News from PZM Designs

German Silver an Affordable Jewelry Alternative Posted on 7 Aug 12:15

When the price of silver went through the roof, several years ago, many of us, metal smiths, began using German silver, or nickel silver as a more affordable substitute for sterling silver.


German silver (or nickel silver)  has many wonderful qualities but it actually contains NO silver at all. It is actually an alloy made, primarily of  60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. Nickel silver has existed for over 2000 years in China where it was first known and used. 

The Germans began producing this metal from 1750 on, hence the name. In the 19th century, the American Plains Indians began to acquire nickel silver and began using it in belt buckles, earrings, pendants, and other jewelry. Nickel silver can be hammered, folded, soldered and formed just like silver.

I love making cuffs and bangle. Here are some examples of hammered cuffs, bangles and earrings that I made.


Tall nickel silver cuff


Hammered Bangle Set of 7

Long nickel silver dangle earrings


Wide nickel silver thumb ring

German silver is also very hard and can take a high polish. This metal is a little more difficult to work with than copper or brass so it needs to be annealed more frequently to soften it up.


In the Middle East, some of the most beautiful Bedouin jewelry are made using nickel silver, and even some furniture was made from this beautiful and versatile  Here are a couple of examples.



Today, besides being used in jewelry, many musical instruments including french horns, trumpets and flutes are made from 100% nickel silver.

I do love working in sterling silver and gold but more of my customers can wear and enjoy my designs when they are made from German silver.