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topic 20858

Toxicity of nickel silver flatware

A discussion started in 2003 & continuing through 2017


Q. I am concerned about the toxicity in using my SOLID NICKEL SILVER Flatware set? Are there chemical reactions to particular foods? Can I use it safely, or should I dispose of this beautiful set? Thanks!

Nancy C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Terrebonne, Oregon


Q. I see Nancy, in Terrebonne, OR, had the exact same question as me. In my case, I have 2 nickel silver forks I use for cooking as they are well balanced and long tined. Sometimes I can taste the copper. Is there any danger of toxicity from nickel silver?

Julia H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Seattle, Washington


A. Hello, ladies. Nickel silver (also called German Silver) actually does not contain any silver -- it is a copper-nickel alloy. German Silver may also contain zinc. Copper and zinc are not considered "food-safe" materials. This doesn't mean that the flatware presents a serious hazard (as Paracelsus tells us, the difference between a medicine and a poison lies in the dose) -- but at best it may mean an unpleasant metallic taste as you have already noticed. These days nickel-silver is mostly used as the base for silverplate rather than as a final finish; and as a base it is a strong, attractive, all around great material. If you have old and very worn silverplated flatware, you may well be seeing and tasting the underlying nickel-silver.

I would suggest that you either retire them to a place where they can be shown off but not used or -- much better-- that you send them to a silver plating shop and have them silver plated. Then they will retain their beautiful shape and balance, and you will keep your memories, but they will now be food-safe and free of metallic taste.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 22, 2008

Q. I'm in the process of designing cutlery right now and I was reading science journals, studies, on the toxicity of different metals. And it seemed that silver is quite dangerous, and I would have thought not safe for using as cutlery? Furthermore, the chances of zinc excess is very slim, given that it's only plating, and if anything, if you were to take any of the zinc in, it wouldn't do any harm, because a majority of people, in particular in America, have some degree of zinc deficiency. Surely zinc plating would be good to combat zinc deficiency if anything? It's not like the people would be taking in the amounts that would be contained in a single zinc tablets. Yes? No?

Michael Hood
- Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

April 23, 2008

A. Hi, Michael. Although you would not want to eat or drink soluble silver salts, silver metal is something different entirely. I don't believe that there is any danger whatsoever in solid silver flatware or silver plated flatware. People have been safely using it for centuries (make that millennia).

Zinc plating will prove highly unsatisfactory. The appearance will be terrible after exposure to foods, and the zinc will dissolve into strongly alkaline or strongly acidic foods. Whether enough zinc would dissolve to be a dietary issue is a subject for a dietitian, but getting your zinc from a dissolving finish on flatware sounds like a very poor dosing strategy :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 3, 2008

A. Concerning potential benefits of zinc-plating to increase zinc consumption in generally zinc-deficient populations: Zinc is the mineral with the lowest toxicity level, about 4 times the RDA (around 10 mg for an adult). Fortunately, it also has the mildest symptoms--vomiting etc. It usually occurs when one imbibes a great quantity of an acidic beverage in zinc-treated containers...think Planter's Punch made in a zinc-metal trash can at a college party. Of course, God only knows just what quantity zinc is leaching into the acidic beverage from our zinc-plated container. The best way to increase zinc consumption is through the diet, where dosage is naturally more predictable and toxicity highly unlikely. Good food sources of zinc are nearly always high protein foods--meats (particularly oysters) and to a lesser extent, legumes--and fortified cereals.

Cindy Walker
- Houston, Texas

December 16, 2009

!! Actually cutlery made from zinc-copper bronze would be the safest alternative to steel cutlery but nobody seems to make it. I work with a Doctor of Toxicology (Dr. Raymond Peat from Eugene Oregon) and he has been advising people avoid stainless steel with nickel in the form of pots, pans and cutlery for decades. To test your stainless ware for safety all you need to do is see whether a magnet sticks to it or not. If a magnet sticks then it is 'nickel free' stainless steel and therefore safer. Companies should list their stainless steel as either 18/10 / 18/8 or 18/0 (the 18 refers to the chromium content and the 10 or 8 or 0 refers to the nickel content) so if correctly labeled then 18/0 would be nickel-free and a magnet will stick. The reason companies use nickel is because it helps the stainless to retain the shine longer than without but this is at the cost of our health. Silver is toxic as a previous writer noted but does not present as much of a problem as nickel stainless steel in the form of cutlery.

Sarah Murray
- Whitethorn, California

December 16, 2009

A. Hi, Sarah. Thanks for the interesting perspective on safety, but that is not the reason that high quality stainless steel contains nickel. It contains nickel because this makes it far more rust resistant and corrosion resistant. These pages are overflowing with complaints of rusty stainless flatware and stainless steel refrigerators as manufacturers switch from 18/10 or 18/8 to 18/0 for cost savings because of the high cost of nickel.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 17, 2009

Thank you for your reply, Ted. Well, that is one of the reasons they use nickel in stainless steel cutlery because it helps it to retain the shine longer...but if they want to use nickel in stainless steel appliances that are not touching our food then our health will not be compromised. It is a good thing for our health that the price of nickel is rising as companies are switching to nickel free stainless steel and so what if we eat a little rust, this is far less dangerous than the unseen toxic nickel...besides, if one cares for their cutlery then it shouldn't rust especially since it would be "stainless" steel, the key word is "less" stain...My grandmother always hand washed and dried her stainless steel cutlery thinking it would rust if she didn't, thus her cutlery is in perfect condition with shine even today (and it was nickel free=magnetic stainless steel).

And I think we need to avoid labeling things as "high" quality when that quality may be based on appearance but not long term health effects...Beware of "high quality" stainless steel as it most certainly will contain nickel, a toxic element not meant to be ingested. It may not be advertised or publicly taught but in time hopefully the medical research that our tax dollars pay for will influence the industry, or if people educate themselves enough then they can insist the market provide them with safer alternatives, i.e. nickel free magnetic stainless steel cutlery and cookery or even better a new type of cutlery made from zinc-copper bronze.

Sarah Murray
- Whitethorn, California

December , 2009

Hi again, Sarah. You're certainly welcome to eat with whatever cutlery you want and to lobby for whatever changes you wish to. But implants are always 18/10 stainless steel (type 316), 18/0 can't even be considered. Surgical instruments are always 18/10 stainless steel (type 316), never 18/0. Food & pharmaceutical manufacturers and dairies must always use 18/10 in their production, never 18/0 -- which exhibits markedly inferior corrosion resistance.

Again, I don't call 18/8 and 18/10 "high quality" based on "shininess", but because it's far more stable, rust-free and corrosion resistant (and quite a bit more expensive), and because it doesn't require the babying that 18/0 requires. Not everybody is willing to hand wash based on the latest "toxic timebomb in your kitchen" rumor of the day. And when I've used the same stainless flatware for decades and it looks and feels exactly the same after 25+ years of scrubbing and automatic dishwashing, the amount of nickel I & my family & our guests all put together have ingested from it over the whole course of 25 years is not even measurable.

I don't challenge your employer's research, but personally don't find the issue compelling considering that there seems to be similar worry about steel, aluminum, teflon coated, copper, zinc, chrome, bronze, and ceramic food surfaces too -- and you claim that silver is toxic as well. With frequent listeria, e coli, and salmonella outbreaks ... persistent pesticides on our fruits .... genetic engineering of our corn and vegetables .... antibiotics in our meat ... and non-inspected food imported from every hovel in the third world, it makes more sense to me to focus my attention on what is on my fork than on what is in it :-)

But thanks again! I'm not here to argue with people nor to presume to lecture them ... just to help us all find answers; and perhaps your answers are as good or better than mine.

Best regards,

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 18, 2011

thumbsdownThere is a zinc-copper alloy, it's common, it's called brass. It doesn't taste good and reacts with food, no thank you. I'll take bronze ware and 18/10 stainless any day.

A Zeleny
- San Francisco, California, USA

December 14, 2011

Q. I've been researching stainless steel flatware and silverplate in preparation to buying a new set and came across your letters. Coincidentally, breaking news about arsenic, chrome and nickel in apple and grape juice is now hitting. Now I'm running around the house with my magnet checking my metal utensils and wondering how much chrome and nickel my grandkids are and have been ingesting and if this 'secret' ingredient has anything to do with ADD and ADHD type problems. Can/will you make an updated statement regarding this situation? Thanks much.

Mary Ann Bleich
Retired, at home - Northfield Center, Ohio, USA

December 14, 2011

Hi, Mary Ann. I run a metal finishing website. I am not an epidemiologist specializing in nickel and chrome, nor ADD and ADHD, and I cannot offer the authoritative research information you seek. If you feel that Ray Peat is authoritative, you can certainly try his site. But nickel and chrome are expensive metals, so the sellers emphasize how much of these metals are in their flatware, not how little -- so I don't understand calling them 'secret' ingredients.

If convenient, please provide a reference for the 'arsenic, chrome and nickel in apple and grape juice' that you allude to as I'm not familiar with it. Thanks!


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 22, 2012

I think the secret ingredients that the previous poster was referring to, are the ones that companies don't list or refuse to share, when a person or organization specifically requests it.

Companies will oftentimes hide behind clauses like: "Well it's trade secrets we don't want our competition to know."

There could be other additives added to get the bonding of different ingredients to bond better, give a particular look, durability, etc.

Companies may use chemicals or metals banned or been shunned for possible health problems. They will often use "trade secret"/ "ingredient secrets" clause to hide this fact.

Why would there be secret ingredients in first place other than obvious trade secret? Companies know if their product contains "KNOWN ISSUES" and the consumer is informed and educated to these facts before hand, the consumer would NOT BUY said goods or services. That is why MOST companies want their consumers completely in the dark till after the consumer forks over their meager $$.

In today's mostly unregulated economy with marginal returns, companies ARE and WILL do anything to keep the consumer in the dark and PREVENT the consumer from making an educated decision.

By the way, I like the article in that I was considering getting nickel plated cast iron skillet for induction cooking. Any thoughts as to the safety of this option, since it is a relatively new company that makes this product (they say they been doing it since 2005).

The point of "FDA approved nickel impregnated cast iron" is heat retention with the corrosion resistance of nickel and the lack of seasoning and flavor memory that can be used in a induction cooking. And it is 3 times harder than stainless steel. Not to mention heavy, 13 inch skillet is 7 lb.
Here is a quote about not all nickel is created equal as follows from the site which is owned by the said company:

" Q: Is the Nickel pure Nickel?
A: No. This is an FDA recommended nickel composite which passes Military Spec. # C-26074, and all required tests. The application is non-electrolytic." ...
Q: Is the Nickel NSF approved?
A: Yes. It has been used for years in the manufacture of food processing equipment. Machines that make pancakes, pizzas, pre-made frozen eatables, etc. have to be cleaned with strong detergents to prevent bacterial growth and rust. Nickel has been used to maintain the integrity of these components. "

Problem with nickel fear is people are "NOT BEING SPECIFIC ENOUGH" about which is which.


Corey Jacob
- Rochester, Minnesota, USA

February 23, 2012

Hi, Corey.

Companies can't hide their ingredients from the regulatory agents, but yes, sales & marketing people are trained to sell "benefits" rather than "features/details".

Rarely are they trying to hide dangers (which can result in huge product liability payouts), but they do obfuscate and try to sell fancy words rather than facts. If you follow the link to the Mil-C-26074 [linked by editor to free spec at Defense Logistics Agency,] spec you mentioned, you'll see that both military & industry professionals call the finish "electroless nickel plating"; in a whole lifetime of living & breathing nickel electroplating and electroless plating, I have never heard their flowery phrase "non-electrolytic nickel impregnated", demonstrating the point :-)

Regarding "known issues", please remember that the media knows that people will stay up for the 11 o'clock news if the teaser is "Toxic time bomb in your kitchen?", but never for "Pots and pans are safe". Similarly, as H L Mencken observed long ago, the whole aim of politics is to conjure up hobgoblins the politicians can then promise to protect you from. The result of this is that you never hear reassurance, you never hear balance, you never hear a sense of proportion ... but always only fear mongering ... so there are "Issues" with every material known to man. So, sure, to the extent practical, salespeople won't often mention what something is made out of, because no matter what it is made out of, there are always "Issues" :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 2, 2012

Q. Hi folks and thanks very much for this forum. Hope someone can answer my question. I have a set of six broad-bladed cutlery knives stamped "Wear-Wite Stainless Nickel Silver Sheffield". These look like very broad-bladed butter knives/fish knives. The blade (unlike a standard butter knife) is symmetrical and begins narrow (slightly large then the width of the handle, expands out and tapers to a tip near the end. Each piece is slightly rounded on the bottom of the blade, quite heavy and measures 20.5 cm (or for you Americans 8 inches) long. Any help appreciated. Thanks.

Cheers from New Zealand.


Peter Wells
- Wellington, New Zealand

March 2, 2012

A. Hi, Peter.

From the stamping, they sound like they are made of nickel silver. This is a nickel alloy with no actual silver in it, that is usually silver plated. If it is not silver plated, it sounds like it would give you an "off" metallic taste. But as long as you are not eating off of them, it's probably no problem.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 21, 2012

Q. This is a time sensitive question --

I am cooking a soup and without thinking I positioned a Christofle small spoon on the side of the pot to leave some room between the pot and its cover. The Christofle spoon I believe is made of some silver alloy and was made in France. No idea of how old this spoon is, but I enjoy it and have no problem using it occasionally because it is just lovely.
Back to the question, the spoon basically cooked along with the soup for about two hours and now I am concerned that too much silver or other metal leaked in the soup and pose a danger. The pot was on high heat for at least 1 hour. By the time I retrieved it, the spoon had turned dark color like oxidized silver but it was not as hot as I would have expected it. Do I throw the soup out or eat it?
Thanks for the help and hi to all from beautiful St.Croix in the Virgin Islands

Valeria Gasperi
- Christiansted, St.Croix V.I. USA

October 22, 2012

A. Hi Valeria. I visited St. Croix and Christiansted about 3 years ago and agree that you are writing from an absolutely beautiful place. Sorry that a public forum isn't a great place for time-sensitive questions, since people may not weigh in for a week or a month or even more.

The boiling point of water is a mere 100 °C (212 °F); the boiling point of soup might be a couple of degrees higher if rather salty, but you can't get it any hotter than its boiling point. So the part of the spoon that was in the soup was at most boiling temperature, and the rest of the spoon simply can't get much hotter while most of it is held to boiling temperature. This isn't even close to halfway towards the melting point of any metal. Yes, the silver tarnished, from eggs or other sulfur-ish food, but the silver tarnish is still on the spoon, not in the soup, and wouldn't be dangerous even if it was. Bon Appetit.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

November 4, 2012

thumbs up signThank you, Ted, for the service provided by this website and thanks especially to the contributor who worked for the Eugene Toxicologist for the specifics about the nickel content of stainless steel. Now I know which kind of stainless flatware to search for for my personal use and to recommend to my family and friends [18/0 of course].

Ken Scott
Mind/Body Health Center - Bend, Oregon

January 11, 2013

Q. I am into flatware business. Base metal used at my workshop is cast brass. Which is the most food safe plating for my flatwares. My preferences are chrome and nickel plating.

Tejas Soni
- Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

January 15, 2013

A. Hi Tejas. Silver is surely the most appropriate plating for flatware. I suppose electroless nickel is a possibility; but I don't like the idea of getting involved with a skin allergen like nickel. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 9, 2013

Q. Good day Ted,
Thank you for all your responses and information. It is very true that every medium you use has "issues" and it's really about which is the best for it's purpose rather than which is safe and which isn't.
Cutlery handles made from a Zinc alloy and nickel plated are quite common in South Africa. One of the reasons for not making it EPNS is that the layer of silver is so thin that it tarnishes quite easily. Is this finish acceptable in the USA and elsewhere?

Thank you.

Tina Cartwright
Andy C - Durban, South Africa

May 9, 2013

A. Hi Tina. I don't know of any reason to think this finish would be unacceptable in the USA or anywhere. But regulations are complicated, so I apologize but I can't guarantee that there are no rules anywhere that discourage or preclude it. And whatever you make it out of, somebody somewhere will accuse you of trying to poison them :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 8, 2013

Q. I want to buy a vintage salt and pepper shaker set that is made of nickel silver. Plan to use for everyday. Is it safe?

Julie Chandler
- Norman, Oklahoma, USA

June 13, 2013

A. Hi Julie. It doesn't sound unsafe to me, but I don't think nickel-silver without silver plating on it will look very good or be very corrosion resistant to salt.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 13, 2013

Q. Hi ted! Could you please tell me a few things about silverplate? I find your replies to people here interesting and very much on target! (i.e., Soni in India going to plate his flatware in nickel? =@ idk about THAT!)

I only stumbled onto this site with your knowledgeable and straight forward answers here because I'm just thoroughly annoyed at all the cookware having toxic stuff used as linings! So I was looking for alternatives to all the ''modern'' linings on cookware, and found myself here in relation to silverplate. I hear tin lining is fine in copper cookware unless you cook things on high heat --- which is DEFINITELY ME! Seems tin will melt at about 400-ish so I better not even try it! I cook a lot of ethnic dishes from around the world and use a few carbon steel pots (woks too) and they are fine - but I REALLY wanted to find some old copper cookware that has been lined in silver because silver WAS used at one point and its melting point is SUPER HIGH - like in the 900's or low 1000's! WOW!! But finding that of course is unlikely as they are just not making copper cookware with it anymore. I find people online talking about finding pieces of it here and there - but that's all.

So question being - do you think its possible to find someone out there that can plate or line a copper pot with silver like they used to? I see so many STILL doing it with tin - but I'd really just LOVE to get ONE copper pot done with silver because it just seems like it would be SO DURABLE!! There are people online that I've seen in posts that talk about having silver lined copper - but I can't find them to talk to them.

So what do you think Ted? I know it would be costly, but to only do ONE at a time throughout the years adding onto the set MIGHT just be doable.

But idk ... what do you think as far as durability? And where do you think I should start to even ASK about it being done?? Maybe one of those old copperware makers in France like Mauviel??

Thanks a lot for any input here Ted - I'd really appreciate your insight! :D

PS - I don't even really know, but is silver soft? I mean I assumed because it had a high melting point and people cooked with it in copper pot linings back in the day - then I just assumed it was rather sturdy, or at least MUCH more so than tin lining...

Pauli Prentiss
- hollywood, florida, USA

June 2013

A. Hi Pauli. Actually you know a lot more about silver plating of pots and pans than I do because I had never heard of it :-)

I've seen silver plated and sterling silver coffee pots and tea service, but I assumed you boiled the water elsewhere first and poured it into them. Sorry, I'm just not familiar with cooking in silver plated pots and pans.

But many plating shops can do silver plating; if you can't find one, your local antique store will often have a connection to one.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

June 18, 2014

A. This article talks about pure natural silver being very good material that has been used successfully as an antibiotic, anti-viral and anti-microbial and much more.

Stu Potter
- Belfast, Down, Northern Ireland

Electroless nickel plated cookware -- does nickel leaching make it a non-starter?

July 19, 2014

Q. Very informative site: thank you for your maintenance of it!

I am very interested in electroless nickel coating of cast iron (or other materials) for cookware. I am a mechanical engineer, not a chemist, but I understand that EN is very different from nickel electroplate because EN deposits a new compound of Ni-Phosphorous which is a glass-like metallic, not a metal. Sounds great, but I've also seen that Ni leaching is a serious issue for WHO (for water) and has been adopted by Community European as a food contact standard, and the limit is VERY low, at 0.07 ppm, but EN coatings leach much more than that limit.

Am I missing something with everyone's comfort levels with EN coated pans? I know the manufacturer of the Olvida pans claims NSF approval, but that would be for corrosion I guess, not for Ni leaching, which it would fail.

So, given that there is no standard for Ni leaching in the USA, do you think US manufacturers should be following the EU directives, at least as a voluntary guide?

More specifically, do you see any problem with EN coating of cookware and the Ni that is inevitably leached?

I hope I'm proven wrong: I love the concept of this coating for cookware, and would adopt it in a heartbeat if someone could really convince me it was food safe.

Thank you in advance: your experience is much appreciated!

Best Regards,


- Dijon, Bourgignon, France

October 13, 2014

Q. Thank you for your wonderful insight into silver (and other) plating! Another vintage silverplate question: I know they say not to wash in the dishwasher, and I do anyway as my silverplate is not 'precious' and if it goes, it goes. But is it dangerous to my health to wash in the dishwasher?

Thank you for your time!


Barbara Pappas
- Wilmington, Massachusetts USA

October 2014

A. Hi. Silver is one of the longest used flatwares and drink containers, going back many centuries. It's not dangerous. But the plating is thin and it won't last long if repeatedly put in the dishwasher. At least put the flatware in a separate section of the basket. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

How to clean "Stainless Nickel Silver" flatware?

December 10, 2014

Q. Hello,

I inherited a set of spoon from my mum-in-law few years ago.
It says "SUPERFINE AI STAINLESS NICKEL SILVER" on the back of the spoon.
They were not in good shape - kind of yellowish tarnished colour and various size of stains on them.
I washed them thoroughly with detergent but those stains are still there.
I asked several so called professionals - antique dealers, sales assistants at department stores etc...
But everyone gave me completely different answer.
Some of them said I can use "Silvo". Then another person said polish with "Brasso".
And the other one told me I need to re-plate spoons.
I went online but I couldn't fine the answer.
So I have no idea what is the correct way to clean them and are they still safe to use?

Yu Blumenfeld
- London, UK

December 2014

Hello Yu. Most silverplated flatware is made of nickel silver. As the silver plating wears away, you see this discoloration because the plating and the base metal are not the same material. You can't remove such differences and they are not stains. I think this flatware was probably silver plated at one time.

They probably have a metallic taste. The correct answer is that they should be sent out for silver plating; then they will not have a metallic taste and they will look good.

It is possible that when they were made years ago the intention was to use them without silver plating, but there have been a number of stupid flatware ideas over the years: I have some "made in Japan"copper-nickel-chrome plated steel flatware from perhaps the same time period and it was just a bad idea :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 19, 2015

Q. Hi.
I am from India. I would like to gift a silver plate for my brother for his wedding anniversary. Is it safe to use it regularly for eating? Are silver plates hazardous when used on a regular basis? Do they have any chemical reactions when hot food or drinks like coffee are served? Is it safe to eat curd on silver plates? What chemical composition is right for silverware?
The shop has mentioned 92.5 silver purity. Can you please reply as early as possible.


Viji Nagalingam
- chennai, India

March 2015

A. Hi Viji. The best flatware is sterling silver. Sterling silver and silverplated teapots & tea cups, goblets and chalices have been used for hundreds of years. Silver plated or sterling silver serving trays are a commonplace. I am not an epidemiologist of course but I would have no reason at all to suspect any problem from frequent use of sterling silver (92.5 purity) or silver plated food service items. Best wishes to your brother.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 1, 2015

Q. How would one test for the level of nickel in silver plated cutlery? I am new to this. Grew up eating on silver plate and recently decided I would like to go back to silver plated cutlery from stainless steel. Someone told me that it may have health risks. I have just started collecting, love doing so, but don't want to poison the grandkids!


Carla Gracey
- Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts USA

March 2015

A. Hi Carla. There is nothing you can make food service items out of that nobody will say has "health risks"; but with tens or hundreds of millions of people using worn silverplate, I think it would be on the news every week if it was a real problem.

worn silverplate
(this is what silverplate looks like when the plating has worn through)

Click on graphic for "NickelAlert" test kit:
nonickel test kit

There are nickel test kits you could try =>

... but basically you can see the discoloration if the silver plating has worn through, and most people seem to get a "metallic taste" as well if the silver plating is worn out.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 27, 2015

Q. Yesterday I brought what I thought was sterling silver flatware (antique/grape pattern) to a shop with thought that I would sell. The owner told me it was silver plated and due to toxicity it was of no value in terms of financial worth and should not be used for food consumption, or handling. When I asked what could be done with it he suggested throwing it out. I am looking for information to confirm or reject this suggestion. Surely if it isn't fit to eat with I also wouldn't want to pollute the landfill with carcinogens either. This was quite a surprise. My Mom had been an antique dealer in the 60's thru 80's, which is how I acquired the flatware. Appreciate educated feedback. Thank you.

Jean Anderson DeVito
- Southington, Connecticut USA

June 2015

Hello Jean. Whether you send your nickel-silver to the landfill or not, I'm still not going to get my dinner from the landfill :-)

The point being that just because something like nickel silver isn't great to eat off of doesn't render it a worse toxin than rotting garbage; so you can certainly dispose of unwanted flatware. But your town's public works yard may have a metal-collection dumpster.

The deeper answer is that:
1. the silver plating on plated silverware is so thin that it's not saleable as precious scrap like sterling silver is.
2. if the silver plating has worn off, you will probably get an "off" taste, a metallic taste. It can be replated with silver, which solves the problem, but this may only be economically feasible if the flatware has sentimental value to you.
3. times change and tastes change and there is little market these days for silverplate of any sort; and worn silverplate has no value. Sorry.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

Oneida flatware

June 7, 2015

Good Afternoon!

I have been researching flatware for many months. I bought a set 20 years ago from Dillards for $165 and it has lasted until last week when I had to throw them away due to a plumbing issue. The flatware set was high quality, comfortable, and didn't rust. I loved this set!

After researching, I realized that the best quality is 18/10. I searched to find an economical price set. I found Oneida "Satin Countess" 45-piece set of 18/10 quality for $90. The pieces are quite heavy.

I don't use a dishwasher. I hand-washed the set three times before use. For breakfast I used the spoon in a bowl of cereal this morning. I was left with a metal taste in my mouth. I have never had this happen before. The taste is still here 4 hours later. Can you please help me determine if I need to take the set back? Or is this normal for an 18/10 flatware until the set is broken in?

I care about my health and the health of my two boys. I don't know if I have a nickel allergy. I tend to buy high quality jewelry so I haven't used a nickel product exclusively.

Thanks for you help!

Take care,

D. Scott
- Mesa, Arizona

June 2015

Hi D. This thread unfortunately conflates silver-plated nickel-silver flatware with stainless steel flatware, which can be a bit confusing.

But as far as I know there would not ever be a metallic taste from stainless steel flatware of any sort. I've certainly never encountered it, although I do taste the nickel-silver metal sometimes from some well-worn silverplate.

Your set has extremely good reviews on Amazon! You're sure you didn't take Cold-eze, or use an inhaler, or chew on a ballpoint pen recently?  :-)

But I'm not so sure it's actually 18/10 ... the description I see of this product on says 18/0.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

June 8, 2015

A. See if a regular magnet (Alnico) will stick to it fairly strongly. If it does, it's one of the 400 series stainless steels, all of which contain no nickel and are, therefore, more prone to rusting (often, rust spotting), etc. 18/0 SS is in the 400 series.

If it doesn't stick, it is 300 series, which would include 18/8, 18/10, etc. The 18/8, e.g., contains 18 chromium/8 nickel The 300 series is less prone to corrosion than the 400 series, due to the nickel content.

It seems that 400 series is stronger and 300 series is more corrosion resistant. 410 stainless is so strong it is used to make jet engine stators.

The newer super-strong neodymium magnets, like those found in computer hard drives, are finding their way into new products and you can buy a big stack of just the magnets on Amazon and eBay. If you want an easier time holding up stuff on the refrigerator, get a dozen of these, at least 1/4" in dia. - on eBay, you can find 50 of them for under $10. The bigger they are, the harder they are to pull off - sometimes it's easiest to slide them off. If the stuff you're holding up is too heavy, use 2 or 3.

These new neodymium magnets will stick to both 400 and 300 series SS. The attraction to each series is dramatically different, so you could separate them with one of these magnets. They stick to 400 series so strong that it's hard to get them off. In my experience, with 300 series, these magnets stick about like a regular Alnico magnet does on 400 series. Stuck pretty tight, but easy to pull off.

Please read this thread:

Chris Owen
- Nevada, Missouri, USA

Toxicity of my grandmothers silver plated flatware?

August 11, 2015 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I googled the question "is it safe to use my grandmother's silver plated flatware" and this forum popped up with a very interesting , very knowledgeable reply from a fellow former Pine Beach neighbor! I lived there for fourteen years before moving to downtown toms river. Still visit pine beach regularly, especially Moore's farm market. Mrs. Moore still going strong. So... "Is it safe?" ;-)

Thank you for your time.

lisa hummel
a regular gal! - toms river New Jersey (formerly Pine Beach)

August 2015

Hi Lisa. You moved the opposite direction that I did. I was in Toms River (Silverton) for 16 years.

We appended your inquiry to a thread on the subject. "Silverplate" is made of nickel-silver that is plated with pure silver. If the silver plating wears thru, you will first see it as in the photograph I previously posted on this page, and then you'll most likely taste it as a faint metallic or electric taste, especially if you lick the spoon when you eat.

If you see none of that discoloration, it's still completely covered with silver. Silver has been used for centuries and is certainly 100% safe.

If you do see that discoloration and taste it, the underlying nickel-silver is exposed. Personally I think it will be a matter of finding the discoloration unattractive, and the metallic taste annoying, long before you need to think about the possibility of too much metal in your diet. But you can have it replated if it looks like it requires it, and if you wish.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

October 7, 2015

Q. I have a silver plate tea and coffee service from the 1850's: the outside can still be polished to a nice finish, but the inside is very dull, dark, and in some spots pitted. In your opinion, is it safe to drink from?

20858-2a  20858-2b  20858-2c


Leslie Galbraith
- Toronto, ON, Canada

October 2015

thumbs up signHi Leslie. I doubt that you will find any research or any definitive answers on this question, and there really isn't much point asking for ever final nuance and subtlety from my answers -- I'm just the website administrator, not some expert in the safety of worn silver. But I wouldn't use it, sorry. Maybe someone else will chime in :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

January 31, 2016

! Mr. Mooney, in a earlier comment you wrote "the best flatware is sterling silver". Despite its history, I'm beginning to question that (aesthetics aside). Recently I stumbled across a study in which participants were asked to suck on spoons made from different metals and rate their taste. The metals were gold, silver, stainless steel, zinc, copper, tin and chrome. Silver cutlery didn't fare so well, particularly with acidic foods. Gold and stainless steel came out top.

A news story discussing the study can be found here:

Rob Maurice
- Norfolk, Virginia USA

February 13, 2016

Q. After I cleaned these spoons


(all of them) it was more visible that the part that goes in the mouth is gold in color, and the handles are silver.

I don't know what metal they're made out of. Can you guess the metal, and the most important, are they safe to be used?

I hope they are not toxic, since I would like to use them often.

Thank you very much.

Lilly Davenport
- Princeton, New Jersey

February 2016

A. Hi Lilly. There are no markings at all on this set? As we learned from "The Dress" last year, it is difficult to identify a color in a photograph unless it is in the midst of familiar colors like grass and sky and fire engines. So I'll have to take your word that the part that goes in the mouth is gold colored.

Easiest thing to do is just try to taste the spoons. If they have no taste, they probably are gold plated; and I'm very confident that they are safe. If they taste metallic you are not going to want to use them anyway no matter how safe they are. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

February 1, 2016

A. It is my understanding that silver has antibacterial properties (and is thus employed in some specialized water filtration processes) which to me anyway, would indicate that your silver service would be fine to use, as long as it was clean and there are no other contaminants on it?

Ana von Bunners
- vero beach, Florida, us

May 13, 2016

Hi, Ted!

I've enjoyed reading this informative thread.

I eat with a set of Stainless Steel flatware 18/8 from Japan. I've used them all the time, for almost 30 years. Only in the past year or 2, I started noticing that the spoons leave, on my Corelle ware bowls and some other ceramic mugs, a light gray ring around where I scrape the spoon, these rings are very faint but over time build up on the surface. At first, I thought I had lead in the natural salt that I used, and after I changed salts I still got more rings. I have tried everything I know, including Bon-Ami, to try to remove the rings and scrapes from these items. Nothing has worked. It seems very odd to me.

Could something be wrong with my SS Flatware, and is it safe?

I am especially interested in your answers, because I have a mysterious illness, that has only recently been connected with a deficiency in certain minerals in my body of Copper and Silver, this is with a very high level of Zinc.

So, for myself, I started using Silver Plated Silverware.
I have found new Silver Plated Silverware to be a slightly creamy looking Silver color, and old Silver Plated Silverware to be a more whitish looking Silver color. Is the Silver Plate on the outside of Silver Plated Items made up of Sterling Silver (Pure Silver), or is there something else mixed with the silver that they plate with?

I don't know if you can answer this next question. I have been looking at other Silver Plated items in the thrift shops and see they have many different types of markings and names, quite deceptive. Some newer items have no markings what so ever, they look like Silver Plated, but could be anything. Would these items have any Silver in them?

Thank you for your time!

Sara Armstrong
- Bensalem, Pennsylvania

May 2016

thumbs up sign Hi Sara. I'm just the site administrator posting the Q&A's, and have no training or experience in what is or isn't safe; But I do personally feel that in this age of GMOs & pesticides, and frequent e coli, listeria, & salmonella outbreaks it is a bit silly to ignore our food and focus instead on the service items which the food might touch while being served. Perhaps the hobgoblin phrase "heavy metals" is making everyone focus on the flatware instead of the food.

Ceramic/porcelain is harder than metal, and it is not really unusual for metal items to leave gray marks on light colored ceramic. We have lots of inquiries here of how to get marks from rings out of white sinks and toilet bowls.

If flatware has no markings at all, sorry, but I don't think it is possible to guess what it might be from its shade.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

Can we use nickel under gold plating on flatware?

August 20, 2017

I'm from Vietnam and we are planning to get into high end cutlery business by using gold electroplating to decorate ordinary stainless steel (18/10 or grade 304 ) cutleries.
We intend to use the same electroplating method as for non-edible stainless steel accessories which consists of applying 2 layers of nickels then 1 layer of Cobalt-gold and final layer of nearly pure gold (using gold salt 68,3%).
However, for cutlery, our concern is whether the nickel layer would be toxic and create allergies to users as cutlery have direct contact to users especially when they are using them to eat food.

I'd like to seek your advice whether nickel can be acceptable or not in this case?

Many many thanks,

Hanh Nguyen
- Hanoi, Vietnam

August 30, 2017

? Hello, what will be the overall gold plating thickness counting both coatings?

Mark Baker
process engineering - Phoenix, Arizona USA

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