Autumn 2014 True Natural Health Magazine – Your Questions Answered
By Roger French


QUESTION:   For a long time I have had black-ish marks on the skin under my gold wedding ring, and I have heard of other women finding the same thing with gold jewellery. Can you tell me what causes it and if anything can be done to prevent it?



There are conflicting explanations as to why some people find that the skin under gold jewellery turns dark green or black-ish.

Because jewellery made from pure gold (24 karat) is too soft, gold is mixed with metal alloys, typically nickel, copper, zinc and silver, to make it harder – and also less expensive. The lower the karat on a piece of gold jewelry, the less pure the gold.

Some professionals say that stained skin is due to breakdown of the alloy metals in the piece of jewellery. 

Others say that it may be to do with cleaning the ring. If using a liquid dip, are you rinsing all the residue off thoroughly? Are you making sure that the ring is completely dry before putting it on? To help cut down on skin blackening, make a habit of removing your jewellery often and cleaning both your skin and the jewellery.

The problem could be due to, or exacerbated by, a high meat and carbohydrate diet causing an acidic skin which may react with the alloy, or certain drugs making your skin more likely to react with the alloy. Hand creams or putting on the ring when the finger is still damp after washing can cause a reaction. If the problem is more likely to occur when you are hot, it could be that sweat is getting trapped under the ring.

A manufacturing jeweller member of the Natural Health Society explains that where there is a problem with gold, it is usually allergy to the nickel added to harden the gold. Less commonly, allergies can result from palladium, which is added to make the gold malleable.

The amount of nickel is the key factor. Allergies can show up as rashes under the ring or irritated skin. However, these days all jewellery should be ‘nickel-safe’ in that the nickel must be less than a certain percentage and also part of a stable alloy so that it cannot leach into the body.

The dark colour on the skin under the ring would be related to the gold plating, probably lower quality gold from which chemicals can leach out.

The key points are: where did the gold come from – Asia? And what is in the gold? A metallurgist may be of help here.

If the discolouration or rash on the skin is a problem, take the ring to a ‘manufacturing’ jeweller (seek one through a jewellery shop) who should be able to sort it out. Or it may be fixed by having the ring plated and polished; for this find a ‘metal polisher’.

You can always switch to platinum, concludes our member jeweller, which rarely reacts with the skin, but is more expensive.

If Sterling silver causes your skin to stain green-ish, it is probably due to its 7.5 percent copper content. However, sterling silver causes mostly black stains, which occur when the silver darkens as a result of oxidising – what we call ‘tarnishing’. To prevent tarnishing, sterling silver jewelry is often coated with a special substance, but when this eventually wears off, the metal darkens.

If jewellery is made from copper, any discoloration of the skin is usually green. The jewellery might not be pure copper, but it might have enough copper in it to cause an allergic reaction, and you might have the body chemistry required to encourage staining.