German Silver Fine Silver Content
Silver German Silver
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Most Silver “German Silver” is 80% to 83% Fine
German silver is a misnomer. In reality there is no such thing. That such a name has been used for marketing silver looking base metals items does not mean that such material is a uniform high silver content alloy. There are a lot of misconceptions about what is German silver, whether it is an actual silver alloy and many other related matters.
Lots of silverish looking cheap jewelry is referred to as “German Silver”. That sounds better than saying other things.
Silver “German Silver”
Again, “German Silver” is a misnomer, but for the sake of making things easier to understand, we will use that term. In principle, German silver is a silver based alloy with a silver content 83%, meaning that this silver items are 83% fine. This standard dates back to the day of the Holy Roman Empire, which vastly predates what is now Germany and Austria, thus the concept of “German Silver”.
Starting in the early 1700’s, in part of what today is the Czech republic, large silver deposits were discovered. Coinage made out of that silver was developed with at the standard of 83% silver and 17% copper and called the Thaler Maria Theresa Thaler. This standard was carried through in the manufacturing of fine silver items of northern European origin. Thus, most northern European silver flatware, hollow-ware and jewelry are still based on the 83% fine content standard. That is what is, to this date, mostly used in for silver item manufactured in Germany, Sweden, Czech republic, etc. Maybe it is because Germany has always being such silver items are referred to as “German Silver”.
To add to the confusion, a large percentage of Danish and German manufactured silver items are 80% fine silver. It is my understanding that this is because of taxation. Apparently, at over 80% fine silver contents, silver items were taxed much higher than at 80%. I can’t confirm this fact about silver.
Identifying “German Silver”
Although “German Silver” is of lower fine silver content than sterling silver, it closely resembles sterling, and it is hard to distinguish by just looking at the item side by side. Specially with high quality Danish or German silver items, it is very hard to tell that the fine silver content is lower. These types of silver products, as with most German and Danish products, are made with the best possible materials and craftsmanship.
The main way to distinguish for “German Silver” is to look for the stamp. Most of this items will be stamped with hallmarks such as “800” or “830” (meaning 800 parts, 830 parts of silver per 1000). Look also for indications such as “850” or similar things. If the item only says “silver” or something such, and it is of northern European origin, it is best to assume it is 80% fine.
Testing Silver “German Silver”
One of the best ways to test “German Silver” is to use the “Silver Solution” testing kit. This fluid, at contact with silver, becomes red. It usually becomes red sooner with fine (pure) silver. It takes longer to turn red with sterling silver (925 fine). It takes much longer to turn red, and will be of a lesser deep red color with “German Silver” (around 80% fine)