German Silver

Non Precious Metal “German Silver” Content

Non-Silver German Silver

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Most “German Silver” is NOT Silver

German silver is a misnomer.  There are a lot of misconceptions about what is German silver, whether it is an actual silver alloy and many other related matters.

There are two types of alloys referred to as “German Silver”.   One of them is used for electronics and inexpensive costume jewelry, and has no silver content.   The other one is a silver alloy standard used in coins and silver alloy items.


Non Silver “German Silver”

This is the most common type of “German Silver”.   These types of alloys have non to negligible silver content.  They are mostly are a combination of copper, nickel and zinc in various proportions, plus often other metals, with copper being around 60%.  To the untrained eye, this material looks like silver, and is often passed as silver.  In fact, some of it is engineered such that, when in new, in untarnished, well polished condition, it requires testing to differentiate from sterling silver. However, very soon the differences become evident.  Plus, it is is much lighter than silver.

Other Names

Other names which non-silver German silver goes by are below

  • Nickel silver
  • Mailechort
  • Nickel brass
  • Albata
  • Alpaca
  • New silver

All these materials differ somewhat depending on the application.  The main thing to remember is that they are not silver.  That something looks like silver does not mean that it is silver.

Common Items
  • Costume jewelry
  • Cheap “silver” jewelry, usually sold in resorts in Mexico, Thailand and other such places
  • Electronics components

The easiest way to determine for sure if an item is a copper based alloy or not is by testing with nitric  acid.  Apply nitric acid to the subject metal and wait.  A green bubbly and smoky reaction will soon occur.  Sometimes it is necessary to cut into the item to expose the core.  See video.




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