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I Forge Iron

Vinegar and German silver


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I’ve got a set of spurs that I’m repairing and refinishing for a guy, that are either browned or rusted. He wants them blued so I had planned to just dunk them in vinegar overnight to strip the rust off of them and clean them up before I do any repairs on them but I know nothing about the silver that is on them. 

If the vinegar just causes the silver to tarnish then that isn’t a big deal but they are not tarnished now so I’m guessing that it won’t tarnish from the vinegar I just don’t want it to get pitted. 


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German silver is nickel silver. It's about a little over half copper, and the other half zinc and nickel in equal parts if I remember right. It won't have any rust, although I've seen some that darkened.

I'd use a regular commercial metal polish on them, and a darkening product specifically made for nickel silver. Regular bluing agents probably won't take, although one for nickel steel miiiiiiight. Getting one made for it would work for sure. They can be found out there with a little help from Google.

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Marc et al.,

The silber, that you read is the German word for silver. But silber referred to the color of that alloy.

Wikipedia states that there is no silver metal/element in German silver.

Let me quote a little of their article on the alloy namely,

Nickel silver, Mailechort, German silver,[1] Argentan,[1] new silver,[1] nickel brass,[2] albata,[3] alpacca,[4] or electrum[5] is a copper alloy with nickel and often zinc. The usual formulation is 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc.[6] Nickel silver is named for its silvery appearance, but it contains no elemental silver unless plated.

It is a very interesting article. And it discloses the origin of the alloy. Namely Ching dynasty China, called paktong.


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Mr sells, apologies, I waffled for a while between where I put it and the alchemy forum but figured finishes were finishes. Thank you for the move.

Special, Marc and Slag, thank you for the input I was a touch too hasty when I posted and should have updated after. I had seen that the wiki definition after I posted but life got in the way. That being said I only had had experience with vinegar and steel and didn’t know what it would do to other materials though I figured it would be mild enough. Got an answer on a FB gearmakers forum and they are bubbling away tonight.

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