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The term Nickel silver

         Nickel silver (0% silver content!) is not as 

Just out of curiosity why wouldn’t the use of the term “nickel
silver” be considered fraud? Have jewelers managed to get a law
passed that, for example, allows chicken kept for days plus at 26
degrees Fahrenheit to be sold labeled “fresh, never frozen.”

I know what nickel is and I know what sliver is and I even know what
sterling silver is. But if something is actually nickel and someone
tells “the public” it’s nickel silver is not the general public going
to be inclined to believe it’s more akin to sterling silver than
plain nickel?

James E. White

Am I missing something?  I use nickel silver for fabricated metal
models instead of silver all the time. 

Hi Donna,

Nickel silver has been consistently and humorously maligned in this
thread… I think it’s funny to see how every one has said,
“phooey…” Probably an over-reaction, but very consistent!

I think it’s because of the way nickel silver reacts with oxygen and
doesn’t clean up very easily. It’s not evil…(wink, Karen)… just
misunderstood. People are probably also using it mostly when they are
starting out, and their skills and techniques might not be well
refined. By the time we move on to better stuff, we just have this
recollection of the frustration from when we used to work with the

As far as James’ question about the use of the term nickel silver,
that’s a good one!

All the best,


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)


To add to the public’s confusion, it can also be called German
silver. Marilyn Smith


Some have even referred to this metal as “non-tarnishing silver.”

    Just out of curiosity why wouldn't the use of the term "nickel
silver" be considered fraud? 

Silver is also a color. I compare it to the use of the term
standard as compared to metric measurements. How many places on
earth do they use the metric system as compared to the "standard"
system? I consider the metric system as the standard but hey, it has
been defined that for as long as I can remember. I will have to
admit that under 15 centimeters I tend to use the metric system but
over 6 inches, I use standard measurments. Weird?

You could call it German silver if you really wanted to stir things
up because it is another name for the same thing.

J. Tyler Teague
JETT Research


It probably would be except for the fact that the term has been in
use for at least a couple hundred years, I’d guess. This isn’t some
recent term. The word “silver” refers to the color, not the metal.
it’s confusing, of course, but nobody is using it to attempt to
deceive. it’s just the name of the particular type of alloy, has
been that name throught the english speaking world for a very long
time, and it’s real nature is very easily found by anyone looking or
asking. The last I heard, “fraud” requires some intent or purpose
to decieve. Nickle silver may be confusing, but it isn’t any attempt
to deceive if mislead. There are other tems also in historical
traditonal use that may also be misleading on first glance.
Sheffield silver, for example, is a thin silver layer bonded to
copper based metal, which is the bulk of the metal. named for the
town that invented it as a substitute for solid sterling silver, but
it’s name doesn’t suggest that it’s not a solid silver alloy. How
’bout a bright yellow metal ring stamped 18K H.G.E. ? If you don’t
happen to know that H.G.E. stands for heavy gold ELECTROPLATE, you
might think the ring is 18K gold. That label, though, like the term
Nickel silver, is properly within FTC guidelines. 20

Peter Rowe


To my knowledge, the alloy was first formulated my the germans in
the 20’s or 30’s as a substitute for chrome in car bumpers. I It is
a nickel brass or white brass. I have had many customers by nickel
silver thinking they bought sterling silver. It should be refered
to as what it is a brass. Anything else is deceptive. Vince, Eugene, Or


Just to add a bit to what Peter said. although the meaning is clear
enough, trade practices (and by that I mean retail trade, not the
production side) in England and English speaking nations (and no
doubt elsewhere) have exploited several oportunities to confuse the

Cutlery may be described as EPNS, for electroplated nickel silver,
which usually means that the plating is silver, even though the name
doesn’t specify silver. All fine. But when the letters EPNS are
stamped along the stem of a spoon, each letter within its own shield
shape, it’s clearly intended to look somewhat like a set of

Then we have the term “silver plate”, which refers equally to high
value solid silver plates, dishes and trays, but also to cheaper
wares that are silver plated.

Sheffield plate, or Sheffield silver, is an interesting case, in
that it never was intended to deceive. The silver layer is
relatively thick, and the items were, by and large, made by "proper"
silversmiths using traditional techniques. Sheffield plate is now
collected in its own right. Strangely today it would probably be
more expensive to use Sheffield plate than solid silver.

Then there’s the case of “Brittania metal”, some sort of low melting
casting alloy, used especially for statuettes, clearly intended to
be confused with Brittania grade silver.

Speaking of statuettes, my real pet hate of this day and age is
"cold cast bronze", which is resin coloured to look like bronze.
Some of them are very good, but I’m always surprised that the term is

Then there’s the plastic pipe that’s made to look like copper, and
copper earthing strap that’s mainly coloured plastic, but that’s a
whole other rant!

Kevin (NW England, UK)

       Just out of curiosity why wouldn't the use of the term
"nickel silver" be considered fraud? Silver is also a color. 

I think this is a ‘bit’ of a cop-out. Silver is a ‘color’ but only in
the sense that ruby, amethyst, emerald,etc. are colors. If a
customer points to a green tourmaline and says “Let me see that one"
and you reply “Oh - the emerald” that could be unethical/misleading.
There is a difference between the color and the actual alloy. You
don’t mark/call 14kw “gold silver”(or worse yet-gold platinum” since
some say it was promoted as a platinum replacement) just because
it’s ‘silver colored’. There is SO much emphasis on full disclosure
with isn’t it time to lose the term nickel/German silver.
And what about 10k BRASS with some gold added!?

1 Lucky Texan