with alloyed mix. Plated means coated, so a copper ring coated with sterling silver or gold will NOT have any sort of stamp.
Preventing Tarnish: Tarnishing is hard to prevent, but there are a few things that can be done to slow the process down. For one, do not wear jewelry in a setting of increased movement and/or sweat. Sweat exudes more of those acids we were speaking of earlier. So a clean, dry finger will not tarnish silver as quickly. When not in us keep the jewelry in a dark, dry location with a limited amount of air. Try using anti-tarnish cloths or strips, or even silica packs. These types of material are designs to absorb corrosive materials in the air.
You can apply a polymer coating to the ring, to keep a barrier between the skin and metal. Eventually the polymer will need to be reapplied as it wears away. One common polymer is clear nail polish. Keep soap, lotions, and other chemicals away from your jewelry. Remove your ring between washing hands, bathing, and swimming ESPECIALLY in saltwater.
Metals less likely to turn green are stainless steel, rhodium plated jewelry, and platinum jewelry.
Treating Tarnish: We actually offer cleaning solutions that help remove tarnish from jewelry. You can purchase a jewelry cleaner, but keep in mind that some jewelry cannot be cleaned with a machine. One of the most popular types of jewelry is coated topaz jewelry (mystic fire, sea mist topaz, etc) and these cleaners can actually remove the beautiful coating so we highly recommend using one of our solutions to prevent this. The green on your finger is not fatal; it is typically easy to remove with soap and water while only some may experience itchiness or a rash.
So, we hope this answers all the questions you may have. Feel free to post a comment if you have any other questions. We also have a Facebook page, so make sure to add us!