Have you ever bought a cute, affordable pair of earrings or necklace only to find that after a few weeks of wear, your jewelry has an unappealing greenish tint? If so, you’re not alone. Discoloration is a common issue with inexpensive jewelry made from low-quality materials.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Cheap jewelry often contains metallic alloys that undergo oxidation, which causes the green discoloration. The metals used are more prone to this chemical reaction with oxygen and moisture.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the science behind jewelry turning green. We’ll cover the common metals used in cheap jewelry, reasons for oxidation, ways to slow the greening process, and tips for keeping your affordable accessories looking like new.

Metals Commonly Used in Cheap Jewelry

When it comes to cheap jewelry, there are several metals that are commonly used. These metals may be more affordable, but they can also be the reason why your jewelry turns green. Let’s take a closer look at some of these metals:


Nickel is often used in cheap jewelry because it is inexpensive and easy to work with. However, it is also a common cause of allergic reactions and can cause the skin to turn green. If you have sensitive skin, it is best to avoid jewelry that contains nickel.

Look for jewelry that is labeled as nickel-free or hypoallergenic to minimize the risk of an allergic reaction.


Copper is another metal that is frequently used in cheap jewelry. While it does not usually cause an allergic reaction, it can cause the skin to turn green. This happens when the copper reacts with acids in your sweat and forms copper salts, which then discolor the skin.

To prevent this, you can apply a clear nail polish to the inside of the jewelry to create a barrier between your skin and the metal.


Brass is a combination of copper and zinc and is often used in cheap jewelry because it is durable and has a gold-like appearance. However, like copper, it can cause the skin to turn green due to the presence of copper in the alloy.

To minimize the risk of discoloration, you can try the same trick with clear nail polish or look for jewelry that is coated with a protective layer.


Pewter is a metal alloy that is primarily made up of tin, along with small amounts of copper, antimony, and other metals. While it is not as commonly used in cheap jewelry as nickel, copper, or brass, it can still cause the skin to turn green.

This is because pewter often contains trace amounts of copper, which can react with the acids in your skin. If you want to wear pewter jewelry without the risk of discoloration, make sure it is properly coated or opt for jewelry that is labeled as hypoallergenic.

Remember, even though these metals are commonly used in cheap jewelry, it doesn’t mean that all cheap jewelry will turn your skin green. Some jewelry may be coated with a protective layer to prevent discoloration, while others may be made with alternative metals that are less likely to cause a reaction.

If you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergic reactions, it is always a good idea to opt for higher quality jewelry or look for pieces that are specifically designed for sensitive skin.

Why Oxidation Causes Discoloration

When it comes to cheap jewelry, one common issue that many people encounter is the dreaded green discoloration. This phenomenon can be frustrating, especially when you’re trying to accessorize with your favorite pieces. The culprit behind this unsightly green tint is oxidation.

Definition of Oxidation

Oxidation is a natural chemical reaction that occurs when certain metals come into contact with oxygen or moisture in the air. This reaction causes a change in the metal’s surface, leading to discoloration or tarnishing.

It is important to note that not all metals are prone to oxidation, but those that are can leave behind green stains on your skin.

Green Patina Forms on Copper Alloys

Copper and copper alloys, such as brass and bronze, are particularly susceptible to oxidation. When these metals react with moisture and oxygen, a green patina forms on their surface. This patina is known as copper oxide and is responsible for the green discoloration that can transfer onto your skin when wearing cheap jewelry made from these materials.

The green patina is not harmful and can easily be removed with the right cleaning methods. However, it is important to note that cheap jewelry made from copper alloys will require regular maintenance to prevent the formation of this discoloration.

Silver Tarnishing is Also Oxidation

While green discoloration is commonly associated with copper alloys, silver jewelry can also tarnish due to oxidation. When silver comes into contact with sulfur compounds in the air, it undergoes a chemical reaction that forms a black or gray tarnish on its surface.

Fortunately, the tarnish on silver jewelry can be easily removed with silver cleaning solutions or polishing cloths. Regular cleaning and proper storage can help prevent the formation of tarnish and keep your silver jewelry looking its best.

It’s important to keep in mind that oxidation is a natural process and will occur over time, regardless of the quality or price of your jewelry. However, investing in higher-quality metals and properly caring for your jewelry can minimize the effects of oxidation and help your pieces retain their beauty for longer.

Factors that Speed Up Oxidation

Have you ever wondered why your cheap jewelry turns your skin green? It’s a common occurrence that can be quite frustrating for jewelry enthusiasts. The green discoloration is actually a result of oxidation, a chemical reaction that occurs when certain metals come into contact with air and moisture.

While all jewelry may experience some degree of oxidation over time, there are several factors that can speed up this process.

Exposure to Air and Moisture

One of the main culprits behind the green discoloration of cheap jewelry is exposure to air and moisture. When jewelry is made from metals such as copper or brass, which are prone to oxidation, prolonged exposure to the elements can accelerate the chemical reaction.

Moisture in the air, such as humidity, can also contribute to the oxidation process. As a result, the metal in the jewelry reacts with the air and moisture, causing it to turn green.

Contact with Skin Oils

Another factor that can speed up oxidation in cheap jewelry is contact with skin oils. Our skin naturally produces oils, which can contain acids and other chemicals that react with metals. When we wear jewelry, especially items that come into direct contact with our skin, the oils can transfer onto the metal surface.

Over time, the combination of skin oils and metal can lead to accelerated oxidation and the resulting green discoloration.

Heat, Sunlight, and Humidity

Heat, sunlight, and humidity are additional factors that can contribute to the oxidation of cheap jewelry. Exposure to high temperatures can cause metals to react more quickly with air and moisture, hastening the oxidation process.

Sunlight can also have an effect, as UV rays can accelerate chemical reactions. Similarly, high humidity levels can create a more favorable environment for oxidation to occur.

It’s important to note that not all cheap jewelry will turn green. Some manufacturers may apply special coatings or plating to prevent oxidation and discoloration. However, over time, these coatings may wear off, exposing the underlying metal to the elements and eventually leading to green discoloration.

If you want to minimize the chances of your jewelry turning green, it’s recommended to store it in a dry place, away from humidity and moisture. Avoid wearing cheap jewelry in hot and humid environments, and remove it before swimming or showering.

Regularly cleaning and polishing your jewelry can also help slow down the oxidation process.

Remember, the occurrence of green discoloration in cheap jewelry is a natural chemical reaction and does not necessarily indicate poor quality. By understanding the factors that speed up oxidation, you can take steps to prevent or minimize it, allowing you to enjoy your jewelry for longer periods without any unwanted green surprises.

Ways to Slow the Greening Process

Store Jewelry Properly

One of the main reasons why cheap jewelry turns green is because it often contains metals like copper or nickel, which can react with the acids in our skin or the environment. To slow down the greening process, it’s important to store your jewelry properly.

Make sure to keep it in a dry and cool place, away from moisture or humidity. Consider using jewelry boxes with compartments or individual pouches to prevent your pieces from rubbing against each other and causing damage.

This will help preserve the quality and appearance of your jewelry for a longer period of time.

Clean Regularly

To prevent cheap jewelry from turning green, it’s crucial to clean it regularly. The accumulation of dirt, oils, and sweat can accelerate the greening process. Cleaning your jewelry will remove any buildup and help maintain its shine.

For metal jewelry, you can use a soft cloth or jewelry cleaning solution specifically designed for the type of metal you have. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials, as they can damage the surface of your jewelry.

By keeping your jewelry clean, you can significantly slow down the greening process.

Apply Protective Coatings

If you want to further protect your cheap jewelry from turning green, you can apply a protective coating. There are various products available in the market that can create a barrier between your jewelry and the elements that cause it to oxidize or react with your skin.

Some coatings are specifically designed for metal jewelry and can provide a long-lasting protective layer. These coatings can help slow down the greening process and keep your jewelry looking beautiful for longer periods of time.

Remember, while these methods can help slow down the greening process of cheap jewelry, it’s important to keep in mind that the quality of the jewelry itself plays a significant role. Investing in higher-quality jewelry made from materials like sterling silver or gold can greatly reduce the chances of it turning green.

Additionally, if you have known allergies or sensitivities to certain metals, it’s best to opt for hypoallergenic jewelry that is less likely to cause any skin reactions.

Tips for Keeping Cheap Jewelry Looking New

Many people love to wear cheap jewelry as a fashionable accessory. However, one common problem with inexpensive jewelry is that it can turn green over time. This can be frustrating and disappointing, especially if you want your jewelry to look its best.

Fortunately, there are several tips you can follow to keep your cheap jewelry looking new and prevent it from turning green.

Take Jewelry Off Before Swimming & Showering

One of the main reasons why cheap jewelry turns green is due to exposure to water and moisture. When you wear your jewelry while swimming or showering, the water can cause a reaction with the metal in the jewelry, leading to oxidation and discoloration.

To prevent this, it is best to take off your jewelry before engaging in any water activities. According to experts at Jewelry Notes, this simple step can significantly prolong the lifespan of your cheap jewelry.

Use Jewelry Cleaner & Polishing Cloth

Cleaning your cheap jewelry regularly can help keep it looking new and prevent it from turning green. You can use a jewelry cleaner that is specifically designed for the type of metal your jewelry is made of.

Additionally, using a soft polishing cloth can help remove any dirt or tarnish that may have accumulated on your jewelry. By keeping your jewelry clean, you reduce the chances of it reacting with moisture and turning green.

Consider Plating with Rhodium or Gold

If you have a favorite piece of cheap jewelry that you want to protect from turning green, you may want to consider getting it plated with rhodium or gold. Rhodium and gold plating can provide a protective layer over the base metal, preventing it from coming into direct contact with your skin and moisture.

This can help maintain the original color and appearance of the jewelry for a longer period of time. However, it is important to note that plating is a temporary solution and may need to be reapplied periodically.


While inexpensive jewelry is prone to turning green eventually, you can prolong its shine by following proper care and cleaning practices. Avoid exposing your affordable accessories to moisture, store them carefully, and clean them routinely to keep oxidation at bay.

The discoloration may be unavoidable in the long run, but you can still enjoy your budget-friendly jewelry pieces for many months when you understand what causes the green tint and how to slow the chemical reaction.

With some simple preventive steps, your cheap rings, earrings and necklaces will maintain their luster and look great with your wardrobe.

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