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topic 20858p2

Toxicity of nickel silver flatware

1       2

A discussion started in 2003 but continuing through 2020

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. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

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. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

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. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

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)

Nickel Detection plus Nickel-guard Coating

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. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

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

aff. link
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

December 7, 2017

Q. I have a 13 x 9 Mexican silver pan. Can I bake a cake in it?

Genevieve Bowman
Retired - Guy, Texas

December 2017

A. Hi Genevieve. Baking usually involves eggs, which are very high in sulfur and tarnish silver badly -- so I don't think it's a very good idea.

I don't think anyone can assure you whether it is safe or not unless the pan was a commercial product intended for baking. I've been to the flea markets of Cuernavaca and Chichen Itza over the years and they were fun … but I wouldn't eat off of pans made by an anonymous individual craftsperson from another country and might be built from some unknown scrap metal.


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

April 11, 2018

Q. Hello. Recently I was given two sets of cutlery and I am wondering how I can tell if the sets are safe, or if they contain nickel or other toxic metals?

I have emailed two pictures taken in different lighting.
The set on the right side of the pictures has the writing "Lagostina 18/10" on the back of each piece. I have found the set online. Here is the link:

The set on the left side of the pictures has only the writing "Cassera" or "Cassesa" on the back with a tiny picture behind it. This is only on the knives. Any writing has worn off the forks and spoons. I can not find the set online.

20858-5b   20858-5a

Both sets are duller than my new stainless steel set (from aging?) and heavier.

Any help would be appreciated.

Carole Neron
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada

April 2018

A. Hi Carole. There are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of hallmarks, so even finding out who Cassera or Cassesa was, may be unlikely, and for them to have used only one composition for all their products, and for someone to know what that was, sounds terribly unlikely. Or those words could be a model or pattern rather than maker. And determining its composition from a photo isn't possible. Sorry.

As for the Lagostina 18-10, the numbers are there to tell you that it is 18% chromium and 10% nickel.


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

April 13, 2018

Q. Hi Ted. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. Much appreciated.

With regard to your response to my question, would the Lagostina 18-10 (18% chromium and 10% nickel) be considered safe for cutlery that is used regularly?

Also, I see on the site that some people are using a magnet to detect the presence of nickel. Do you think this works?

Carole Neron
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada

April 14, 2018

A. Tableware is an alloy of iron, chromium and nickel. Depending on the particular alloy it may be magnetic or not.

Your question seems to indicate that you are concerned about nickel in stainless steel.

People have been using nickel alloy stainless steel for a hundred years, and it is used in the cookware and tableware in every restaurant and 99% of homes.

Not to worry.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

July 11, 2018

Q. Is vintage plated silverware from Italy that has quality issues such as: bends very easily, plating that looks granulated, built up in spots, and over all quality seems like it was pressed together when coated. Also the color seems funny, not quite shiny silver. Also I did try the magnet test which it did not stick to the utensils in question. My main concern is that these plated sets (it seems post WW2) could be an amalgam and not verifiable to standards such as lead free, etc.

- Oakes, North Dakota, USA

July 2018

A. Hi L. You left a word or two out; your posting includes no question. But it seems like you are largely convinced that it is unsafe to eat off of this flatware, but are hoping that someone will tell you otherwise so you can use it :-)

Good luck, but it's not going to be me claiming that some unknown 70 year old product from another country that you don't trust yourself is perfectly safe. Silver plating (if that's what it even is) wears through and exposes people to the substrate.


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

How to clean old nickel-silver knife

August 22, 2018

Q. Hi, thanks for all this info. I have found an old knife in the back of a kitchen dresser I am doing up. The imprint says 'wear-site stainless nickel silver Sheffield '. I can see from an earlier post that it probably isn't even actually silver. I would like to clean it up. Can you recommend how to do this please? Julie

Julie Kiroluch
- Mandurang, Victoria, Australia

August 2018

A. Hi Julie. Indeed, it's probably nickel-silver and the word 'stainless' is probably a claim that it is "stain free", not implying that it is made of stainless steel.

Metal polish is your best bet, but depending on how old and how tarnished it is, it may not be possible to 'clean it up' without power buffing. But if something like Brasso doesn't work, and you don't want to do power buffing, you could try Barkeeper's Friend.


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

September 27, 2018


"Metallic ions released from stainless steel, nickel-free, and titanium orthodontic alloys: toxicity and DNA damage.
Ortiz AJ, et al. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 2011.

INTRODUCTION: The aims of this study were to determine the amounts of metallic ions that stainless steel, nickel-free, and titanium alloys release to a culture medium, and to evaluate the cellular viability and DNA damage of cultivated human fibroblasts with those mediums.

METHODS: The metals were extracted from 10 samples (each consisting of 4 buccal tubes and 20 brackets) of the 3 orthodontic alloys that were submerged for 30 days in minimum essential medium. Next, the determination of metals was performed by using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, cellular viability was assessed by using the tetrazolium reduction assay (MTT assay) (3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2, 5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide), and DNA damage was determined with the Comet assay. The metals measured in all the samples were Ti(47), Cr(52), Mn(55), Co(59), Ni(60), Mo(92), Fe(56), Cu(63), Zn(66), As(75), Se(78), Cd(111), and Pb(208).

RESULTS: The cellular viability of the cultured fibroblasts incubated for 7 days with minimum essential medium, with the stainless steel alloy submerged, was close to 0%. Moreover, high concentrations of titanium, chromium, manganese, cobalt, nickel, molybdenum, iron, copper, and zinc were detected. The nickel-free alloy released lower amounts of ions to the medium. The greatest damage in the cellular DNA, measured as the olive moment, was also produced by the stainless steel alloy followed by the nickel-free alloy. Conversely, the titanium alloy had an increased cellular viability and did not damage the cellular DNA, as compared with the control values.

CONCLUSIONS: The titanium brackets and tubes are the most biocompatible of the 3 alloys studied."

Copyright © 2011 American Association of Orthodontists. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.
PMID 21889059 [Indexed for MEDLINE]
Full text at journal site

Zyla Fourie-Kritzinger
Habitat of Health - Yzerfontein Westcoast South Africa

January 12, 2020

thumbs up sign  I am grateful for your rational approach. Today I purchased a "vintage" silver plated serving spoon, spent hours researching the mark - WA Italy - was pretty frustrated with the results, so then decided to worry about using the spoon because there were a couple of scratches. (Fortunately, this is not the site for absurdities). Dietary nickel. Found in wonderfully healthy food. Foods contain many elements. As you have said,
Mr. Mooney,it's the food that is on the fork or spoon that is important, and I don't plan on sucking on the serving spoon without anything on it.

Judith Wrighten
- Camden, Maine, USA

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