Aloha, fun & authoritative answers -- no cost, no registration, no passwords, no popups
(as an eBay Partner & Amazon Affiliate we earn from qualifying purchases)

Home /
Site 🔍
pub  Where the
world gathers for metal finishing
Q&As since 1989


What is nickel silver? Plating/replating issues

Q. I have some goblets marked "Albert Pick & Co. Chicago Silver plate over nickel silver" They are pretty heavy. Are they more valuable for the copper or the silver ?

connie rentz
- greenwood South Carolina
October 10, 2022

A. Neither, Connie. A scrap yard might give you a couple of dollars for the base metal, but nickel-silver contains no silver, and the silver plating is too thin to recover. Their value is in your attraction to them, their beauty, and their age & rarity. Look on eBay for something roughly similar by Albert Pick & Co. to see what people are asking (not necessarily getting).

Luck & Regards,

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

⇩ Closely related postings, oldest first ⇩

Nickel Silver /
German Silver

Q. I recently came across a set of silver in my parents' attic that my father had gotten in Japan after the war. It is marked as "nickel silver". I am not familiar with this and would like to know about it. Is it a silver plate? How well does it hold up? Does it require special care? After extended use will it have to be replated?

Thank you,

Barbara Smith
- Hammond, Louisiana

A. Hello Barbara!

Nickel silver is a family of copper-zinc-nickel alloys, generally thought of as Copper Development Association (CDA) alloys 745 to 782, containing somewhere between 55-72% copper, 10-18% nickel, and 10-27% zinc. Color ranges from ivory to silvery white, and while they have good resistance to corrosion, you should avoid exposure to ammonia [on eBay or Amazon] and its solutions.

lee gearhart
Lee Gearhart
metallurgist - E. Aurora, New York

A. Hi Barbara. Most silver plated flatware is made of nickel-silver (which contains no silver), but then has an electroplating of real silver on it. Yes, the silver plating is thin and does eventually wear through. Usually you'll see it in the spoons first, as you notice that the recess of the spoon is a different color than closer to the edges. Usually you will also start getting a metallic taste when the silver has worn off and your tongue is touching nickel-silver.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
December 2013

What shop can do german silver plating?

RFQ: Do you have any knowledge of anyone in the US, preferably in the west, who can do nickel silver (german silver) plating? This would be greatly appreciated.

Chris Giunta
- Corvallis, Oregon
February 22, 2008

"Electrodeposition of alloys: principles & Practice"
by Abner Brenner

on AbeBooks

or eBay or


(affil links)

A. Hi Chris. I am not certain offhand whether this alloy is possible to electrodeposit. Some alloys can be plated, if suitable complexing agents can be developed that can retard the more noble metal from plating out preferentially, whereas some other alloys remain not electrodepositable.

Brenner has a page or so about it, and he doesn't seem to consider it likely.

But please describe your situation rather than casting the proposition in the abstract. If you have thousands of objects that absolutely must be plated with german silver, and no substitution will work, a shop may be interested in trying to develop the process with you. But if you have only a few parts, it may be possible and necessary to suggest an available substitute. Good luck!


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

A. Why would anyone want to plate with nickel silver? This alloy was originally developed as a base to be plated with other metals, especially true silver. I would guess that ordinary nickel plate would be the metal most similar and would give a much better surface. Rhodium or chrome would also be quite similar in appearance, while tin would give the closest non-tarnishing appearance to real silver. And then again, there is real silver plate, which would tarnish, but can be easily cleaned for a good color.

Emmit Stewart
retired - Canton, Ohio, USA
May 3, 2011

thumbs up signHi, Emmit.

Thanks. I'm beginning to think that maybe Chris was looking for silver plating on his/her nickel-silver items and that we misunderstood his need.

To clarify for readers who are finding themselves lost, silver plated flatware and service items are often made of nickel-silver (which contains no silver), and are electroplated with silver. When the silver plating wears off, the flatware has a metallic taste as well as a poor appearance.


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

I pickled nickel-silver and now it's copper colored

Q. I soldered some buffalo nickels & sterling silver bezel cups onto some nickel silver. I put it in my pickle, I guess I shouldn't have as some of these items turned completely copper and some came out normal. Was it the level of heat? Or was it something in my pickle? I've tumbled the heck out of them and some are still copper colored.

Shelagh Blatz
- Priddis, AB, Canada
June 25, 2011

A. Hi, Shelagh.

If you previously used this pickle bath, you dissolved some copper into it. When you immerse a less noble metal into it, like a zinc-bearing nickel-silver, the copper will immersion deposit onto the nickel-silver. This is a very thin coating, though, which should come off. If the pickle was really aggressive, it may have dissolved enough zinc to leave the alloy too copper rich. I'm not sure that it would really be a clean fix but, silver deposits onto copper in the same way, so you could try putting the articles into silver nitrate or a commercial silvering solution .

Good luck.


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


Q. Sir, I have seen german silver pots such that, if we pour milk in it, after an hour the milk turns into ghee. So I want to know exactly what kind of metallurgy that pot has?

Sunil Sharma
- Maharashtra Nagpur India.
May 8, 2012

Cleaning german silver

Q. How to clean nickel and silver flatware made in Japan? Was bought in the middle sixties. Mine has begun to tarnish (used very little) and I would like to start using it more often. Any advice would be most appreciated. Thanks!

Kathy Tate
- Flowery Branch, Georgia
December 20, 2013

A. Hi Kathy. Sorry but I don't know what you mean by "nickel and silver" flatware. "Silverplate" is flatware that looks just like sterling silver flatware, but is actually made of silver plated nickel silver (there is no silver in nickel silver). Is that what you mean?

Here is a photo of a sterling teaspoon, a silverplate tablespoon, and a stainless teaspoon. The two silver items are somewhat tarnished so they have a slightly yellowish cast. If the tarnish is removed, they will have a definite whitish cast compared to the blue-ish cast of stainless steel.


Does your flatware look like this silverplate? If so, you can clean it with silver polish, but you might also be interested in letter 4785, "Polishing Silver with Aluminum Foil and washing soda [on eBay or Amazon] ". But if the middles of the bowls of your spoons are a different color than the edges, the silver plating has worn away. Good luck.


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

Suitable electrolyte for german silver plating on real silver product?

Q. Sir,
Can you suggest a suitable electrolyte for german silver electro plating on real silver product.

Senthil Kumar
Electro plating of Silver - Salem, Tamil Nadu, India
February 23, 2017

A. Hi Senthil. German silver is a copper-nickel-zinc alloy and is probably not commercially electrodepositable. But why would you want to cover over "real silver" with a cheap, poor imitation of silver?

You may have a good reason, but my guess is you may be misunderstanding something! Please suggest what it is that you wish to plate, and why? Lots of lost motion like this with no actionable answers is the usual result od Abstract questions :-)


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

⇦ (tip: readers rarely show interest in abstract questions, but people's actual situations usually prompt responses)   smiley face

Q. Can you suggest a suitable electrolyte for german silver electro plating on German silver product.

boby patel
Student - Gujrat India
January 5, 2022

thumbs up sign C'mon Boby, we enjoy trying to help, but ...

It's already noted twice on this page that such an electrolyte is unlikely; a close color match sounds unlikely ... but a reference book was cited if you want to research it.

It's suggested that people who say they want to electrodeposit "german silver" are usually misunderstanding what german silver is.

Please tell us what it is that you want to plate (and whether it's one piece or a million), and why you want to plate something that is already german silver with more german silver because it's a strange request. Thanks!

Luck & Regards,

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

Q. I want to Electroplate This part for Better shine and surface finish after Milling operation Because, I have purchased Some Objects From Other country, and Tested in lab By EDS (Energy Dispersive Analysis) And Coating thickness analysis. This report show they coated this part with 15-20 micrometer German Silver layer.

Boby Patel [returning]
Student - India
January 7, 2022

"Electrodeposition of alloys: principles & Practice"
by Abner Brenner

on AbeBooks

or eBay or


(affil links)

A. Hi again.
<= Brenner discusses copper-nickel-zinc alloys on pp. 605-606 of volume 1, but doesn't believe that more than 10 micron has been achieved, so I don't think you'll find any electrolyte to achieve it ... but you're certainly welcome to try! If you can find these papers anywhere, Brenner references Faust & Montillon "The Electrodeposition of Copper, Nickel, and Zinc Alloys from Cyanide Solutions", a 3-part series published in vol. 65, 67, and 73 of Transactions of the Electrochemical society from 1934-1938; and Izgaryshev & Ravikiovich, "The Electrolytic Preparation of Copper-Zinc-Nickel Alloy", Zhur, Obshchei Khim 1939.

I don't understand how your EDS was able to determine the thickness and composition of a plating layer on a substrate of the identical composition as the plating, but best of luck with your project.


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

Q. I am a watchmaker and I'm currently working on a series of watches I intend to release. I am making the dials myself from Nickel Silver. Im using this because it is easy for me to have the dials photo-etched with my design to the exact specification I need. I can then finish the dials myself using a variety of methods such as polymer clay / Jesmonite / cold enamel inlays, with various levels of brushing and polishing.
The dials are exactly as want them to be when I have finished my work, BUT, I know that the nickel silver will 'tarnish' over time leaving them a different colour and possibly not as shiny as I would like them. Is there a way I could electroplate the dials with something that will prevent them degrading? Ideally I would like to retain the natural finish they currently have. Being watch dials it is not practical to polish them regularly (and I'm sure my customers would not be impressed if this is needed).
If it is not possible to plate them is it possible to lacquer them to prevent tarnish?
I will not need this done in bulk. Possibly 10-20 dials per month.

Tim Roberts
Watch maker - London, England
March 21, 2022
    privately respond to this RFQ   ^
Ed. note: As always, gentle readers: technical replies in public and commercial replies in private please (huh? why?)

(No "dead threads" here! If this page isn't currently on the Hotline your Q, A, or Comment will restore it)

Q, A, or Comment on THIS thread -or- Start a NEW Thread

Disclaimer: It's not possible to fully diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations might be harmful.

If you are seeking a product or service related to metal finishing, please check these Directories:

Chemicals &
Consult'g, Train'g
& Software

About/Contact  -  Privacy Policy  -  ©1995-2024, Pine Beach, New Jersey, USA  -  about "affil links"