German silver, name for various alloys of copper, zinc, and nickel, sometimes also containing lead and tin. They were originally named for their silver-white color, but use of the term silver is now prohibited for alloys not containing that metal. German silver varies in composition, the percentage of the three elements ranging approximately as follows: copper, from 50% to 61.6%; zinc, from 19% to 17.2%; nickel, from 30% to 21.1%. The proportions are always specified in commercial alloys. German silver is extensively used because of its hardness, toughness, and resistance to corrosion for articles such as tableware (commonly silver plated), marine fittings, and plumbing fixtures. Because of its high electrical resistance it is used also in heating coils. It was discovered (early 19th cent.) by a German industrial chemist, E. A. Geitner.
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