Can I wear my sterling silver bracelet in a hot tub with chlorinated water?

Dear Paula,

I just placed an order for a sterling silver twist bracelet and am very excited to receive it. I was speaking to family members that own Sterling silver and they said it will turn black if I wear it in the pool or hot tub.I am thinking that my bracelet is made from better material and that I will not have this problem. Please let me know what you think about this matter.
I love the look of this bracelet and have been waiting to purchase it for quite a few years. I have had your website in my favorites and I finally made my purchase. Thank you for your time and patience. WS


Hi WS,

The bracelet you ordered is made from sterling silver. I have had one for years and it is as shiny as ever – maybe once a year I wipe it with a polishing cloth.
But I have never worn one in a shower, bath, dishwater, pool, hot tub and wouldn’t recommend it because as you would learn if you google this search phrase “sterling silver chlorine”

One effect that chlorine can have on sterling silver is discoloration or tarnish. Discoloration happens when the copper in the alloy reacts with the chlorine. The discoloration can be either a light brown or black.

Also, silver is a very good conductor of heat so wearing jewelry in a hot tub would seem to invite discomfort…….just sayin’


To Polish or Not to Polish, That is the Question……….

We sell many used and vintage pieces that have from light to heavy patina and tarnish on them. We leave the choice of whether to polish or not to the customer.

Patina is the overall uniform darkening that occurs from aging. Patina adds a richness to vintage pieces. How much patina you like is personal preference, there is no right or wrong.

Tarnish, on the other hand, is a thin dirty film that appears on silver as it oxidizes. Tarnish, in my opinion, should be remove regularly using a mild method, such as with a buffing cloth.  Each of these pieces took about one minute to fully polish with a cloth.

Here is one of my favorite contemporary Hopi Man in a Maze bracelets (by Cyrus Josytewa) before buffing. Basically a dirty bracelet !



30 seconds later - half done

30 seconds later – half done

DONE One minute of polishing

DONE One minute of polishing

Tarnish on polishing cloth

Tarnish on polishing cloth

Hubby’s favorite buckle (Stanley Gene, Navajo) has some nice patina and also has tarnish. I’m on the fence with this piece – I actually think I prefer the overall patina but he volunteered it for an example. A buckle makes contact with a lot of surfaces so even after the tarnish is removed, the buckles still has its character scratches.







Here are some more articles related to jewelry care:

Are you supposed to polish Navajo Pearls?

Cleaning Vintage Native American Jewelry

A reminder about jewelry polishing cloths


How do I clean my Navajo sterling silver and turquoise jewelry?

Hi Paula,

How do you clean the silver and turquoise Navajo bracelets and earrings?  I had been using a commercial jewelry cleaner and brushing it on, not soaking it.  I noticed one earring changed color?  Thanks, Judy

Hi Judy,

In a word – carefully !

First of all, the cardinal rule is to never allow any cleaner to come in contact with the stones or their settings (the sterling silver bezel that holds the stone in) as the stones may change color (as you’ve experienced) or the settings may loosen.

Really the very best way to keep sterling silver shiny is with regular maintenance. Buff with a silver polishing cloth after each use and before you put the jewelry on. Store in anti-tarnish boxes and/or bags. I have a number of articles on this topic here on my blog.

In the right hand column, if you choose the Category  “Care” you will get a list of all the articles on this blog related to care and storage which describe what causes tarnish in the first place and all types of solutions from simple (zip lock bag) to elaborate (anti-tarnish cloth lined boxes and drawers.)


Native American Bracelet and Cuff Watch Storage Ideas

This is my last (for a while) installment on the sterling silver storage theme.  And it will be short and sweet.

This system consists of a 17″ x 17″ x 5″ drawer lined with anti-tarnish cloth.

Leave a large flap of extra anti-tarnish cloth attached to the front of the drawer that can be folded over to use like a blankie to tuck the bracelets in.

The storage bars are moveable, they are not fixed. The are 3″ tall and 1 1/8 wide and 15″ long. If your bracelets have a 1″ gap, you will want to make the bars 7/8″ or 1″ wide or the bracelets won’t slip onto the bars.

The bracelet bars are covered in the anti-tarnish cloth. To keep the bars from rolling over, a foot is attached to the end of each bar and I put that end in the back of the drawer. The foot is made from 1 1/2″ lathe approximately 3″ long.


Native American Sterling Silver Jewelry Display Ideas from Tallbear

This from Blog Reader Tallbear who originally asked me about storage and display.

Hey Paula,
I am sending the two pics showing the display cases.

The Squash and Buckles I had purchased some anti-tarnish cloth and took it to the craft shop that was going to frame it for me.  I had the shop cover the inside back with that then mount the items on it using stick pins and frame them.  It is quite a large wall mounted display.

The two watch cuffs and the bracelet, I found a display case for baseballs at a craft store, got one for three baseballs.  cut two pieces of Styrofoam (swim noodle) and covered them with the anti-tarnish cloth and put the watch cuffs around them and the bracelet in the middle.

Hopefully the anti- tarnish cloth will keep them polished. Any way, hope this will give others some ideas.


Hi Tallbear,

Thanks so much for the ideas. Please let us know if either or both methods prevent tarnish.

This ties in nicely to the last part of my series on storage to prevent tarnish which will come by the weekend. So stay tuned.


More Sterling Silver Native American Jewelry Storage Ideas

This is a continuation to Tall Bear’s request for ideas on storage of Native American sterling silver jewelry to protect it and prevent it from tarnishing.

I previously showed you the Navajo Pearl tequila chests that hubby made.

Here is another idea. There are commercially available jewelry boxes that are lined with anti-tarnish cloth. They come in all sizes from simple ring boxes like the one I show below to full sized chests. Some have see-through lids so you can also use them as display boxes. Part of owning Native American wearable art is to be able to see it even when we aren’t wearing it !

Note that I own mostly pawn rings with patina so my photo example does not show shiny rings. However if you have new rings or want to keep rings shiny, you will have a much easier time if you use one of these boxes.

Another method that we use here in the jewelry store it to place strips of 3M anti-tarnish paper inside the bags we use to store our inventory. So you could use the strips in a variety of ways during storage to help prevent tarnish.

Anti-Tarnish Strips help keep silver tarnish-free by preventing oxidation because they absorb hydrogen sulfides from the air.

They last from a few weeks (if exposed to air) up to a year (if used in a sealed container). We used them with well-sealed zip lock bags.

For storing large pieces of jewelry, you can purchase anti-tarnish cloth by the yard and bundle up the items like you do with your silver table ware.

Watch for more of my jewelry storage tips coming soon to finish up this topic.


Navajo Cuff Bracelet – Tom Hawk

I had a silver cuff bracelet with Tom Hawk engraved inside. I looked them up by surfing for the website.
Double Carinated Navajo Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet by Tom Hawk

Double Carinated Navajo Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet by Tom Hawk

I have this necklace that I bought at Dillards. The sales lady insisted it was silver, but after a while I noticed that the silver was rubbing off. I get a red itchy rash if it’s not real silver or gold.
What I was wondering, I like my necklace. Could anyone at Tom Hawk jewelry make the same necklace for me in silver. All of it silver. I don’t like shiny silver, I guess I like raw silver. Anyway, is it possible for this to be done?
Thanks, CF

I have emailed one other time, and I don’t know if the email got to it’s destination. I bought a silver necklace from Dillards. The sales person said it was silver and I wouldn’t have a allergic reaction. The necklace was “silver plated” NOT real silver. So, I found this problem out because the silver was rubbing off, and I’m not sure what metal it was, but I had a reaction to it. The claw clasp was this dark metal maybe nickel.,..I don’t know.
The thing is I want my necklace, it was perfect, and it’s just so frustrating. Anyway, I wanted to send the necklace to Tom Hawk jewelers to see if they could replicate the necklace in all silver. Not shiny just real silver. Can this be done? I hope so.
Hi Cindy,
Sorry for the delay in replying. I answer emails in the order they arrive as time permits.
We don’t take custom orders and 95% of the artists we deal with don’t accept custom orders.
Here are a couple of other posts that talk about why special orders aren’t an option with us.
The necklace you purchased at the department store was likely a nickel alloy under the sterling silver plating – once the sterling silver wears off – the metal underneath can cause a skin reaction. Many people are affected that way.
When someone says something  is “silver”, it usually means silver-tone (silver colored) or silver plated. If it is Sterling Silver, they usually say it is “sterling” or “sterling silver” and the piece would be stamped either Sterling or Sterling Silver or STER or 925 on the back.
Read all about silver here.
Tom Hawk makes great rings to match the cuff bracelets.


Native American Jewelry – Antiquing


While shopping your Bargain Barn, I have a question.

The descriptions of the following 2 bracelets say:

“This bracelet came in an estate group along with other pieces that were verifiable Native American made pieces. But this one has an artificial patina on the sterling silver from an acid wash.”


Sterling Silver and Turquoise Bargain Barn Bracelet

Sterling Silver and Turquoise Bargain Barn Bracelet



Vintage Sterling Silver and Turquoise Bargain Barn Bracelet

Vintage Sterling Silver and Turquoise Bargain Barn Bracelet


My question is – How could you tell that it had an artificial patina?  I didn’t know acid was used to produce patina (although I guess that’s what it does in the test for silver).  I thought chemicals like liver of sulfur were used to patinate silver – like to darken the lower level in shadowbox and overlay jewelry.

Regards, Joan

Hi Joan,

That was a typo – it was meant to say “alkaline wash” or “has been antiqued” and I have made that correction on the description of those two bracelets – thank you very much for calling that to my attention.

Yes liver of sulfur is often used by Native American artists for shadowbox, storyteller, and overlay techniques to create a darkened background for contrast with the bright shiny sterling silver elements of a piece.
Antiquing is also used on sterling silver Navajo beads, such as these by Virginia Tso.
Antiqued Sterling Silver Navajo Beads by Virginia Tso

Antiqued Sterling Silver Navajo Beads by Virginia Tso

We know it is an artificial patina on those bracelets from the experience of seeing the patina on very old pieces (which is somewhat spotty) vs. patina which appears to have been applied (and seems more uniform like a wash).

You can read more about Patina and Tarnish in this article.

The bracelets are sterling silver and have very nice stones. When we can’t authenticate the maker of a bracelet as Native American, we put the items in our Bargain Barn at half the price.
Thanks again for the good eyes and come back and visit !

Navajo Pearls – Everything You Need to Know About Sterling Silver Native American Beads

Sterling Silver Navajo bead necklaces are an old tradition with Navajo silversmiths. Besides being used alone as necklaces or necklaces with pendants, sterling silver beads are an integral part of squash blossom necklaces.

Dear Paula,

I love the Marie Yazzie beads I just received !


Navajo Sterling Silver Stamped Beads by Navajo Marie Yazzie


I would like to get another stamped set, this time just a little bit shorter and perhaps lighter weight for summer…but I’m undecided as to whether to get graduated or not…do you remember the other pair I got in January? Between those and the Marie Yazzie beads I just received, I want to add one more set – now which do you recommend?” – Cynthia

Hi Cynthia,

The beads that you just received are nice heavy beads with deep stamping.

The ones you bought in January were plain (not stamped) and great for using with pendants.

Native American Sterling Silver Beads by Navajo Lily Yazzie

Native American Sterling Silver Beads by Navajo Lily Yazzie

So now, after talking with you on the phone, it sounds like you want a set that you can wear with tank tops and V neck tees kind of as a dress down/dress up statement. I can relate !!  Love it !!

To give you the very best advice, please read the entire article below which you have inspired me to write…then look for my answer to your specific question after the end of the article. – Paula

Navajo Pearls

Everything You Need to Know About Sterling Silver Native American Beads

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Sterling Silver Navajo bead necklaces are an old tradition with Navajo silversmiths. Besides being used alone as necklaces or necklaces with pendants, sterling silver beads are an integral part of squash blossom necklaces.

Native American Squash Blossom Necklace

Native American Squash Blossom Necklace

Authentic Native American sterling silver beads are getting more difficult to find as they are very labor intensive to make (you’ll see what I mean after you learn the process below). There are many sterling silver bead necklaces available but if you want Native American handmade, then it helps to know more about them so you know what you are getting.

Bench made Beads vs Hand Made Beads

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Handmade (hand made) beads are entirely hand crafted: cutting, stamping, dapping, drilling, soldering, filing, polishing, stringing is all done by hand. Hand made beads are very labor intensive, therefore much more expensive than bench made beads. Also, when taking the time to make beads by hand, Navajo silversmiths generally use heavy gauge sterling silver, which also adds to the price. Handmade Native American beads are the most cherished and desired by customers. Because each bead is made individually, there might be slight variations from bead to bead.

Handmade Navajo Sterling Silver Beads

Navajo Sterling Silver Benchmade Beads

Navajo Sterling Silver Benchmade Beads

Bench made Beads (also known as Bench Beads) usually refer to beads that are partially manufactured and partially hand made. Usually the silversmith starts with some machine cut pieces, which are then soldered. The seam is usually fairly prominent.


Note the prominent seams on these bench made beads, part of a squash blossom necklace made of howlite.

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Graduated Beads vs All One Size

Graduated beads are available in lengths from 16” to 28” and usually consist of 5 sizes of beads. There is only one of the largest beads at the center and the others graduate from the center toward the ends. The bead sizes might range from approximately 22 mm (7/8”) in diameter for the large center bead 13 mm (1/2”) at the ends or something similar.

Handmade Sterling Silver Graduated Navajo Beads by Marie Yazzie

Handmade Sterling Silver Graduated Navajo Beads by Marie Yazzie

Beads that are all one size are uniform throughout the necklace and are commonly available in 7 mm to 12 mm diameter – although beads outside that range are also available. When they are about 8-10 mm and round, they really look like “pearls” if you ask me.

Sterling Silver Navajo Pearls by Larry Pinto

Sterling Silver Navajo Pearls by Larry Pinto

Bead Size Equivalent Chart

Bead Shape and Style

Round – The basic shape of a sterling silver bead is round.

Round Sterling Silver Navajo Pearls

Round Sterling Silver Navajo Pearls

Seed – The seed bead is a round bead that has been squashed so it is shorter than it is wide and has a more defined seam, which makes it look something like a seed.

Sterling Silver Navajo Seed Bead

Sterling Silver Navajo Seed Bead

Melon Beads were originally known as the melon seed bead – a unique elongated shape.

Navajo Pearls and Melon Beads by Virginia Tso

Navajo Pearls and Melon Beads by Virginia Tso

Barrel Beads are long, straight, smooth cylinders.

Navajo Sterling Silver Barrel Beads by Susie Lee

Navajo Sterling Silver Barrel Beads by Susie Lee

Plain Beads have a smooth surface (see Round Beads above).

Stamped beads have a stamped pattern. It can be deep and definite or shallow and subtler.

Stamped Beads by Navajo Lily Yazzie

Stamped Beads by Navajo Lily Yazzie

Fluted beads (also called embossed) have a ridged surface pattern.

Fluted Sterling Silver Beads by Calvin Largo, Navajo

Fluted Sterling Silver Beads by Calvin Largo, Navajo

New beads are shiny and polished and if kept buffed, they will retain their shiny surface. If left unpolished, they will develop a patina.

Antiqued beads are those that have been treated so that they have a darkened appearance of patina.

Antiqued Sterling Silver Beads by Virginia Tso, Navajo

Antiqued Sterling Silver Beads by Virginia Tso, Navajo

How Navajo Pearls are Made

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The Navajo silversmith that makes beads has two specialized hand tools. One is a dapping block that has concave half domes of various sizes in it. The other is a set of correspondingly sized dapping punches, which have ball ends.

Each bead starts out as two flat discs of sterling silver of a specific size. Each disc is domed one at a time by placing the disc over an appropriately sized cavity and dapping it with the punch until the flat disc becomes domed. Each half-bead is filed so that it will fit evenly with the other half-bead. A hole is drilled in the top of each dome. The burr from the drilling is filed off. Narrow strips of silver solder are cut and placed between the halves and with ample flux the two pieces are soldered together. The edge is filed and the bead is polished.

OK, one plain smooth bead has been made !

Variations on the process are needed if the bead is to be stamped or fluted.

If a bead is going to have a stamped design on it, the stamping usually occurs before dapping which is why the stamping on some beads might be a little bit deeper or shallower among beads. Remember – handmade.

If a bead is going to be fluted (sometimes called embossed), the silversmith uses fluted dies that fit into the dapping block as well as corresponding fluted punches. Fluted beads require larger discs of sterling silver to make a corresponding smooth bead of the same size. That’s because the fluting or “pleats” use up a good amount of material.

Most Navajo Pearls are strung on foxtail cord, which is a woven silver cord that can be sterling silver, nickel or other metals. A foxtail cord or chain is more like a cable, its strength and durability comes from weaving many small strands.

Weight of the beads

The final weight of a necklace starts with the gauge of the sterling silver sheet that is used to make the discs. Weight is directly related to price. Two similar looking 18” necklaces, for example, one weighing 20 grams and one weighing 50 grams will vary greatly in price, the latter probably costing 3 times the former.

Weight also affects drape. A heavier necklace hangs with a better shape than a lighter one. And heavier beads are more durable, a characteristic to consider if you are going to use the beads with large pendants. A necklace made with heavier beads will stand up to the job better than a lightweight one.

Weight is a personal preference though and you might want various weights for various uses. A very tiny woman would not want to wear a large, heavy necklace or it would be a burden rather than a joy. An average sized woman, however, can comfortably wear any sterling silver necklace in our store and most women have indicated to me, “the heavier the better”.

Length of beads

Most women wear a choker size 16-19”. A choker is a necklace that fits comfortably around the neck and is perfect for peeking out from underneath an open collared shirt or displayed openly when wearing a tank top, a V-neck tee shirt or halter top.

Sterling Silver Navajo Pearls with Pendant

Sterling Silver Navajo Pearls with Pendant

Chokers are also ideal for use with pendants. Pendants that work with sterling silver beads include those with a Shepherd’s Hook or a large open bail.

Shepherd's Hook on Native American Pendant

Shepherd’s Hook on Native American Pendant

Large Bail on a Native American Pendant

Large Bail on a Native American Pendant

Silver bead necklaces in the 19-22 inch range are great for wearing over a collared shirt, a sweater or a turtleneck – the added length gives the space need for over-the-clothing use.

Longer necklaces, those up to 28 inches in length can be used alone or in combination with fetish, heishi or squash blossom necklaces.

So, now Cynthia, to answer your question specifically:

You have one set of plain 18” beads (all-one-size) that are ideal for use alone as the classic “Navajo Pearls” or with a pendant.

You have one set of 19 ½” deeply stamped ornate beads that you could use over a sweater or collared shirt and could easily be stand-alone or could be used with a simple pendant.

If I were in your position, I’d either add a shorter stamped graduated or all-one-size stamped bead necklace to wear as a stand-alone choker. Depending on your size, that would probably be in the 16-19 inches range.

Remember, if you choose a graduated necklace, it would difficult if not impossible to use a pendant with it since the center bead is the biggest and would make it difficult to place a pendant in a balanced position.

The very first sterling silver necklace I purchased was a 17” stamped graduated choker and it is still one of my favorite “go-to” necklaces.

Have fun browsing and choosing and let me know if I can provide any other information about Navajo Pearls, one of my first jewelry passions. Paula

Tips on Caring for Native American Sterling Silver Jewelry

To keep Sterling Silver jewelry shiny, follow the tips in this article.

100% solid silver won’t tarnish but it is too soft to use for making jewelry – it could easily be scratched, dented and bent.
Sterling silver has a small amount of one or more other metals usually copper, added to the silver. To be called sterling silver, the alloy must contain at least 92.5% pure silver. Sterling silver alloy is harder than pure silver but the added metals also can cause discoloration or tarnish.

Tarnish or Rust?

Both tarnish and rust are due to exposure to air. Rust occurs when items such as those containing iron, combine with oxygen to form iron oxide. Rust eats into and deforms the iron, degrading its strength.
Tarnish, on the other hand, is a layer that forms on the surface of a silver alloy, for example, when the item is exposed to sulfur or hydrogen sulfide in the air. The chemical reaction that takes place produces silver sulfate, the smoky, gray or black residue that some people dislike. Others love it – it is called patina. Interestingly, a layer of tarnish actually protects an item from further tarnishing.

PatinaPatina is the film on the surface of an item produced by chemical changes over a long period of time. The green patina on the Statue of Liberty is verdigris, a normal darkening of copper when it is exposed to the atmosphere.
Patina is what gives older silver pawn jewelry its character. That’s why in our pawnshop, we never remove patina – we let the new owner decide if they want the item to show its age or to be shiny. Authentic patina increases the value of old Native American pieces.

Sulfur content in the air varies depending on location. Air near volcanic activity, some industries and heavy traffic can be high in sulfur. Homes built within the last 10 years or so that used drywall from China have been found to have very high concentrations of sulfur.

If you want to keep your sterling silver jewelry bright and shiny, here are some tips.

  • When you remove your jewelry, look for a build up on the inside of a bracelet or the back of a pendant, this is usually caused by sweat, make up, sloughed skin cells and the like. Carefully wipe the jewelry with a damp cloth or sponge to remove the buildup. Although silver doesn’t rust like iron, the salt in sweat can be corrosive to silver-copper alloys such as sterling silver so you want to remove any caked-on sweat or residue before storage. If your jewelry piece has stones, take care not to get the stones wet as it could loosen their settings.

  • Minimize contact of your jewelry with moisturizers, perfume, and makeup.
  • Remove your silver jewelry before you go swimming or if you can’t part with it, rinse it off promptly after swimming.
  • Store your silver jewelry in a dark, low humidity area. Sunshine, high humidity, body sweat and oils all hasten tarnishing. (see complete list below)
  • Wrap large valuable pieces in anti-tarnish cloth (ATC), store in ATC pouches or line your jewelry boxes or a jewelry drawer with ATC. You can purchase the cloth by the yard – it is the same type that lines your silverware box. (Watch for a future edition of PP for photos of jewelry storage drawer ideas. Go here to see anti-tarnish pouches.

    Anti Tarnish Pouches

  • Buff jewelry pieces with special silver polishing clothsto remove fingerprints and tarnish before wearing.

    Sterling Silver Polishing Cloth

  • Do not use polishing cloths on the stone portion of your jewelry.

For more serious cases of silver tarnish, there are many products and methods you can try but I am reluctant to recommend any until I have time to test the methods myself.

Things that cause tarnish on your sterling silver jewelry:
  • Humidity
  • Sweat
  • Skin Oil
  • Makeup
  • Perfume
  • Hair products
  • Anything with sulfur in it
  • Chemicals in clothing and detergents
  • Air pollution
  • Wool
  • Rubber
  • Latex
  • Some types of plastic bags

Vintage Items may have a Patina that you do not want to remove !