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topic 22524

What is nickel silver? Plating/replating issues.

A discussion started in 2003 but continuing through 2017


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 and its solutions.

lee gearhart
Lee Gearhart

December 2013

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

What shop can do german silver plating?

February 22, 2008

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

"Electrodeposition of Alloys: Principles & Practice"
by Abner Brenner

from Abe Books
info on Amazon

February 22, 2008

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 electroplatable.

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

May 3, 2011

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 5, 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,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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

June 25, 2011

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

Jax Silver Plating Solution

June 30, 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,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 8, 2012


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.

Cleaning german silver

December 20, 2013

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

Suitable electrolyte for german silver plating on real silver product?

February 23, 2017

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 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 poor imitation of silver?

I think you may be misunderstanding something! Please suggest what it is that you wish to plate, and why? Abstract questions usually result in a lot of lost motion and no useable answers :-)


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

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