Why Does Jewelry Turn My Skin Green? – Oxidation Explained

The simple reason jewelry turns green is oxidation, which results from exposing some types of metals to the elements. Nobody wants to wear a piece of jewelry that was once glittering and now looks dull and green. Therefore, as some of your jewelry items age, limiting their exposure to conditions that can cause oxidation is important.

What is Oxidation?

Oxidation is a chemical reaction when metals are exposed to air and water. The result of this reaction is that oxide of that metal forms, and you can see it on the outer layer of the metal. So, for instance, when iron is exposed to water and air, it forms iron oxide, which most people call “rust.”

Different metals have various oxidation reactions, just as iron oxide forms on iron. On the other hand, copper oxide doesn’t have the brown-ish tone of iron oxide; instead, it looks green-ish most times. Therefore, whenever you see jewelry that turns green, it has some copper content in it.

While comparing copper oxide and rust might make you think they’re equal levels of evil, that isn’t true. Iron oxide flakes off after a while, exposing new metal, which oxidizes and flakes off, etc. Therefore, over a long period, oxidation can eat iron away.

On the other hand, copper oxide sticks strongly to the base metal and is quite durable. As a result, this thick layer of copper oxide can protect from further oxidation of copper. The protection that copper oxidee offers is why monuments like the Statue of Liberty, built over 130 years ago, still stand strong.

Do All Jewelry Turn Green?

While oxidation affects most metals, not all jewelry turns green due to oxidation. Below are some of the metals that can turn green from oxidation.


One thing you’ll notice about every metal on this list is that they all have copper in their content. Copper oxide is mostly green; however, not all copper oxide is green, as sometimes oxidation can cause copper to become red or black.

Sterling Silver

Sterling silver is also known as 925 silver because it contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metal alloys, which in some cases is copper. Sterling silver that uses copper as its metal alloy can turn green when exposed to factors to cause oxidation.


Brass is an alloy that looks like gold and usually consists of 67% copper and 33% zinc. The high copper content in brass means that oxidation can make it turn green.


Bronze is another metal alloy with high copper content, with 88% copper and 12% tin. Since bronze is the metal alloy with the highest copper ratio, it’s more prone to turning green than others.

Rose Gold

Rose gold consists of pure gold alloyed with copper, but it isn’t as likely to turn green as the other metals listed above. However, the lower the purity of the rose gold, the more likely it is to turn green. So, 10-karat rose gold is more likely to turn green than 18 or 14-karat.

How to Prevent Jewelry From Turning Green

When you go to the jeweler to buy any jewelry, the initial appearance of that jewelry will be a strong reason you choose it. It can be unsettling for many people when they notice that the color of their jewelry is beginning to become green-ish. The good thing is that you can take some steps to prevent your jewelry from turning green.

1. Clean Regularly

Like all other oxidation forms, copper oxide doesn’t form on jewelry overnight. In normal conditions, it might take up to a couple of weeks for you to begin to see your jewelry turn green. Therefore, the easiest solution is to clean your jewelry regularly.

Using regular cleaning agents such as dishwashing liquid and water would remove the elements on your jewelry that can cause oxidation.

2. Keep Away From Some Chemicals

Keeping your jewelry items away from your body when you want to use lotions and perfumes would help prevent it from turning green. Also, sweat can be a big cause of oxidation. Taking off your jewelry before engaging in activities that cause you to sweat would be best.

3. Clear Coat

Clear coat options provide a transparent layer of coating over your jewelry, making it impossible for the elements to have direct contact with the metal. Since the elements cannot contact the metal, there can be oxidation, and your jewelry will not become green. Most clear coat options like this one are not expensive and would protect your jewelry.

4. Nail Polish

Nail polish is a cheaper alternative to clear coat and works similarly. If you want to use nail polish, ensure you use one that is clear instead of colored nail polish. Note that the outer layer of nail polish doesn’t last as long as a clear coat.

5. Beeswax

Polishing copper with beeswax is a very obscure method of keeping it in good shape. Although it requires some work, it is quite effective in shielding the metal from oxygen and moisture.

How To Clean Jewelry That Has Turned Green

When oxidation has given your jewelry a green, undesirable coat, you can still make it shine again. There are multiple methods to clean oxidized jewelry; one of the easiest is using detergent and aluminum foil. To use clean your green jewelry using this method, you should have the following materials:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Detergent
  • Pot of boiling water
  • Toothbrush

Once you have the materials listed above, the simple steps to follow are:

Step 1 – Heat some water in a pot.
Step 2 – Place the aluminum foil in the pot after the water begins to boil, then add some detergent. Stir the solution gently to reduce the lather from bubbling excessively.
Step 3 – Place the green jewelry into the solution for 3-4 minutes and allow it to boil. Ensure that the jewelry comes in contact with the aluminum foil while in the pot of water.
Step 4 – Allow the water to cool down and bring out the jewelry from the pot. You should carefully brush the oxidized jewelry with the toothbrush, and you will see your jewelry restored to its original condition.
Step 5 – Rinse the jewelry in clean, running water and leave it to air dry.

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