What is “Nickel Silver” and Does it Contain Any Real Silver?

These questions come up all the time… What is Nickel Silver?  Or, How much silver is in Nickel Silver?  You can substitute the term “Montana Silver” or “German Silver” or a whole slew of names for “Nickel Silver”.  They’re all the same when it comes to a misleading name for a metal with NO SILVER CONTENT AT ALL.

Nickel Silver, Montana Silver, German Silver, New Silver, Electrum…
These are all confusing terms so let’s end that confusion… names like this refer to the COLOR of the metal alloy, and NOT the metal CONTENT.  At least, that’s the technical reason that manufacturers can legally produce something and call it “Silver” when it contains NO SILVER whatsoever.

The REAL reason names like this exist (in my humble opinion) is because they are deceptively misleading, and persuade many to believe that a combination of shiny base metals contains far more value than it does.  There’s no silver in nickel silver.  There is no silver in German Silver.  There’s no silver in Montana silver…

What is Nickel Silver?
That begs the question… if it isn’t silver, what is it made of?

Nickel (Montana, German…) silver is a COPPER alloy that commonly contains nickel and zinc.  It was created in the 1800’s by metalworkers in Germany who were trying to mimic a nickel-alloy from China.

Typical nickel silver contains 60% copper, 20% nickel, and 20% zinc and all modern nickel silver contains so much zinc that it’s classified as a subset of Brass.

So yeah, nickel silver has used, just as lots of base metals and alloys have uses… and the next time you run across nickel silver, you can be very confident in assessing the (lack of) precious metal value.