What is Nickel Silver?

Affiliate Disclosures

As Jewelry Shopping Guide editors, we write about things that we love and we think you’ll like too. We often have affiliate partnerships, and may generate some revenue from these links at no cost to you.

Nickel silver is a metal sometimes used in the making of costume jewelry. Although it is called silver, it doesn’t actually contain any silver in its composition. The word ‘silver’ in this case refers to the color of the metal rather than the content. Because of this, nickel silver often causes confusion to buyers, who may think that it’s a silver alloy.

JamesAllen Engagement Rings

Here’s a quick guide outlining what nickel silver is, as well as its pros and cons.

Nickel Silver

Nickel silver is typically made using 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. The metal has many names and is also known as German silver, Alpaca silver, Argentan silver or nickel brass. Nickel silver has many uses, including in the making of musical instruments, art and sculptures and costume jewelry.

While there isn’t any real silver in this metal, it is sometimes silver-plated in which case its silver content lies in the thin plating on its external surface. This is usually identified with the stamp EPNS, which stands for Electro Plate Nickel Silver.

Nickel Silver Advantages

Nickel silver is ideal to use in making costume jewelry as it is durable yet malleable and easy to craft into intricate designs. It can be hammered, textured, cut and soldered and used in a number of ways to create interesting textures and patterns.

Nickel silver is also inexpensive, which is perfect not only for the buyer but also for jewelers looking to practice jewelry-making. Rather than practice on sterling silver, which is more expensive, they can utilize this inexpensive metal that looks exactly like silver.  For buyers, it’s a cheap alternative to sterling silver.

Nickel silver earrings
Nickel silver earrings. See them here.

Nickel Silver Disadvantages

There’s nothing wrong with nickel silver unless you have metal allergies, in which case it’s best to avoid it altogether.

Something to watch out for is the labelling of nickel silver. It’s common for nickel silver to be sold under one of its many other names (German silver seems to be the favorite), without indication that the metal contains nickel. Jewelers need to clearly identify that the metal contains nickel and that it is a nickel alloy as opposed to a silver alloy.

Another thing to watch out for is unscrupulous sellers passing off nickel silver as sterling silver. Unsuspecting buyers may be fooled by the metal’s appearance and similarity to the more valuable metal. Buyers may just accept the name nickel silver on face value and think that it is actual silver. Note that sterling silver is much more valuable.

While nickel silver has its advantages, you shouldn’t be ripped off paying higher prices. When in doubt, always ask the jeweler about the specifics of the metal and if they tell you that ‘nickel silver’ is a form of true silver, you’ll know that they’re either mistaken or outright lying to you.

So, to wrap up…

Nickel silver is a good metal choice for costume jewelry. Just ensure that you know what the metal is when you purchase it and avoid it if you have nickel allergies. If you’re looking for nickel silver jewelry, check Amazon’s collection for the best range.

Jewelry Guide