Skin-Blackening Reaction to 14K Gold Rings
A discussion started in 2005 and continuing through 2017 . . .(2005)
Q. I wear my wedding ring on my hand and my engagement ring on the other. I have been noticing a sudden blackening around my ring fingers and the sides of the adjacent fingers caused by my gold rings. They are each 14K. I have worn 14K gold all my life, necklace, earnings, etc. There is no rash or itching...just blackening. My doctor believes it is because my rings are hollow inside and believes it to be caused by dirt. I don't buy that because why then would the sides of the adjacent fingers be black as well? I have gone to a reputable jeweler who confirmed my rings to be 14K and steamed cleaned them...still I get the blackening. The jeweler believes diet, hormonal changes, body chemistry, etc. Is there anything I may coat my rings with to prevent the blackening? Thanks for your time.Jenny R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
secretary - Indian Head, Maryland
A. The addition of alloying elements (other metals) to gold are used to increase the toughness and hardness of the metal. While almost any metal can be alloyed (melted) with gold, only certain metals will not dramatically change the color or make the metal brittle.
The karat indicates the amount of gold as a percentage of the total, i.e. 24 karat is 100 percent gold. Thus 14 karat is 14/24's gold or 58-1/3 percent gold.
In karated gold, there is a balance of metals in the non-gold percentage. These metals provide the various colors and hardness of karated golds.
Jewelry owners may think that faulty manufacturing or under-karating might be the problem when a ring "turns," blackening or discoloring the skin and clothing, or the jewelry itself. However, that is not the case. The most common reason is metallic abrasion, caused by makeup on skin or clothing. Cosmetics often contain compounds harder than the jewelry itself, which wear or rub off very tiny particles. Very finely divided metal always appears black rather than metallic, so it looks like a jet-black dust. When this dust comes into contact with absorbent surfaces such as skin or clothing, it sticks, forming a black smudge.
To prevent this, you should try switching cosmetics. If this is not possible, remove rings and other jewelry while applying them, and clean skin areas in contact with jewelry with soap and water.
Another cause is actual corrosion of the metals. Gold itself does not corrode, but its primary alloys of silver or copper will do so, forming very dark chemical compounds, under moist or wet conditions.
When you perspire, fats and fatty acids released can cause corrosion of 14-karat gold, especially when exposed to warmth and air. This problem can be worse in seacoast and semitropical areas, where chlorides combine with perspiration to form a corrosive element that discolors skin. Smog fumes gradually attack jewelry and are evident as a tarnish that rubs off on the skin.
Concave surfaces inside a shank form collection points that trap moisture and contaminants, also causing a type of dermatitis. Remove all rings before using soaps, cleaning compounds or detergents, and clean your rings frequently. As well as solving the problem, you'll be amazed at how much better your rings look!
wastewater treatment specialist
Thank you Mr Baker, I've just experienced the same problem from using a new hand moisturizer and I wear a number of gold rings. I will follow your suggestions, and hope to have smudge free fingers in future. Thanks for your help.Cathy [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- New Zealand
Q. I have been wearing the same wedding ring set for more than 15 years - it is also 14K gold. I have occasionally had the skin blackening problem but it has been many years. This week it started up again - so black that even friends noticed it. I wondered if it is at all an internal chemistry problem. I can't think of any cosmetic or hand lotion that I have changed recently. Have you had any other thoughts posted? Thanks.Treva H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Eagle, Idaho
I found my own answer....it is caused by the bromine in our hot tub. A jeweler recommended not wearing gold in a hot tub or swimming pool which contains bromine or chlorine - I find if I wash my hands thoroughly after leaving the tub that my fingers don't turn black.Treva H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Eagle, Idaho
Q. I am 47 years old and just recently my good gold earrings that I've had for years are turning the hole of the ear black. I eat very healthy and take vitamins. I have no idea why this is happening and now I'm more confused than ever.Genevieve [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- NEW JERSEY
Genevieve, please be curious about your earrings and about the black markings they may produce. But please don't use the color of your earrings or the skin touching those earrings as a barometer of your health. Jewelers sometimes try to blame the jewelry owner's "bad skin chemistry" for discoloration, and this may cause healthy people to change their diets to unhealthy. A doctor can help you judge your health.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Q. I'm 42 years old. I've been wearing gold earrings all my life, last 20 years I've noticed,that part of earrings attached to my skin is turning black. Earrings which I have for 19 years 20k or 24k have black lines, but not that dramatic. My favorite pair, which I have for about 4 years, are 14k combination of white and yellow gold, become pretty dark, that a lot of people think it's antique. I was trying to clean in ultrasonic machine number of times, absolutely useless, only polishing in jewelers shop helping to take this layer of for few weeks. I got new pair of earrings 14k white gold, few months ago the same story already.Yelena G [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
dental assistant - Hercules, California
Q. I have been wearing my 14k gold wedding rings for 12 years. I have always left them on to shower, wash dishes, swimming just about everything. I clean them probably about once a month in a gold cleaning solution. Just recently I have noticed that my little finger which touches my ring finger has been turning black. It looks like a smudge. However my ring fingers do not have any black on them at all? I am puzzled with respect to if there was some sort of breakdown of the metals within my rings or dirt why would only the one finger have a small smudge and not the other finger which also touches the ring finger or the finger that I wear of rings on?Charlane V [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Brooklin, Ontario, Canada
Q. I have that problem with gold reacting with my skin and I think it happens when my chemistry is off in my body. It seems to happen when I am under a lot of stress....Loretta B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Bend, Texas
! I have had this problem with gold my entire life. I don't put any type of cosmetics on my hand that would cause this. However, I have found that the better the gold the blacker it turns me. Cheaper gold such as 10k doesn't turn me skin as bad.Amy L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Florence, Kentucky
I've been reading that I am not the only one this is happening to.....I have had my 2 rings for many many years and have never experienced my fingers turning black. In the past 2 years each ring finger of both hands are turning black. I can't say it's from the metals breaking down because it's both rings and both fingers......It drive me crazy because my fingers look dirty......It has to be some kind of body chemistry, but WHAT?
Was hoping I could find an answer here...anyone?
manicurist - Brooklyn, New York
For the past few years my rings are turning my fingers black, and I have been trying to find out why. (one ring I have worn since I was 16 and my wedding rings I have worn for the last 4 years.) This does not happen daily but seems to revolve around my monthly cycles. My fingers turn black around the time I ovulate and them again before my period. Is this a chemical reaction to the changes in my hormones? Please help it is driving me nuts!
- London, Ontario, Canada
A. Some say this is a problem women have. My father who just got out of the hospital and is on i.v. antibiotics is now having the same problem with his yellow gold wedding band. It makes sense that women would have this problem more than men, and the woman who talked about her skin turning according to her cycle. Some believe that a lack of Iron in the blood (body) is the cause of this. A 14k gold ring is only 58% gold. There are other metals melted into the gold. I'm not sure of the chemistry and exactly how it would happen, but I think these other metals are reacting with the body (skin) creating oxide particles. I think it is the body's way of trying to obtain what it needs as iron carries oxygen through the blood. More women struggle with anemia than men. Hence, the reason women's skin reacts to "gold" more than men's. My question is now, "What is in the medications that have been given to my father that is depleting his iron content?"Mark H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Woodsfield, Ohio
January 24, 2008
Q. I am experiencing the same problem, and the same inability to find a definite answer anywhere on the web. The same rings that I wore for years and years suddenly started turning my fingers black, starting about 3 years ago.
I've realized that different types of gold react in different ways, and I doubt any of it is caused by cosmetics or lotion.
Yellow gold turns my fingers black within minutes, with or without foundation or anything else, and I've given up wearing those rings. I wore my mother's white gold ring for about a year, and it only turned my finger black one time. My favorite ring of late is a rose gold ring, which has turned my finger black only occasionally over the 2 years I've had it. It used to happen every single time I drank alcohol, and only when I drank, so I always assumed it was the alcohol (or something in it?) being secreted through my skin and reacting with the metals.
But I recently quit smoking (and drinking, until I feel strong enough to resist a smoke), and for the first time, the rose gold has turned my finger a few times with no alcohol. It's black right now and I haven't been near a drink in more than 2 weeks. Maybe a change in my body chemistry when I quit smoking? I have no idea.
This is the first place I have run across the idea that it has to do with a woman's menstrual cycle -- I will start marking the days when it's black and see if it corresponds.
- Palo Alto, California
February 5, 2008
! I have this problem as well and have been told by the pros that gold can not turn you black that it is the metals in the gold and all cosmetics and other scientific bull. I turn black with 24K gold, I do not use creams and very rarely cosmetics. I have throughout the years done some testing on my own because no one could give me an answer that made sense. I narrowed it down to pH levels in my body. I get acid reflux occasionally and when I eat acidic foods my body gets very acidic. I have tested my mouth with litmus and found it to be on the acidic side of the scale and this is when I turn black. I can write all over my face with 24K gold. I do not know the reasoning and science behind this but it is the only constant. My perspiration and secretions are acidic and it affects the relationship between my body and gold. I have no data on hormonal issues but that seems like it could have an affect on the body's excretions and pH of them.Laurie C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
February 27, 2008
I am so relieved to see that this is not just me! In my case without a doubt this is not a 'gold quality' issue. If I rub any gold anywhere on my body it leaves a mark. I have a beautiful wedding/engagement ring that I wear and am considering not wearing it as I look like I just don't wash! I may have to switch to wearing silver.Paula B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Glasgow, South Lanarkshire, Scotland
March 7, 2008
Q. I have had problems with 14K gold but ONLY with earrings. I wear gold rings (five of them) every day with no problems, but when I wear 14K gold earrings, my ears turn black. In my case, it seems that every time that I wear certain earrings, my ears turn black. Obviously the 'blackening' is not related to cosmetics or creams of any kind as I don't put anything on or near my ears, but I am also not sure it is related to my cycle as it happens EVERY time I wear these earrings. I assumed it was an allergy to a certain alloy with which the gold was mixed.Katrina H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Seattle, Washington
April 1, 2008
Q. I have had this happen with a wedding band that I've been wearing for years and was purchased from a high end jeweler. It was embarrassing for awhile and now has disappeared even when I try to rub it on my skin it won't turn black. I haven't been eating as many tomatoes. Don't know if acidity has anything to do with this. Not hormones though--post hysterectomy 5 years w/estrogen supplement regularly (even hormone count). Having liver or gallbladder pain (awaiting results) lately and low to normal iron with blood test (but not anemic). Wondering if this turning color thing can be related what the liver produces and does or digestive system.Monica s [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Rockford, Illinois
April 8, 2008
Q. I also have this issue when my immunity is low. l just recently became sick with "the common cold" and sure enough my rings had to come off. Black, greenish eek. My partner hears me mentioning this tarnished ring around my finger on sick days. He agrees that it is a reaction not necessarily all based on external environmental factors.melna [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
May 23, 2008
Q. I have the same problem with gold but only the yellow one, not with the white one. The most interesting thing is nobody knows for sure what is exactly the cause and how we can treat this. I am curious if this problem was real 100 years ago or not, because it looks like a new disease or reaction. All the doctors said that they heave never seen or even heard about this.Alina I [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Arad, Romania
June 6, 2008
On the discoloring of jewelry, every time I am pre-menopausal, and half way into a period, my gold rings turn a coppery-black color..so it's affected by iron or something in my blood.
June 13, 2008
I have the same problem with my gold rings, but it ONLY happens in cold weather. I wear either 14k or 18k. Silver doesn't cause the reaction. It's mystery to me!Susan K [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Pensacola, Florida
June 30, 2008
Q. My solid gold bangles leave a dark residue on my skin too. This is very intermittent, it was very cold today, I was mildly stressed and I am probably lacking in iron. I have always thought it probably has something to do with my body chemistry. I would love a definitive answer...perhaps a chemist would know...Yvonne W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Perth, Western Australia
September 18, 2008
A. I have a severe case of IDA which is iron deficiency anemia I've had this since I had children and it has come and go when my iron levels fluctuate. The truth of the matter is everyone thinks this is a myth and its not. no one can debunk it so therefore I'm sticking to it. I've had my iron tested frequently and when it is normal I have no black marks when it is low I can literally take my engagement ring and draw pictures on any place of my body. the lower my iron level the darker the lines. I would consult your family physician and look into iron supplements.April S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
September 21, 2008
Q. I have 4 gold rings...3 are 14 kt and not sure of the other...was a gift and it doesn't have its weight stamped on the inside. When doing the makeup test the 3 leave a black mark on palm, the other one leaves no mark at all. I have been wearing it now for months never taking it off when doing dishes or bathing. It neither turn's black with the makeup test or had turned my finger green or black. Still looks very pretty and golden...So could it be 24 kt gold or just a very good fake?leshya f [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- graham, Texas
September 23, 2008
Q. You have not heard a story like mine. I have been wearing my wedding ring for 31 years and my 25th anniversary ring for 6 years. One month ago I noticed the ring finger on the right hand turning black where the ring was. Never ever had this happen. I could wear non gold and I would have no tarnish. The finger with the ring on the left has no tarnish. So I thought it was the ring (all of a sudden? and changed the ring. Same thing happened with the other ring when I placed it on the right hand. Still not convinced, I have a new ring (10kt gold) and the same thing happened. Why would it happen on my right hand ring finger only. The rings I tested were 14kt, 18kt and 10kt?
I find it strange and would welcome any comments? I am 50 and this has never happened. Could it be some chemistry in my body now at 50? Should I have my iron and pH levels tested?
Thank you to all who took the time to read and help me.
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
December 20, 2008
A. I also have started to have this problem.
Don't believe anyone telling you that it is a 14 kt thing. My rings are 24kt and they have started to turn my skin black.
I do believe that it is a body chemistry/stress occurrence.
- Ruther Glen, Virginia
December 19, 2008
Q. I have had this problem for many years and have always wondered because I would only get it mid cycle too. I have 10k, 14K, 18K rings it doesn't matter. It is not the metal rubbing it is some pH balance thing for sure as it only happens sometimes. Do you all have negative blood type? Recommend all the women like me above to cut down on acidic foods and take more iron. I wish doctors knew more about this.Alexandra P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Sterling, Massachusetts
January 6, 2009
Q. My wedding/engagement ring finger has been turning black intermittently for a few years now. I only noticed it when on a night out. I assumed at first it was something to do with alcohol but then it happened a few more times when I was out but not drinking alcohol. The only common factor that I could think of was that I was drinking tonic water and that it was possibly the quinine that caused it. It starts within an hour of having my first drink. I have never noticed if there was a connection with my cycle but I will try to take note from now on. I have recently become vegetarian but used to get this before when I was eating lots of meat so I don't think there is a connection there. I think my blood sugar is fairly low but I'm not sure. It seems as though there have to be a few conditions in place for the reaction to happen. It doesn't really bother me as it doesn't happen all the time but I would be interested to find out what was really causing it.Teresa D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Cardiff, Wales, UK
A. For the last ten years I had (until recently) also experienced a blackening of my skin when I wore yellow gold. In spite of the fact I am 50 years old & have been wearing all sorts of jewelry metals without any issues all of my life, many people didn't believe that I 'suddenly' developed a problem, & thought I was simply reacting to "cheap" jewelry!
To prove the point, I would borrow pieces from relatives or friends & rub them against my skin. Sure enough, they would leave a very dark gray mark. And of course, MY 'offending' jewelry had no such effect on THEIR skin. Obviously, I was reacting to certain alloys in the gold ... most probably copper (?).
It wasn't until after a series of quite recent medical tests for certain health complaints that I discovered I was lactose intolerant (in amongst various other food intolerances). However, due to the manner in which I chose to monitor the effect of these food groups on my well being, I took to managing my diet very rigidly, tackling one food group at a time.
Lo & behold, miracle of miracles, when I eliminated (or significantly reduced) the amount of dairy products (& therefore, lactose) in my diet, the blackening of my skin stopped! It was quite a discovery.
Clearly, the dairy products had been creating too much acidity in my system (Why so 'suddenly' is another story but relates to the onset of certain unprecedented personal stresses). By restricting the intake of certain foods, I now not only have no more problems with wearing yellow gold but I FEEL better too.
- Sydney, NSW, Australia
January 13, 2009
A. I was made aware of the phenomenon by a young women who told me in her 9th grade health class they demonstrated it by rubbing 24K gold on everyone's skin and a few people including herself had a black mark. She said that her teacher told them it was an old wives tale about iron deficiency but he didn't know for sure what causes it. As a Chemical Engineer it caught my interest and I did a little research.
It has a medical term, BLACK DERMOGRAPHISM, and while several papers are published about it many are in obscure journals I don't have immediate access to. There is a nice short review that follows much of what Tom Baker had to say, written in 2000 by Barbara Kebbekus in Journal of Chemical Education 2000, 77 (10), 1298-1299.
Much of what was posted by him and others is supported by her paper. For example the marks being linked to the premenstrual period.
Kebbekus writes --
"One physiological correlation, which was found by some to have a basis in fact, was that it was more common in women during their premenstrual period (2, 3).This is in agreement with a totally nonstatistical collection of anecdotes from my family, friends, and acquaintances." Additionally, "It has also been shown that pure gold will dissolve very slowly in solutions of amino acids, especially the sulfur-containing ones such as L-cysteine. (...) Gold of lower carat, containing more copper and other alloying metals, dissolves to a greater extent, and both the gold and the copper are found in higher concentration in the solution (...) While there does not seem to be much published information on the excretion of amino acids through the skin and whether the amount or type changes significantly in women during the menstrual cycle, it is certainly reasonable that it may."
She also supports the theory of lotions and creams causing the marks stating,
"Fine powders of such compounds as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, calcium carbonate, and iron(III) oxide are frequently used in cosmetic powders, makeup formulations, and skin medications such as calamine lotion and powders. Even at very low rates of application, these will cause the abrasion of gold."
The article is short and by no means definitive but does point out that several factors can cause the marking. It is a good read and if you have access it is worth the time.Nicholas Newport
- Columbia, Missouri
January 17, 2009
Q. I have similar problems but it's not blackening. I wear my engagement ring and wedding ring together,the engagement ring is 14 kt. & wedding ring is 18 kt. I have them soldered together but believe it's my engagement ring causing the problem for me for close to a yr. It usually starts to itch in the middle of the night & in the morning I see that it's got a red spot right in the front under where the diamond is, or redness on side of my finger. The inside of the ring is flat under the diamond where I have noticed a small silver looking circle (don't know how long that's been there)and the sides are hollow(where dirt can get into it). It started sometime after I went off of the bc pills last Jan. but in the beginning it never had been to bad. Then these past few months or so it started bothering me more,I've tried cleaning them but nothing. Then I started reading on here it started to make more since about the hormone changes at that time of the month but that spot I get right on the front of my finger,could it really be because if the silver looking spot inside of the engagement ring instead?! I'm thinking about getting the rings unsoldered & try wearing the wedding ring for a while. Should I get the jeweler to check out the engagement ring?Jessica S [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Eaton, Ohio
January 18, 2009
Q. I have been reading and bits and pieces are true for me also, my 14k and 18k rings turn my fingers black mostly when its cold, however I can wear a cheap necklace from Walmart and nothing happens, and my cell phone turns my cheek black as well, (without any make up) the cell phone thing is daily but the rings are occasionally I've even cleaned my cell phone with alcohol etc and it still happens I'm beginning to think it is something like lack of iron or some chemical not sure what though.Bernice T [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Galesburg, Michigan
January 22, 2009
Q. My fiance bought me an 18KT White Gold engagement ring. After wearing it for about a year, I noticed it was starting to create a black mark round my finger. I went back to the shop with it, and was told by the manager it was my hormones due to pregnancy as I was pregnant at the time. I told the manager I had not worn the ring since becoming pregnant and so then I was told it was a skin reaction and they were not prepared to do anything about it. I have recently referred the case to my local trading standards office but I was wondering what you think ?Kirsty R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
buyer - Edinburgh, Scotland
March 9, 2009
A. I think gold turning your finger black is a chemical reaction when you are stressed. I have been under a lot of stress this past week and my ring finger has been turning blackish green under my rings. I have worn these rings for 26 years and it is not always like this. It has happened on occasion in the past but always when I was under stress or had an upset stomach. A co-worker noticed it once and without my saying anything, asked if my stomach was upset because of the discolouration. I don't know if there is any scientific evidence to support this, but I know what happens to me.Cathy E [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada