Science Questions

Will silver jewellery harm my health?

Wed, 4th Sep 2013

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I have a question on silver metal.


Today, I have purchased on silver finger ring and a bracelet. Will it affect my body, and what is the risk of harm from wearing a silver ring and bracelet? It's 92.5% silver.




Laura - I would’ve thought mainly, silver jewellery would be fine first of all Ringbecause silver is fairly unreactive and secondly, we’ve been wearing silver jewellery for many, many years. You can find it in archaeological sites all over the place. I think there would be potentially a little bit of a worry if there's something that he’s allergic to in the alloy because no silver is 100% pure usually when you're wearing silver jewellery. So, that can be a problem.  Some of the silver atoms will eventually – if you're wearing a ring, some of those atoms will move into your skin, but I wouldn't have thought there would be any kind of problem.

Chris - There was a gentleman, I think we discussed him here on the programme previously, who thought that silver was a good thing because it kills microorganisms and that kind of thing. So, he was drinking a solution of silver salts every day and he unfortunately went blue. This is a condition called argyria and he looks like a smurf honestly, bright blue and it’s permanent because the silver goes into the skin and then reacts with sunlight, and you get this bluey grey gun metal sort of coloration. I've seen him on television. He’s absolutely blue.

Laura - He is absolutely blue. What's even more astonishing is that he still drinks the colloidal silver because he still believes that it gives him these health giving properties. But I think there's a big, big difference between drinking what we call colloidal silver which is a large amount of it getting into your skin where it reacts and a couple of atoms occasionally getting into your skin. I mean, you eat probably more than you'll absorb from your jewellery.


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People have been using silver jewellery since prehistory without much problem.
Silver is used as a food "colour": it's about as safe a material as you can have as long as you don't dissolve it in acid then drink it.

Some very small number of people may be allergic to it and, of course there's the other 7.5% of the alloy which might cause problems, but I'd not worry about it.
Bored chemist, Thu, 11th Jul 2013

Silver compounds are added to some (rather expensive) wound dressings, as silver ions seem to do more harm to some bacteria than they do to humans.

So a small amount of silver leaching from the jewellery may actually have a small positive health effect.

At the other extreme, there is a small chance that with continual exposure to silver, you may breed a batch of super-bugs resistant to silver ions, and then these expensive dressings won't help you at all..

But I wouldn't be worried about either of these possibilities, because there are many millions of people around the world who have been wearing silver jewellery for years, in various alloys like gold+silver.

The mains risks of silver jewellery are:

Pure silver is moderately soft, so it may bend out of shape if you hit it, or the chain may break if it catches on something

Sulphur-containing compounds can cause silver to tarnish, and it needs regular cleaning. Sulphur is fairly common, occurring in high concentrations eggs and garlic, among many others.

evan_au, Thu, 11th Jul 2013

Increased chance of being mugged.

"jewellery-related accidents and injuries" do occur . RD, Fri, 12th Jul 2013

The risk of wearing silver jewelry is, for most intent, none.
The risk of reacting to the base metals used to alloy with silver, to stiffen it , are the usual culprits that can turn fingers green or black, depending on the person's own body chemistry. 

High-grade sterling silver is itself, a broad-spectrum germicidal effective against most bacteria, viruses, and maybe other types of germs. 
As far as I know, to date, there has been ZERO incidence of any germ developing ability to thrive in silver's presence....
BUT...not ruling that out...perhaps that could happen, though after so many hundreds of years of silver still being germicidal, I doubt this would happen unless mad scientists deliberately designed germs to tolerate silver. 
It took many years to get silver colloid creme allowed to be used for burn patients; the tipping point finally came when pharmaceutical companies known to be blocking it's use, were accused of deliberate malfeasance.  Silver creme is Very good stuff, now more commonly prescribed for other hard-to-heal sores and such, too.  These only have silver ions, no base metal ions.
Because of silver's amazing germicidal gift, many have taken to using Colloidal Silver, topically and internally, to kill germs.
And it does a fantastic job. 
Where people can go wrong with colloidal silver is:
  1. Using the wrong grade of silver , to make their colloidal silver: base metals in the silver, perhaps in conjunction with the silver, are more commonly toxic in that size of doses;
  2. AND by using Huge daily doses, internally, for weeks or months . 
These errors have occasionally caused a condition called "Argyria", where the skin starts looking kind of gray/blue . 
Some Docs say it is impossible to reverse Argyria. 
HOWEVER: if chelation therapy is used , and/or the person stops using high doses, it CAN reverse . 
Otherwise, there is no specific, known, significant other problem from having high-body content of silver, other than it helps protect the person from germs...they get far fewer other infections being passed around... IDK...they might tarnish? .
I would NOT recommend constant use of Colloidal silver, even if it is good stuff. 
But if one wants to have a bit of gentility in their lives, can eat with real sterling silver utensils:  just doing that, daily, will usually cause enough silver ions systemically in the body to be a good preventative, will not cause Argyria, and that is far less costly than buying Colloidal silver.  And drastically less costly than buying medicines to combat infections once germs are allowed to start causing illness.

If you are concerned about your finger turning green or black under the rings worn, please understand that usually washes off using soap and water, or maybe a bit of Bon Ami.  It is caused by the body's chemistry reacting to the metals in the jewelry. Some folks have more sulfur in their skin, maybe, which would cause the blackening.  if skin turns bluish or greenish, that's more likely from reacting to copper in the metal item.
IF you are one of the fairly rare persons with certain metal Allergies, THAT could be a concern, as that could cause blistering.  IF that is the case, you need to work with your Doctor to learn specifically what metals you might be allergic to, and how best to avoid those. 

In the meantime, IF a skin-greening or blackening reaction worries you, you might try doing what we used to do decades ago: 
We got clear nail polish and used that to coat the cleaned metal sides of the jewelry items that touch skin.  That plasti-coated the metal, protecting the skin under it from direct contact.  I'm no fan of using manmade chemicals, but this seemed to do the trick for things like rings, for most people. 
Not for necklaces...those we would wear on the outside of a blouse, so the cloth was protecting skin from the metal. 
Earrings: if pierced, there are now plastic jackets made that the earring wire fits into, which then go through the hole in the ear.  IF clip-style, can also try the clear nail polish trick on parts that contact the skin.  Always allow the nail polish coating to dry very well first, before wearing the item.
Chimonger, Thu, 18th Feb 2016

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