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What is alpaca?

Today, at a “fine craft” show there was a vendor selling
something called “alpaca” claimed that it was SILVER which
doesn’t tarnish. I think it was nickel, and that it was imported
and not actually made by the person selling (even though it was a
juried show . . .) Any on this metal?

Thanks in advance!

Alpaca is in Spanish (German silver), fusion point 1145 celcius
anneal at 650-680 celcius it is an niquel, copper and zinc, it
looks like silver but it harden real fast.


Hi, Alpaca is only 2% silver, the rest being Copper (65%), Zinc
(19%) and nickle (14%). You see it a lot in Mexico in cheap
jewelry for the tourist market. Jerry in Kodiak

Don’t know where they got the name ‘alpaca’ for a metal. The
original ‘alpaca’ is a fabric made from llama fleece. It produces
a fabric that’s very warm & soft to the touch.

hello there, alpaca is an alloy of copper, zinc, nickel and
sometimes silver (but just a tiny bit), used for jewelry,
hollowware, flatware, etc. its color is usually a dull gray and
yes it does tarnish in the long run. definitely not silver
though… cheers, emanuela


Hi, here in Sweden (rest of Europe?) nickel-sliver - also known
as German Silver, is marked N.S for “new silver” or A.L.P. - for
alpaca. I do not beleive that your alpaca contains any more
silver than what we have here…

I trust that there has been some other postings on German silver
/ nickel silver - you might find something in the archives.

Best Regards Lars Dahlberg / Gotland/Sweden

Alpaca is the German trade name for nickel silver. (which as we
know is a low nickel (5% plus) mixture of nickel and copper and
has no silver in it)


Charles Lewton-Brain/Brain Press
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada
Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053 Email: @Charles_Lewton-Brain

Metals info download web site:
Book and Video descriptions:
Gallery page at:

I do believe that “alpaca” is nickel-silver. I live an hour
away from Tijuana, Mexico and and most of the big fancy belt
buckles and such sold there are alpaca. Alpaca is NOT silver. I
have never seen the term used other than Mexico.
Bill in Vista

I believe alpaca is nickel silver. A foreign student once asked
me for alpaca which turned out to be nickel silver. Don’t know
why it is called alpaca though.

This is the name given to Nickel Silver- German silver actualy
nickel bearing brass in Mexico at least. It contains no silver.
some Mexican market Or street vendor “sterling silver” is this
material. It is illegal in Mexico for this to be marked
"sterling" but it often is some areas of Mexico at least. Jesse

Hi David Arens, I too have been struck by the recent use of the
word “alpaca” to describe a metal. I’ve always thought I was
keeping in touch with jewellery metals over the years, but
"alpaca" has me stumped. I first saw “alpaca” used to describe a
metal about two years ago, and for the previous 50 odd years had
always thought it was a cloth. I’m sure someone will enlighten me
on the development of this curious nomenclature. Kind regards,
Rex from Oz

Dear Fishbre, To my understanding, Alpaca is a mostly copper
alloy with just a touch of silver. After a piece is made, It
is subjected “leaching” process; I believe a cyanide (or is it
an Acid, I can’t recall) based solution is used to " leach" the
copper from the surface, leaving behind a fine silver finish.
It looks and acts like fine silver, i.e., slow to tarnish and
retains a soft white color. If this piece is heated up for some
kind of repair, it usually turns coppery again and becomes dead

This “alpaca” material appears in large quantities whenever
there is a dramatic devaluation of the Mexican Peso. I believe
the Oaxaca Valley craftsmen have been forced to use this
material to remain involved with the craft. Anyone who peddles
this stuff should fully disclose its constituent metals and its
.limited life span- The fine silver surface can wear away
under normal wear. It basically cannot be repaired without
significant replating. The cost,of course, exceeding the value
of the piece.

A similar technique was widely used by Italian goldsmiths to
improve the reddish color of their oft-melted gold. The
technique utilized a cyanide solution to leach out the non gold
metals from the surface of the piece. It is known as either,
“Surface Enrichment” (generally this term is applied to the
archeologically, i.e., organic version of this technique) or
more aptly, “Depletion Gilding”. Many a jewelry repairman has
run into High karat colored pieces that are stamped “14K
Italy”. Upon heating these pieces, they turn a surprising shade
of pink (even after polishing)! Yea, You know what I’m talking
about, what a pain! That is what I know of “Alpaca”,

Hi, I’m Adriana and my hobby is to make jewells and to work with
fien metals.Is the first time that I write by this e-mail to the
people of orchid and my English is very bad; because I’m in
Chile. I work like gold and silverrsmith since 1991. Please be
pacient with my English. Alpaca is a metal made by nikel, zinc
and copper, is called “german silver” too. To work with it is
like to work with siver but is more hard and more easy to
broken. Is very useful to make musical silver spheres because
we do the inside type of “diapason” made with alpaca.

Adriana Beniscelli
Civil Engineer&metalsmtih