Silver Terms

What do each of the following terms mean with regard to actual
AG content?

German silver
Alpacca (sp?) silver
800 silver
Austrian silver

I am told that German, Alpacca, and Austrian silver have no
silver content. Others also tell me that it has “some” silver.

I am buying vintage purse frames for reuse in new beaded
handbags, and it makes a difference to me in pricing and
marketing. After spending a day getting a wildly swinging range
of answers from “antiques dealers” my jeweler friend suggested
that Orchidians could help.

What’s the deal?

Amy R. Karash
Executive Producer, Corporate Compliance Programs
Lockheed Martin Corporation
680 American Avenue
King of Prussia, PA 19406
610.354.5349 voice
610.354.1503 fax

800 is a standard of fineness of silver, common in Germany. (800
parts Ag to 200 parts Cu, compared to Sterling which is 925 Ag to
75 Cu.) Not a legal standard of fineness in many countries.

German Silver is another name for Nickel Silver. Nickel Silver is
the generic name for a range of copper-based white metal alloys
that contain copper,nickel, and zinc. Nickel Silver does not
contain any real silver.

Alpacca is one of the many 19th century manufacturers tradenames
for Nickel Silver - often seen on flatware as ALPACCA PRIMA N.S.

Austrian silver I have no on - I suspect it is
another tradename for Nickel Silver - “Nevada Silver” and “Potosi
Silver” are also common tradenames.

Richard Leveridge, Oxford

I have heard 3 of the 4 terms on that list.

German silver is used to denote nickel alloys. My firm stocks
nickel #752 in sheet and wire, composition is 65% copper, 18%
nickel, and 17% zinc. Melts at 1960degF. No silver, but a great
white metal choice where strength and wear resistance are
critical, like buckle and bola backs.

Alpaca is a term I first heard in Taxco, Mexico. Used to label
jeweler’s bronze, typically the whiter tones. We stock a base
metal grain called Bronwite. Not a whit of silver in the
composition, but still yields attractive castings.

800 silver is a reference for coin alloy, at 800 parts per
thousand silver. Up to the year 1964, U.S. dimes and quarters
were 900 silver alloy. Southwest Native smiths acquired their
metal from older Mexican pesos, having a silver content, 800 I
believe. Coins will vary by region and date of production as to
actual silver content.

Austrian, I must pass on. Assumption indicates, since Austria is
in the German neck of the woods, that the term Austrian silver is

Dan Woodard
Indian Jewelers Supply Company

800 is a standard of fineness of silver, common in Germany. (800
parts Ag to 200 parts Cu, compared to Sterling which is 925 Ag to
75 Cu.) Not a legal standard of fineness in many countries. 

Thanks, Richard for this. Of course, a legal standard of
fineness is not a term we mention very much in New Zealand, where
legal standards are not so defined. I will use any particular
silver or gold alloy for its inherent structural and other
physical proporties before I’ll consider any legal definition.
And that’s fine here in this country. 800 silver is great for
many uses - especially in eyewear frames where strength is
important. 900 is another I prefer sometimes over 925. (With
copper as the remainder of the alloy.)

Richard Leveridge, Oxford 

I am very interested in the link on your page to info about the
silver-Ge alloy.
I’m interested in this geranium silver. Sorry germanium. I
wonder, is it something that can be done in the small studio
workshop? And I’m also interested to learn that 1.1% Ge changes
the conductivity of sterling silver from 96% down to 53%. How
does this compare with gold alloys? Does this mean Sil-Ge ring
shanks will be able to be soldered with stones in place more
easily? Hmmm…


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@Brian_Adam1 ph/fx +64 9 817 6816 NEW ZEALAND