Some people have had the experience of a piece of jewelry turning their skin a different color after being worn. While you may suspect that the reason is poor manufacturing or gold that isn’t pure, think again. There’s actually a range of factors that could result in your gold rings turning your fingers black, and there’s plenty you can do to resolve the problem.

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By itself, gold does not tarnish. But pure gold that is 24k is too soft to use for making jewelry. For this reason, jewelers add metal alloys in varying percentages to give the gold strength and durability. Some of the metals used for this are copper, silver, nickel, and zinc. So the issue of your finger turning black is never due to the gold ring itself, but rather the other metals present in the alloy mixture.

There are generally three categories for reasons that gold rings can turn your fingers black. They are chemical, biological, and environmental.


Reason #1: Chemical


If you’re wearing your ring while using harsh detergents around the house or in a pool or spa that has been treated with chlorine, your ring will experience corrosion. When these chemicals react with the metal alloy in the ring, it will cause those metals to corrode and turn black, thus blackening the skin underneath.

This same principle applies to cosmetics and skincare products in a process called metallic abrasion. These items contain chemical compounds that are harder than gold. As you wear your rings when applying makeup or skincare products, abrasive elements in these items will rub off very tiny particles of metal. These particles appear as black in color, almost looking like a fine black dust or powder. When this dust comes into contact with absorbent surfaces, like your skin, the dust will stick and create a black smudge.


Reason #2: Biological


Our sweat is composed of fats and fatty acids, which can cause corrosion to occur on your gold ring. Sweat also contains a certain amount of salt, which also contributes to the breakdown of the metals.

Aside from our sweat, our bodies also secrete hormones. As our hormones fluctuate throughout the weeks, months, or years, they could be causing reactions with the metal alloys in the ring, forming dark chemical compounds that you see as black smudges on your finger.


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Reason #3: Environmental


If you’ve ever noticed that when it’s hot outside, your rings may fit tighter, you’re noticing an environmental impact on your body. The same environment can also have an impact on the metal itself.

Living in a humid environment will likely result in more tarnishing of your ring and the ability for it to leave black markings on your finger. The humidity increases the moisture on your skin and the moisture gets trapped between your finger and skin. As it mixes with your body chemistry, the metal is corroded and susceptible to leaving marks.

You’re also more at risk when living by the ocean or the sea. Salt evaporates into the atmosphere and lingers in coastal areas. This salt acts just like the salt from your sweat and will, over time, corrode the metals in your gold ring.


How to Prevent Discoloration


There are many things you can do to help keep your ring from corroding and turning your finger black.

A) Remove Your Rings

Don’t wear your rings while using products that are naturally corrosive. Remove them before washing hands, showering, doing dishes, cleaning, swimming in the pool or ocean, and applying cosmetics or lotion. Wash your hands with soap to remove any residue after doing these things and allow them to completely dry, or lotion to totally absorb, before putting your rings back on.

B) Invest In Powder

If you live in an environment that is more humid, or your hands tend to be more sweaty, invest in an absorbent powder. You’ll want to use something that is super fine and free of abrasives. Apply it to your hands as often as needed to absorb the moisture before wearing your rings.

C) Seal the Ring

Create a barrier between your skin and your ring to both help limit corrosion and keep any corrosion present from affecting your skin. Use a jewelry lacquer or clear nail polish to apply a protective layer to the inside of your ring. These will need to be occasionally reapplied, but they are effective and won’t harm the ring.

D) Rhodium Plating

White gold does not typically turn skin black because it is most often rhodium plated for a super white look. You can add a rhodium plating to the inside of your ring to get that same benefit. Depending on ring band width and size, this will cost about $30-$50. It will eventually wear off from the friction of being worn, so it will need to be replated periodically.

E) Try a Different Metal

Consider switching to a higher karat gold such as 18k. The composition of an 18k gold ring is 75% pure gold and 25% alloy. A 14k gold ring has almost twice the amount of alloys at 42%. Or you could always go with platinum. Discoloration is unlikely to ever happen from a platinum ring.

F) Clean Rings Often

Cleaning your ring will help remove any built up residue of dirt, sweat, and chemicals that react with the metals in your gold ring. You can clean your rings as often as you like as long as you’re using a safe method.

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No matter whether you’re facing your gold ring turning your finger black for the first time or it’s been an ongoing concern, there are things you can do to restore your beautiful ring that leaves no trace of color on your finger. Just follow these tips and consult with a trusted jeweler if you have more questions.