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My wife and I were visiting some friends who were recently married and had received heirloom silver as a wedding present. It was obvious it had been recently polished, but some of the pieces still had a little tarnish on them. Is it ok to eat off of that, or should I schedule a doctors appointment to get checked out for this reason?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

If it's pure silver, it's fine. Silver isn't toxic. Well...if you get some colloidial silver, and you dose yourself with it every day, you'll have some disturbing symptoms. The same is true of almost all metals. Iron pills, for example, are worse, but we commonly cook with cast iron. Metallic silver is sometimes used as a chelating agent, so it can purge your body of other metals you may have absorbed.

If its heirloom electroplated silver, it's probably still fine. If it's heirloom pewter, coated in copper, then electroplated with silver, its still fine (because pewter doesn't tarnish, so the tarnish is either silver or copper) but I wouldn't eat anything acidic with it, because it'll leech lead into your food.

Note : There is no way you have pewter. That was a joke.

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There have been (official), questions about eating silver, but generally it is accepted as safe as a food ingredient. Those silver balls you sometimes see on cakes are sugar, coated with silver, and some Indo-asian sweets are coated with silver foil.

Soluble forms of silver might be very bad for you, but the tarnish is oxidation and would not be soluble. Nothing to worry about.

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Silver sulfide, AKA tarnish, has a solubility of 0.14 mg/L (0.14 ppm), and takes a long time to dissolve.

EPA action levels are much higher:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that the concentration of silver in public drinking water supplies not exceed one milligram per liter of water — one part per million — because of the skin discoloration that may occur from chronic silver exposure.

You have nothing to worry about.

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