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Why Did My Sterling Silver Nose Ring Turn Black?

Why Did My Sterling Silver Nose Ring Turn Black?

It’s a familiar story – your once bright and shiny silver nose ring has turned dull and black – sometimes only within a day of putting the silver ring or stud into your piercing. What gives, why did it turn colors?

All silver will tarnish when it comes in contact with the sulfur in the atmosphere and on your skin – the alloy, as well as your individual body chemistry, will determine how quickly the jewelry starts to turn colors. Fine silver (.999 purity) tarnishes at the slowest rate, and is very resistant to tarnishing. On the other hand, sterling silver has copper as part of the alloy, so this process is sped up considerably.

Sterling silver turns colors when it comes in contact with bodily fluids – this is why it’s important to never wear a silver nose ring in a fresh piercing. You may be left with a permanent black ring called a “tarnish tattoo” inside the healing fistula. If you catch the tarnish in the early stages you will notice that your silver jewelry has taken on a yellow color, which will then progress to a brown, then bluish-brown, and finally black.

Quick Note: I see many online questions insinuating that because the silver jewelry turned black, then the original poster must not have a “real” metal or that it proves they are wearing cheap metal. A sterling silver nose ring that turns black doesn’t mean you were sold a fake! The blackening happens to all sterling silver, so if anything, it should reassure you that you were sold a genuine piece of sterling silver provided that you purchased the jewelry from a trustworthy source.

Can I Wear Sterling Silver in Healed Piercings?

Yes, and no – it really depends. Sterling silver jewelry should never be worn long term in body piercings that have contact with a mucous membrane – like lip piercings, nose piercings, and septums. If you want to wear silver in any of these locations, then it should strictly be treated as a piece of jewelry reserved for special occasions – like a date that only lasts a few hours.

The majority of sterling silver alloys available to jewelers that are formulated today are nickel free (if you are sensitive to nickel, you should always check – don’t assume!), so if you are looking for jewelry for your ear piercings then you may find that it works okay for your individual body. However, if you are going to wear sterling silver studs in your tragus or helix piercing, please note that you will need to commit to cleaning the jewelry and polishing it occasionally to maintain the shine and to remove the tarnish.

Alternative white metals that are better suited for long term wear in body piercings are platinum, palladium and white gold - just make sure you check if the white gold alloy has nickel included if you have a sensitivity. 

My Silver Nose Ring Has Already Turned Black, How Do I Fix It?

Fortunately, tarnish is completely removable – there’s no reason to throw your sterling silver jewelry away! There are multiple ways to remove the tarnish if your sterling silver nose jewelry has already blackened or started to turn colors.

Here are two methods that work for removing various stages of tarnish:

  1. Make a paste using water and baking soda – add the water in small increments (drops) to avoid making the mixture runny. Rub the paste onto your jewelry, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and then polish it off using an old tooth brush or a soft cloth – rinse well with water once you’ve finished. You may need to repeat this several times. This method is helpful when you want to control exactly where the tarnish is removed. A similar method can be done using toothpaste.
  2. Make a cleaning bath for your jewelry using a glass canning jar, enough aluminum foil to line the inside of the jar, hot (not boiling) water, and baking soda. Add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to the aluminum lined jar, pour in one cup of hot water, stir, and then submerge your jewelry for several minutes. When you remove the jewelry, rinse it under running water while you scrub it with an old tooth brush. Dry thoroughly when finished. You may need to repeat the steps with a new piece of foil and fresh baking soda mixture if your jewelry has tarnished heavily.

Important: Neither method is recommended for use on jewelry that contains semi-precious or precious stones, pearls, amber, or beads because it could cause damage – it may cause fading, cloudiness or even cracks from the heat. One way to get around this is to use plastic tweezers (do not use steel) to hold your jewelry in the mixture, keeping the stones from having contact or being submerged.

I Really Like the Look of Silver, Is There An Alternative?

Yes, Bioflex nostril screw backings deliver the best of both worlds! The backing is highly bio-compatible and safe to have in your piercing, and the silver push fit charm top doesn’t come in contact with your fistula because it fits perfectly inside of the hollow portion of the backing. The same applies to lip piercings – a silver push fit charm with a Bioflex labret backing can make an excellent alternative and help you achieve the look you want.

The 93.5% alloy that I use for the push fit sterling silver piercing charms that I make is formulated to be highly resistant to tarnish, which makes keeping it clean much easier than the traditional 92.5% sterling silver alloy. The alloy is a nickel-free combination of silver, copper and germanium. It’s the germanium in the alloy that lends it the above mentioned property of being much slower to discolor. When the germanium comes in contact with oxygen, it forms a protective oxide layer on the surface of the jewelry.

Want to try wearing a push fit nostril screw? You can find all of my available silver jewelry designed for use with push fit Bioflex nostril screw backings by clicking here.  

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