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German Silver

What Is German Silver

German silver or nickel silver is an alloy of chiefly copper, zinc and nickel and is occasionally found to contain trace amounts of tin and lead. It is known for its toughness, hardness and corrosion resistance. From its name, some people mistakenly think that one of its constituents is silver. But it bears that word in its name due to its silver-white color. Note that the term ‘silver’ is now prohibited for alloys that don’t contain the metal. It was discovered in the early 19th century by E.A. Geitner, a German industrial chemist [1, 3].

German Silver

Composition [1]

Copper 50%-61.6%
Nickel 21.1%-30%
Zinc 17.2%-19%

Nickel Silver

German Silver Belt Buckle

Uses of Nickel Silver

  1. For making tableware (as the base metal of silver-plated cutlery), plumbing fixtures and marine fittings [1, 2].
  2. Its high electrical resistance suits its application in heating coils [1].
  3. For making zippers, musical instruments, keys, costume jewelry, etc [2].
  4. In ornamental and architectural metalwork, some food and chemical equipment [4].
  5. In a hard-rolled strip form, it finds application in spring elements, especially for electrical and telecommunication relays [4].

German Silver Coins

Interesting Facts

  • The alloy does not tarnish like silver and costs much less [5].
  • Due to its high luster, it is used for manufacturing gift items [2].

Nickel Silver Sheet


  1. German silver –
  2. What Is German Silver & Why Is It Called “German”? –
  3. Why is German Silver called so? –
  4. Nickel silver –
  5. Nickel Silver –

2 responses to “German Silver”

  1. Henry Bork says:

    I have an old buckle with German Silver on it, it’s the same as the Bull rider one on the Images site when you do the search, it doesn’t have the banners and stuff as pictured in the one on this page. However the bull on my buckle came off years ago and has been lost over the years. I am curious to know what the ornamental gold colored braid that surrounds the buckle would have been made of? Would it be actual low grade gold? I have always liked the buckle plain as it is for the past 45 years. Just curious only, have no intention of selling it. I thought I lost it along with the nice black (real leather) belt which pee’d me off at the time it went missing but now 3 maybe 4 years later “it’s alive” as I am looking to thin out my herd of collectibles and stuff I found it. Lots of memories attached to that git up so they can cremate me with it on AGAIN…. lol!

    • Jack says:

      A low gold content will not make a yellow alloy by itself without the addition of copper and toning metals like tin or zinc, so it would make little sense to make a yellow gold alloy unless you were giving the metal a description like 8, 9 or 10 carat. More likely to be one of the myriad of brass, bronze, pinchbeck recipes with no gold.

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