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Jewelry Metal Guide - Will Sterling Silver Turn My Finger Green?



So often we get asked by customers “will this ring turn my finger green?” Even when buying inexpensive jewelry we still want something that is of decent quality. Whether your skin reacts to certain metals is different for every person depending on their body chemistry, but there are certain metals that the majority of people will not react to. Here is a little lesson in the different types of metals our jewelry is made from and how well it will keep in the long run.


Sterling silver – the majority of jewelry carried on OverstockJeweler.com is made from .925 sterling silver. The 925 means that the piece id 92.5% pure silver and the rest is mixed metals – usually copper. Because there is copper in sterling silver it will darken and tarnish over time due to gases in the atmosphere, but this can easily be cleaned with a polishing cloth or silver cleaning liquid. The reason sterling is only 92.5% silver is because 100% fine silver is too soft to make jewelry with. Jewelry stamped with 925 must be 92.5% silver, so when inspecting your jewelry to see if it is real silver this is an easy way to tell. Sterling silver should not turn your skin green, but for people with extremely sensitive skin it may be uncomfortable in your ears. This is why our baby earrings are made with gold.




Pure gold – the purity of gold is measured in karats with 24kt being 100% gold. Since pure gold is so soft and malleable it is mixed with other metals to make jewelry. Since 24kt is pure, 12kt gold is 50% gold. Depending on what metal the gold is mixed with, different colors will result. Mixing it with copper makes rose gold while mixing it with palladium makes white gold. Gold jewelry is hypoallergenic and the higher the carat the less susceptible it is to turning color. Gold does not tarnish or turn color but the metal mixed in with it may. Real gold is very expensive and as of today costs $1372.50 per ounce. We carry a few 14kt gold items including baby earrings and necklaces. Real gold should not turn your skin green.




Gold-filled – gold fill is a thick layer of gold coating over a base metal – often brass. In the USA the Federal Trade Commission has regulations as to what can be considered gold-filled as opposed to gold-plate. *A gold-filled item that is 12kt or higher must be at least 1/20 total weight in gold. Gold-filled jewelry can last a long time; it will never wear off of the base metal but may eventually change colors and this all depends solely on the manufacturer. Gold-filled should not turn your skin green but because of the base metals mixed in it may affect some people’s skin.




Gold vermeil – gold vermeil is similar to gold-plated but the core metal must be sterling silver. *The gold used must be at least 10kt and at least 2.5 micrometers thick. Gold-vermeil will not turn your skin colors because it is solely sterling silver and gold. The gold coating may wear off over time and will reveal the sterling silver metal below. Vermeil is commonly marked with 925 to signify that the interior metal is sterling silver. We carry many high quality gold vermeil necklaces and earrings.




Gold-plated – gold-plated jewelry is a thin layer of gold over a base metal. This is a cost effective way to get a gold color for costume jewelry but will eventually wear off. Gold plated jewelry may eventually over time turn your skin colors because copper or base metals will eventually show through.




Rhodium-plated – rhodium is a silvery-white metal with similar coloring to platinum. It is often used over silver, white gold or base metal for a bright finish. We carry many rhodium plated silver piece which resists tarnish and gives the silver a bright white finish similar to platinum. Our black or gunmetal colored jewelry is made by using a black rhodium plating. Whether it will affect your skin depends on whether you are allergic to the silver or base metal it is used over.




Stainless Steel – stainless steel is a strong metal that will not tarnish, rust or discolor your skin. Because of its durability it is often used for pieces that experience a lot of wear such as dog tags or mens rings. It also has more of a grey color and matte finish compared to the bright and shiny whiteness of sterling silver so is often used for more “manly” jewelry. Stainless steel is mostly hypoallergenic, but surgical steel is completely hypoallergenic and used for body jewelry like navel rings. All of our stainless steel jewelry is marked with “stainless steel.”




Tungsten – tungsten carbide is extremely hard and scratch resistant. It is 10 times harder than gold, in fact so hard that it cannot be engraved or re-sized. It is also denser, heavier and more durable tan titanium and therefore makes great wedding bands or rings for men who work with their hands. Tungsten is hypoallergenic and our rings are all marked with “Tungsten Carbide.”




Base metal – Copper, brass, nickel and pewter are all examples of base metals. These are metals used in costume jewelry that are not precious. Alloys fall under the term base metal and are metals made from more than one element. Brass is made from copper and zinc and is therefore an alloy. Base metals may turn your skin green and is not advisable for people with sensitive skin because is may contain nickel. Plated base metal costume jewelry keeps the price low and is not meant for long term wear. Plated base metals will almost always wear off and often turn a copper color.




*regulations of metal purity and stamps vary by the country where it is manufactured



By Bryana Leitner on Overstock Jeweler Blog

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