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topic 2402

Is it possible to use Copper pennies as alloy for silver making?


Q. I've just begun simple jewelry making with grade 9 students. I have access to some tiny 999% silver bars and was hoping someone could tell me how to add an alloy to them. Can I use copper pennies? We have a forge and other equipment. Most of the equipment has been used for casting aluminum. Can this contaminate the silver when I melt it down?

Can I ruin silver by under or over heating it?

Shelley - a true beginner

(an old archive would help)

S Thompson


A. Copper wire would be a better choice. Wire from the hardware store will be over 99% pure copper. Stranded wire could easily be cut into small pieces that will more easily go into solution in the molten silver.

Copper pennies are hard to come by - recently minted pennies are zinc with a thin copper plating.

larry hanke
Larry Hanke
Minneapolis, Minnesota

December 13, 2012

A. Hi Shelley. Larry has a good idea. The electrical conductivity of copper drops dramatically if it's even slightly impure, so any wire you find will be very pure copper.

Pennies up to 1982 are copper, but not highly purified copper; after 1983 they are a thin copper plating over a zinc core.

While it's probably okay to use pennies in science experiments without Big Brother actually caring, when you start melting down coins whose metal values are greater than their face values, we're drifting towards a boundary line. If China bought up our pennies or nickels en masse at face value to melt them down it would be an actual problem :-)

Sterling silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other stuff; I think that "other stuff" is usually mostly copper. Good luck.


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


Q. To who it may concern:

I am doing a research paper on Copper Coins 1700's, or 1800's, or 1900's century and need help securing this information. I would appreicate any help in writing this paper as I am a student at the University of Houston at Clear Lake. This paper is for a history/borderlands class.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Jowanna J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Sweeny, Texas

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