What is German Silver? Everything You Need to Know

There are a lot of silver products out there and they are known by different names and used for a variety of purposes. The products are usually separated based on how much actual silver is used and what other metals and alloys are used to create a product.

One of those is so-called German silver, which’s been in circulation since the 18th century. It was developed in Germany and hence the name. The alloy itself was invented in China and it’s used to minimize the use of silver when its price raises, but for the mixture to keep most of the qualities that the silver itself possesses.

What is German Silver?

The German silver is known by a variety of other names as well. The most common of these is Nickel silver and that’s a good way to figure out what the mixture is made out of instead of silver. The metal is mostly white and it’s made out of, Copper, Zinc, and Nickel. There’s sometimes a small amount of Tin and Lead.

The amount of copper that it’s used can vary from 50% up to 61.6%. Zinc will range from 17.2% to 19% and Nickel ranges from 21 to 30 percent. The amounts are based on what the silver will be used for.

How to identify German Silver?

There are a few features that this mixture has and that is the best way to identify them. That way you’ll know that it’s not real silver you’re dealing with and that by some of the features you may also figure out the ratio of the components involved.

The material will be very hard which is the best way to know that it isn’t silver. Silver itself is rather soft and easy to break and mold. German silver is also rather light and it’s noticeable that it’s unusually light in comparison to how bulky and large a piece of it can be.

German silver is also highly resistant to electricity, which is how you can test it if other methods aren’t reliable. It also doesn’t react to acid in the way real silver would have.

What makes German Silver useable in the industry?

The features that make it unique from actual silver are what make this alloy useable in a variety of industries and artisan forms. It’s less expensive than actual silver which is the main reason it’s so popular and in use in so many different ways.

It’s harder and tougher than silver meaning that the products that are made out of it are long-lasting. That’s rather useful in many artisan forms and that’s where it’s better than silver, which is famous for breaking and mending rather easily.

The German silver is also resistant to corrosion which means that it can be used versatile and without worrying how day-to-day use will affect and change it. It’s also ductile allowing it to be used in different industries.

What items are made out of German Silver?

What items are made out of German Silver
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German silver is used to make most of the items that are usually made out of ordinary silver. It looks very similar to silver and that’s why it can be used as a substitute. When it was first used, it was used to make cutlery and other types of silverware.

Over time the use has expanded and now it can be used to make bracelets, earrings, musical instruments, belt buckles, zippers, keys, pocket knives, tiaras, and a variety of outdoor art. It’s usually longer lasting than ordinary silver, which is why it’s more used to produce items kept outdoors and in harsh conditions.

Where German silver is especially applicable?

There are features of German silver that make it of particularly good use for a few different items that are otherwise made of silver, but also from other not precious metals. One of such uses is for the items that are supposed to be gifts. That’s because the items will last longer and could be kept as mementos.

The metals used to create German silver, are resistant to heat by nature, which is why German silver is often used in heating coils. It’s also rather resistant to water and tarnishing which makes it a good choice for plumbing-related items.

The use in instrument production

The use in instrument production

Due to its qualities, German silver is often used to produce musical instruments. These include the flute, saxophone, trumpet, and French horn. The latter are produced out of German silver even on a professional level and used by high-end orchestras. A famous saxophone manufacturer Keilwerth makes all of their saxophones out of German silver.

Student-level flutes and piccolos are made out of silver, but upper-level instruments of this kind usually use actual silver.

The quality of the sound produced by German silver instruments is rather high. The metal is also harder and it doesn’t corrode which makes it a better option than brass in most cases.  In many cases, parts of brass instruments are made out of German silver as well. These include tubes, braces, and valves.

The ornaments on some instruments such as the bagpipes are also made out of German silver. It produces a well-kept look of shining silver while being much less expensive.

Fraudulent uses

The alloy very much resembles silver and that’s why it’s called that. However, it’s much less valuable than silver since it uses metals that are easy to find and extract rather than silver itself. This is what makes it a good choice for counterfeits and fraudulent uses.

It’s most noticeable in coins since that’s where qualities of German silver that are different from actual silver are least noticeable. Many Morgan dollars which are sought-after from the collectors are counterfeited using German silver.  Experts will notice the difference, however.

Does it tarnish?

Does it tarnish
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One of the worst features of silver is that it easily tarnishes over time. This is what’s known as the process of oxidation and it’s noticeable because of the black marks that appear on the silver items. In order to prevent this, you’ll need to pay attention to how you treat and store silver. There are also ways to clean the tarnish off, with a few expensive cleaning products.

This isn’t the case with German silver. It doesn’t tarnish which makes it easier to take care of it and store it.

How to clean German silver?

German silver is rather easy to clean and you won’t need to hire a professional to help you or a product that you’ll need to purchase and use. For the most part, it’s best to clean the pieces made out of German silver, in warm water and soap.

You can also use the metal cleaning plate and soak the German silver item in them so that it’s nice and clean after about half an hour spent in it. The precise amount of time depends on the plate and how dirty the dish was.

The value of German silver

It’s hard to estimate how much a product made out of German silver would be worth since that depends on the craftsmanship and the rarity of a piece. That’s much more important than the value of materials used and it can greatly increase the value in comparison to the value of the metal that was needed to make it.

When it comes to the worth of metal itself, the most valuable part of it is the nickel and the cost of it is measured per ounce. The approximate price of German silver at the time of this writing is 50 cents per ounce.

Toxicity

There are a few cases in which German silver can become toxic and that’s why there’s a limit as to how the material can be used to make silverware and other items that you may use in the kitchen. That happens only after prolonged use, which gives the material a shelf life of a kind.

Contact with acidic foods and beverages may end up causing German silver of becoming toxic. For the most part, it’s best not to use boiled milk out of a German silver glass or mug. In the long run, this can lead to cirrhosis, but there are a few milder reactions as well. These include rashes that can only be healed by eliminating the metal from your surroundings.

Conclusion

German silver is the term used for a metal alloy that’s similar to silver in its appearance but isn’t made out of actual service. It is made out of Copper, Zinc, and Nickel and it’s getting its qualities from them. That means that German silver is harder, more difficult to break, heavier, and it can’t be tarnished the way silver can.

It’s used to produce silverware, musical instruments, and a variety of different artisan items. Since it lasts longer, German silver is often used to make objects that are used as gifts. In many cases, it’s also used to produce counterfeit silver coins.  German silver costs much less than the actual one and its value is mostly based on the value of Nickel.

What German silver items are you using right now?

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