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Nickle silver?

I recently was given a spoon to be made into a ring. It is gold in
colour, and doesn’t polish. The symbols on the back of the spoon are:
NS 7 EP. I looked online and everything I have seen says that NS =
Nickle Silver, and EP= Electro plated. Am I correct in thinking that
it is nickle silver? I guess I had always thought Nickle Silver was
grey, not gold. Maybe there is brass in it??

I would love to hear your thoughts. I will attach the a picture, so
you know what I am talking about.

Thank you

Hi Karyn

Here in Argentina it’s a very popular alloy (we call it ALPACA) for
cheap jewelry at fairs and stores, and was, long ago largely used in
tableware, some times silver plated. Nickel silver has no silver in
it, and the proportion of Copper-Nickel-Zinc with other additives
metals as molybdenum, varies from different manufacturers, some times
is 80%Cu-18%Ni-2%Zn and the color is always yellowish, it fire scales
easily, for annealing look for de blue-brown hue after the flame goes
over and don’t get it yellow red: has a higher melting point that
sterling, for polishing you have to go harder with the tripoli and
white diamond compound works better that rouge, it can be
interesting to work with since is very inexpensive, creating shape
and textures in large pieces of sheet, but I don’t like the smell.
Here, a few metal craft artisans send their alpaca jewelry to silver
plate to look better and to keep for long the finishing, since alpaca
tarnish and get more golden yellow with time.

I hope this help you and if some fellow has better knowledge, and
finds any discrepancies with my experience, please, I want to learn.



it is a copper-nickel alloy, same as many “silver” coins and so
varies considerably in composition, hence colour differences. For
cutlery it is usually silver plated. NS sheet and wire is often sold
as “German silver” and looks like slightly tarnished silver, hence
grey. the cutlery, being plated afterwards will have more copper in
it and hence the brassy colour which you wouldnt usually see.

Nick Royall


I use nickel silver in my jewelry, but I play up the firescale. I
love the patina it will get after being torched, doused in my "dirty"
water, and then I put flux on it and torch a few more times. I press
it into my, again “dirty” soldering plate, and it picks op bits of
solder, silver left behind. I think nickel silver has a great look
all its own.


Remember nickel is a poison and is banned in Australia. It should not
be worn next to the skin or used for eating etc. Some people are very
allergic to nickel, the salts can build up in the system with
unpleasant consequences. Brass, copper and lead likewise. You dont
want a customer suing you!

David Cruickshank Australia

Remember nickel is a poison and is banned in Australia. 

That’s something I didn’t know, I thought it was a voluntary
exclusion of the metal.

Thanks David.

I believe nickel is banned in Euro countries as well. I certainly
haven’t used it in jewellery for many years. Used to be good for
brooch pins but no there are too many health issues related to it
when next to the skin. I don’t think there are the same issues with
copper, used as an alloy in most carat golds, nor zinc which a
constituent part of some gold alloys and is used in the production
of silver solder’s. Brass is usually a mixture of copper and zinc and
if nothing else is added should be Ok. Lead is definately out but
Pewter objects made in pure tin are OK and is used for drinking
vessels etc. Old Pewter contained some lead as well as other metals
and therefore is only suitable for display purposes. It is said that
the fall of the Roman empire could be attributed to the use of lead
in the drinking vessels they used for wine. The wine leaching out the
lead which was then consumed. Interesting thought isn’t it.


I believe nickel is banned in Euro countries as well.

It is more complicated than that. The EU has created a standard of
how much nickel can be released by an item in a given period of time.
To test this the item is immersed in an artificial sweat solution at
a specified temperature for a specified time period. Then the
solution is analyzed for the amount of nickel in solution. So some
alloys that are high in nickel like 304 stainless steel will pass the
nickel release test but most if not all nickel bearing white gold
will not pass and neither will nickel silver. The test has to be done
by a certified lab. It is also interesting to note that this is a
criminal statute not a civil one.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

Remember nickel is a poison and is banned in Australia. 

Nickel is very important metal for any civilized county. Below is few
examples, which is by no means exhaustive:

Nickel Alloy Parts in Power Generation

The power generation industry relies on machines such as gas
turbines, steam turbines, and reciprocating compressors, all which
are exposed to high levels of heat and possibly corrosive steam as
well. Nickel alloy parts are used in power generation for their
ability to resist corrosion, deformation, cracking, and metal
fatigue in the presence of high temperatures.

Aerospace and Nickel Alloy

The aerospace and aviation industries rely on nickel-based
superalloys for their ability to retain strength and resist metal
fatigue in high temperatures and during drastic temperature change.
Also strong, lightweight, and aesthetic in appearance, nickel alloys
are an excellent choice for the parts and components needed for
aerospace and aviation operations.

Nickel Alloy Parts in Chemical Processing

From heat exchangers and furnaces to waste remediation units and
flares, chemical processing and petrochemical processing require
nickel alloys to resist corrosion, metal fatigue, and other problems
associated with elevated temperatures and caustic media.

Food Processing with Nickel Alloy Parts

The food processing industry requires nickel alloy parts in storage
tanks, piping, and more. Nickel alloys also have the ability to
resist abrasion or erosion by the product itself and ensure that
product remains uncontaminated.

Each and every of the above and many more expose almost everybody to
contact with Nickel in much higher degree than minute amounts used in
jewellery, so arbitrary exclusion of Nickel is nothing but a
complete idiocy.

Leonid Surpin


All of the things you enumerate are indeed examples of the use of
Nickel in our industrial equipment, whether in Power Generation,
Aerospace, or food processing w/nickel alloy parts.

However, if you are allergic to nickel (as I am), you cannot wear
anything that touches your skin ongoing that has nickel in it. If I
wear any earrings with nickel in them within 5 minutes of having
them on, my ear lobes are coated with small blisters - same is true
with bracelets. Necklaces? If the chain is made from nickel silver I
can’t wear it, if it’s the pendant and the necklace itself is
sterling and if the pendant hangs long enough that it rests on the
fabric I am wearing rather than just my skin, I can deal with it.
But in any case where the nickel actually touches my skin, I am
covered with blisters within a few minutes of contacting it. Other
than that I am not allergic to anything other than sulfa drugs. Same
deal. I was given a sulfa based drug in the hospital (this was
before I knew I was allergic to it) and within minutes of having it
administered I was covered over my entire body with itching

So while nickel may be fine in the areas you described, but used in
jewelry it can be questionable. If you have never experienced such
an allergic reaction, be extremely grateful, but don’t suggest that
allergic reactions to it are idiocy because I can assure you they are


Remember nickel is a poison and is banned in Australia.

Nickel is very important metal for any civilized county. Below is
few examples, which is by no means exhaustive: 

I believe David meant exclusion for use in the jewellery industry CIA

I agree and in my years in the trade have come across severe reaction
to alloys with a nickel content. I now use Palladium white gold and
believe the other gold alloys I use are nickel free. New brass is a
mixture of copper and zinc used in different proportions for
different applications, Bronze and Bell Metal etc., neither of these
is usually a problem against the skin, it probably will discolour but
I still would not use it for penetrative applications like ear wires.
Old brass had other metals added to give different mechanical
qualities (metals like antimony etc.) so has to be treated with
caution) New Pewter I believe to be pure Tin which makes it suitable
for drinking vessels etc. but old Pewter contained other metals such
as lead and is only suitable for display purposes. For ear wires I
use surgical steel wire but even that contains some nickel and
although used internally in operations the bodies immune system can
react to the nickel in it. Titanium which has a microstructure stable
oxide layer which is always present is better and is used in surgery
for stents and internal staples. I have to say I have never had
trouble with surgical steel. I remember the Italian trade started
making very competitively priced 9ct gold chain, before long people
were complaining about black marks from the chain their necks. To
reduce the cost of the raw material the manufacturers had reduced the
silver content of the alloy and substituted zinc. We had to gold
plate it to solve problem, it also had a dull appearnce. I am only
looking at these metals from the perspective of a working jewellery
who does not want to deal with customer health problems.

So while nickel may be fine in the areas you described, but used
in jewelry it can be questionable. 

Recognizing nickel allergies is different from proclaiming metal a
poison. My wife is allergic to nickel. She cannot wear watch
bracelets containing nickel, but she wears without problems bracelet
that I made with clasp of 18k nickel alloy. It is easy to demonize a
metal. But it would be better at looking how it is used.

Leonid Surpin

No, Kay, nickel sensitivities or allergies are not figments of
people’s imaginations. My body reacts exactly as yours does and it
wasn’t always so. Gone are the days for wearing a cheap watch!

Kind regards

Yesp Barbara, it’s a bummer. Sorry you have it too. Pain in the
arse. And I have so much old jewelry from my mother - all that old
costume jewelry that used to be so fun - would like to be able to
wear it, but

unfortunately can’t. And they made some really neat things years ago

  • in the 1920s. Oh well, that’s just life. At least when you know
    what causes your problems you can usually avoid them pretty well.


FWIW, modern pewter is about 90%-98% tin alloyed with copper,
antimony and bismuth, in varying proportions depending on use.

But it would be better at looking how it is used. 

How can it be used? Not in jewellery in Australia.

Mind you if I use pure nickel in a knife blade, I have to be certain
that that blade doesn’t touch food.

Regards Charles A.

Mind you if I use pure nickel in a knife blade, I have to be
certain that that blade doesn't touch food. 

You handle nickel every day in coinage and stainless steel. The
problem with nickel in jewellery is the leakage (leaching) which can
give rise to irritation and even metal poisoning. There are a couple
of standard tests for determining the leakage of nickel from an
object, the simplest is tumbling the object in SBF (simulated body
fluid- basically a saline solution with other bits in) and then
doing a stain test. Stainless steel and (most) nickel alloy coins
pass these tests but junk jewellery and most plated ware doesnt. Pure
nickel knives are mostly designed as lab tools so I wouldnt be using
them for slicing my apples anyway.

Nick Royall

Hi Charles,

There is a lot of confusion about nickel that floats around yes it
for sure is a sensitizer that causes moderate to severe skin
(allergic) reactions in a percentage (5%-10%) of the populace and yes
it is poisonous if it is ingested in certain bioavailable forms and
yes if you breathe nickel vapors it will cause pulmonary edema most
likely leading to death so it is certainly something to be careful
with. But in certain forms it is bound up in such a way that it is
not available to cause these effects. If nickel it self were banned
then no austenitic stainless steel (304, 316, "surgical stainless"
etc) could be used in jewelry or cutlery as they all contain 8 or
more percent nickel. Something to think about, the vast majority of
eating utensils in much of the world are made from austenitic
stainless steel and people that have nickel sensitivity eat most if
not all their meals with such utensils. Have you looked at the
Australian statutes on nickel? I bet they are modeled after the EU
directives and ban a nickel release of more than a certain rate and
not the actual presence of Nickel.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

Hi James,

There is a lot of about, and the percentages of people
that get a reaction (or report a reaction) is quite low.

However if it wasn’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all.
5%-10% is a low figure until someone sues you, so to cover myself I
err on the side of caution, same with aluminium. Although there’s no
definitive study outlining the effects of aluminium e.g. Alzheimers,
baldness etc. it’s wise for a business to consider the potential

Nickel in industrial applications, no, haven’t read a document, but
in the Oz Jewellery standard for precious metals the standard
restricts the percentage of nickel to be used in jewellery, this may
not include nickel in stainless steel, as the alloy is not considered
precious by the standard.

I will look it up though.
Regards Charles A.