Gold turning finger black

Greetings Orchidians,

I was wondering if anyone has ever had experience with a customer’s
finger turning black from 14K Yellow gold? Is there some solution to
this? Plating? polish? wax, or such?

Any tips would be welcome, my poor customer has just discovered that
her skin reacts with gold. Weird!


Andrew Horn
Alythea Arts

Hello Andrew, Yes, I have had a client who’s fingers turned black
with 14K gold jewelry. I had read in a Stuller mailer that a
person’s diet can cause a reaction with the alloys, spicy foods was
mentioned. I asked the client if they ate spicy foods and sure
enough she did, so maybe that was it?


I have a customer who reacts to sterling silver with her skin
turning black. I never heard of this, so it has me baffled. Both
rings that this has happened with were sized. I wonder if its
something in the solder. Any thoughts on this?


Hi Drew, It’s likelier that your customer’s skin reacts to something
in the alloy, not the gold. Does she have a similar reaction to
higher karat gold?

Linda in MA, where spring has sprung, even though it will be below
freezing tonight…

There have been several discussions about this on Orchid. Check the
archive. Not to say that there aren’t SOME folks who ‘turn’ gold, but
often it is due to environmental factors. (Toothpaste residue, for
one, will sometimes cause it, if I recall correctly.)

David Barzilay
Lord of the Rings
607 S Hill St Ste 850
Los Angeles, CA 90014-1718

There is a great little article on the subject in the back of the
Stuller findings catalog, for those that have it. Has to do with the
abrasive nature of cosmetics, etc. Perhaps for those who aren’t
Stuller customers, contacting them directly might get a copy sent
your way? Hope it helps a little. Jim

Every now and then my finger turns black under my gold rings. I can
usually trace it to having used some sort of household cleaner and
neglecting to take off my rings.

Janet Kofoed

This is our solution to this problem. In our case, a customer was
polishing a 14K pendant with a sunshine cloth and the pendant was
making black marks on her clothing. Second, when working an art
show, we would polish jewelry with a sunshine cloth and our 14k
rings would leave big black smudges on our hands.

Ta, ta. The solution - wash the jewelry with soap and water after
using the polishing cloth, and the black marks go away.

Some cosmetics have an abrasive component that will cause the same

Wash your jewelry and your hands. It’s not an allergy, it’s
remnants of polishing compound.

Judy Hoch GG

Some years ago the British Assay Office announced an increase in
questions they received regarding a blackening of 9ct yellow gold.
This they explained was due to an increase in the percentage of Zinc
in an item. It seems that some manufacturers were reducing the
silver content and increasing the Zinc content instead because it was
a cheaper option. The report went on to say that this alloy will
react very readily with salts and acids present in perspiration to
form a black surface film. Could this be this persons problem?

Alan Lewis


There are many causes for this. Many times it can be traced back to
the customer putting on hand lotion or makeup. Other times it could
be a chemical reaction to certain medicines. Sulfur compounds in
things like onions and spices can also cause the smudging. Time to
play detective and start asking her some questions.

James S. Cantrell CMBJ

    I have a customer who reacts to sterling silver with her skin
turning black. 

Hello Julia. I’m one of those people who has the blackening problem
with sterling silver. No matter where I wear it --rings, bracelets,
even pendants-- eventually both the item and the skin that contacts it
end up blackened. I’ve been told it’s because I have very salty sweat
which the salt stains on my shirts and our bedsheets in summer will
attest to.

In any case my solution has been to not use sterling but to use
alloys with less copper. Sterling is, of course, 7.5% copper. If I
use something with around 5% copper or less the problem goes away.
Another option is depletion gilding which is my preferred solution
these days.

Trevor F.

I had a customer who could not wear sterling silver. I made a
simple pendant for him that was cut out of 18 gage silver sheet. He
only wore it for about 6 months before it was etched away like iron
would be etched in a corrosive atmosphere. He had no problem with

The sunshine cloth instructions suggest that you wipe the piece with
a soft cloth after rubbing it with the sunshine cloth. I have
noticed that if you don’t follow their instruction the items will
develop a yellow haze if warmed up. You need to remove the chemical
the sunshine cloth leaves on the silver.

I have never had my finger black from a ring I have worn for many
years until the San Diego show. It happened on the last day of the
show. The only restaurants close to the show are Mexican. Having
Mexican food for lunch and dinner for four days may have had
something to do with the blackened finger. I don’t believe I
changed how I cleaned my hands during the show so I doubt it had
anything to do with chemical I might have added to my hands. My
finger has not turned black since I came home.

Lee Epperson

My grandmother always said that when jewelry turned your fingers
black, you had a high amount of acid in your system. Possibly caused
by foods or medication. If it happens consistently, perhaps your
client should take a close look at their diet. Just my $.02.

I have read this thread with great interest as I am one of those
people who has problems wearing silver, particularly earrings. What
has engaged me recently is the number of other people who have told
me they cannot wear earrings with silver posts. Like me, they develop
inflammation around the holes in their ears, sometimes to the point
where it becomes impossible to wear any earrings at all for several
days. Most do not want to substitute surgical steel for the posts, so
my solution is to use white gold instead for the posts or ear wires.
It does increase the cost of the earrings slightly, but it is an
acceptable cost where the customer particularly wants silver earrings
that they can wear without problems.


However, substituting white gold earring post may complicate the
irritation due to nickel content in white gold. I would be hesitant
to use any nickel bearing alloys in any type of piercing. There are
nickel free white gold alloys available, especially in Europe. Ask
for palladium white gold earring posts.


Something I find that works for my customers as far as irritation
from the silver posts in their earrings is to simply paint the post
with clear nail polish every so often. It is the alloys in the
silver which usually cause the problem.

Susie Morgan
Elegant Metal Creations

I would be a bit cautious about painting the posts with nail
polish. I for one, am highly allergic to the acetone in nail
polish. If I paint my nails and then inadvertently rub my eyes,
even days later, , my eyes swell up miserably. For some time I was
unaware of what was causing the swelling, but then my doctor, who is
an excellent diagnostician was able to pinpoint the cause. I might
have the same reaction from earposts painte d with nail polish. It
might not bother most people,but, I just thought

you should be aware of some people’s sensitivity to the acetone in
the polish. alma

Chris, Your comments and suggestion are appreciated. However, I live
in England and use a UK supplier whose white gold is all nickel-free.
Just lucky I guess :slight_smile:


...substituting white gold earring posts may complicate the
irritation due to nickel content in white gold. 

I’ve used 14K yellow gold posts on *all * my earrings – whether
made of sterling or gold – for over a dozen years. They’re stronger
than sterling and less brittle than white gold (plus no nickel).
I’ve never had a customer complain about having yellow gold posts on
a silver earring. Who would ever see it?


A friend complained to me that she is having a problem with a ring
that she purchased on ebay. every time she wears it, it leaves a
black mark around her finger. It is stamped 14K then about a mm from
the 14K mark, there are the initials PC. The ring is cast.

She took it in to a local jeweler to have it tested, and was assured
that it tested 14K. However, I wonder if the test only reveals what
is on the surface of the metal, and that the ring has been plated?

None of her other rings cause this problem.