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What Does NS on a Silver Plate Stand For?

Lisa Shumaker

NS stands for nickel silver, which is actually a copper alloy with nickel or zinc. It does not contain any actual silver and gets its name from the silvery appearance of the compound. The metal is often used as a base for silverware or jewelry and plated with a thin coating of real silver.


Nickel silver actually contains no silver unless it has been silver plated.

Nickel silver goes by several names, including new silver. It is also called German silver (GS), alpaca and paktong. If the nickel silver has been silver plated, it is sometimes called EPNS, or electroplated nickel silver.


Nickel silver is usually 60 percent copper, 20 percent nickel and 20 percent zinc. However, these percentages can vary and other metals such as lead or tin may be included in small amounts. One advantage of nickel silver is that it does not tarnish and is much stronger than silver.


Nickel silver has been around for more than 2,000 years, but gained popularity in the 1800s when electroplating with silver became possible. This provided an affordable alternative to solid sterling silver jewelry and cutlery.