Can I Swim in It? Part II : Silver Jewelry Dos and Don'ts

no diving pool sign

Spring break is upon us and beach season is quickly approaching.  Even when the weather isn't warm, we're (hopefully) showering.  This raises the question : can I get my silver jewelry wet?

The short answer to this question is yes, you can (if you know it's sterling silver). Water generally does not damage sterling silver.  *But* water does cause silver to oxidize (darken) more quickly, and what type of water and the chemicals in it has an impact on how much it will cause your silver change color.  Here are the dos and don'ts of exposing your silver jewelry to water.

Shower water
is generally fine - there aren’t any super harsh chemicals in our tap water that would react significantly with your sterling silver jewelry.  The soap and water can even help wash away any residue from your skin and dirt in the air that can also cause your silver to look dull.


Pool water
. . . eh.  Swimming pools are usually treated with chlorine, and chlorine reacts with sterling silver.  So depending on how much chlorine is in the pool, you’ll probably have to clean your silver if you’re swimming frequently.

Hot Tubs? 
Try not to.  There’s even more chlorine in hot tubs, and it’s hot.  Chemical reactions generally speed up at higher temperatures, so I’d definitely try to take off your silver before getting in the pool.  You might notice a definite color change afterwards that could take a lot of cleaning.

Salt Water
Not the end of the world, but possibly the end of your life.  Salt can be corrosive and can also leave residue on your jewelry which should be cleaned off.  If you can, take it off before going in the water.  If you forget, try to rinse it and dry it off with some clean water afterwards. The major downside is you might get eaten by a shark because the flashing of silver jewelry can look like shiny fish scales.

Hot Springs  
Please don't.  Hot springs often contain a lot of different minerals, specifically Sulfur.  Jewelers use Sulfuric acid to intentionally oxidize silver jewelry so . . . you could be in for a big color change here.  I’d advise against wearing your silver jewelry in any kind of hot spring.

This is a lot of information I'm not sure what to do with it . . . 

Here’s the moral of the story : water itself does not damage sterling silver, it’s the chemicals in the water that can cause it to change color.  Your silver is going to change color over time, but how quickly it changes depends on how often you wear it and the chemicals you expose it to.  It’s the chemicals in different types of water that can react with the silver.
My advice is to wear your silver jewelry (the oils from your skin help keep it clean), and do the best that you can to avoid exposing it to harsh chemicals.  If you slip up it’s probably not the end of the world - most color changes that occur do not imply “damage,” and can be cleaned at home, and worst case can be cleaned professionally.  If you’re on vacation and not getting in the pool or ocean every few minutes means not you aren’t going to wear it at all, store it in a sealed plastic bag in a dry place.
Hope this helps, and feel free to comment with any questions!
Wondering if you can swim in your other jewelry?  Check out this post.

5 comments

Pour boiling water (1 cup) into a bowl lined with aluminum foil (shiny side up). Add 1 tbs baking soda and then add your jewelry. Let sit 3-5 min and take out with tongs. Your silver jewelry will look brand new

Janie January 09, 2020

Steve is correct but make sure you use the paste and not gel type of toothpaste. Specifically Tartar Control Colgate works in my experience. On jewelry I use an old toothbrush, and when polishing other silver I use an old Tshirt. DON’T USE PAPER Towels as they show scratches.

Before I try toothpaste, which is hard to find, I mix baking soda and water at a 3:1 ratio. How much depends on what you need to polish. To apply use I use an old toothbrush or Tshirt, something soft that won’t scratch.

Whatever method you choose, when you’re done, completely dry your bracelet and wrap it up in tissue paper. Gift kind not Kleenex 😉 Then place your bracelet and also a piece of chalk into a Ziploc bag to store it. That keeps it from having to be polished as often.

As a side note, being the only girl, I’ve been the recipient of my Great Aunt, Grandmother and Mama’s jewelry. Monetary, they’re only worth very little but they’re insured and what I don’t daily wear gets locked away in the bank vault like they’re worth billions. Memories of the women associated with each piece, that’s what makes them my most valuable possessions. I’m sure your Granddaughter will be very appreciative to receive your bracelet as well. All those times I use to wear their jewelry, every necklace and bracelet they owned all at once playing dress up, especially my Granny’s jewelry and all 3 of them would get so mad at me! As they were laughing through their teeth I imagine because I don’t remember getting in trouble, only that I did it!

Carrie January 09, 2020

I use toothpaste, it works an absolute treat and is obviously inexpensive.

Steve Richardson February 01, 2019

I have had my sterling sliver bracelet for 53 yrs and it as gone very dull and as lost it’s original colour. I would like to know what I can clean it with to try and bring it back to it original colour if possible. Has I would like to pass it onto my Granddaughter.
I would be grateful if you could help me by letting me know what I can buy to clean it up

Thank you kind regards Mrs Pearl Walker
Pearl Walker October 03, 2018

I have had my sterling sliver bracelet for 53 yrs and it as gone very dull and as lost it’s original colour. I would like to know what I can clean it with to try and bring it back to it original colour if possible. Has I would like to pass it onto my Granddaughter.
I would be grateful if you could help me by letting me know what I can buy to clean it up

Thank you kind regards Mrs Pearl Walker
Pearl Walker October 03, 2018

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