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Nickel silver vs. Sterling silver

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by Joss, May 21, 2003.

  1. Joss

    Joss Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Nov 20, 2001
    All,

    I'd like to understand why it is that even on high end knives, you often see Ni. Silver used for fittings rather than Sterling Silver. Is there any specific reason? I understand of course that Sterling is much more expensive than NS, but on some knives, it wouldn't be such a difference. Also, Sterling probably would have to be cast rather than worked via stock removal, but even that doesn't seem to be a good reason. Am I missing something?
     
  2. george tichbourne

    george tichbourne

    Apr 19, 1999
    Nickle silver is cheaper and harder than Sterling Silver but sterling is made of silver for the most part while nickle silver has none.

    Sterling can be worked by stock removal, cold forging or casting.

    The two reasons it is not used more are cost and the fact that sterling tends to tarnish.
     
  3. Dan Gray

    Dan Gray

    Jun 25, 2001
    you mite call nickel silver a poor man's silver but
    it's getting pretty pricey as of late.:eek:
    also called German silver
    As silver goes.
    I believe Sterling has some copper in it
    more so than reg silver if any in it..:confused:
     
  4. Joe Renner

    Joe Renner

    85
    Nov 13, 2002
    German silver tends to be a combination of things like zinc, copper, nickel and other stuff, though theres a lot of stuff being called "german silver". Anything the color of silver will be called silver, containing the element or not.

    Joe
     
  5. Wild Rose

    Wild Rose

    Aug 23, 2002
    Sterling silver is generally 92.5% silver 7.5% copper. It will tarnish if not cared for, but during the 19th century Tiffany, amongst others, made some very high end knife handles and gun grips from it. Also I use it a lot on my western gun rigs and sheaths and it wears just fine.

    Nickel/German Silver is generally an alloy of 65% copper,18% nickel, and 17% zinc.

    Price of the last sheet Sterling I bought was about $6.00 an ounce (6" x 1" x 20ga(.032") = 1 ounce). So it isn't that cost prohibitive depending on what you are making.
     
  6. John Andrews

    John Andrews

    Jan 24, 2003
    The sterling sounds more expensive than pure(99.99)silver. I used to use pure 1oz. ingots for handle inlays. It ran about an average of 4.00 per oz., not that long ago, based on market price of silver.
     
  7. george tichbourne

    george tichbourne

    Apr 19, 1999
    I am finding that a large part of my silver costs are related to rolling costs from ingot. The larger the purchase I make the lower the cost per ounce. Where I can I purchase form ready stock inventory because it is a bit cheaper.

    Silver works well and you can do a lot with it without having to resort to casting.
     
  8. Darren Ellis

    Darren Ellis

    992
    Sep 14, 2002
    Hi Joss,

    Where is that avatar from, it looks familiar, but I just can't place it. Thanks! :)

    -Darren
     
  9. Wild Rose

    Wild Rose

    Aug 23, 2002
    Yep Sterling was running around $3.59 a couple of months ago, But being a precious metal it varies up and down quite a bit. Lesson learned: should have bought more two months ago!
     
  10. Dan Gray

    Dan Gray

    Jun 25, 2001
  11. Wild Rose

    Wild Rose

    Aug 23, 2002
    Thanks Dan! I just saw that and when the email came notifying that you just posted. I figured that's what it was about.
    BTW I get my sterling, fine silver, and nickel from Indain Jewelry Supply, www.ijsinc.com. Good people and no minimum orders.
     
  12. Joss

    Joss Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Nov 20, 2001
    [​IMG]
     
  13. Darren Ellis

    Darren Ellis

    992
    Sep 14, 2002
    THAT'S IT!! :) Thanks!:D

    -Darren
     
  14. m l williams

    m l williams

    317
    Jul 10, 2000
    Nickle Silver Vs. Silver...the availability of stock sizes that work for knives usually gives N/S the advantage. The last N/S I bought cost me more than sterling. For me they seem to tarnish at about the same rate. Fine silver looks good for a lot longer. mw
     
  15. Bruce Evans

    Bruce Evans

    Sep 26, 1999
    I always thought that the sterling was softer than the nickel silver.Thus easier to bend when used as a guard.I do know that the antiques used more N/S on there working type Bowies and Sterling on there real show pieces.even though some of the show pieces were N/S and sometimes Brass with a gold or silver plate.
    Bruce
     
  16. george tichbourne

    george tichbourne

    Apr 19, 1999
    Sterling as cast is relatively soft but it work hardens very quickly if bent or formed, almost spring like but returns to the soft condition when annealed.

    A lot of the silver handled knives from Sheffield were stamped to shape thus were harder than if just cast resulting in good wear characteristics. I once started to pound on a tang to draw it out a bit and after a half dozen strokes with a three pound hammer couldn't move it at all, my technique has improved since then as the result of a silversmithing course or three.
     

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