TIBETAN SILVER; Tibetan silver is used primarily in jewellery components, and is similar to pewter - an alloy of copper, and sometimes tin or nickel, with a small percentage of pure silver. Its overall appearance is of aged silver, but it can be polished to provide highlights on complex castings. The nickel content is nowadays reduced or absent, due to common allergies to this metal.
Tibet silver used to have a higher silver content a decade or two ago, up to 30% or higher, but cheaper reproductions from Far Eastern factories have diluted the term. The genuine article can only really be got from the metal and silversmiths in situ, some of whom still manage to produce work from their long tradition of gold and silversmithing in this country. The related term 'Nepalese silver', however, seems to have held on to the higher silver content and association with quality metalsmithing.
Currently, jewellery, beads and castings described as 'Tibetan Silver' tends to be a base iron 'cheese metal' casting, overlaid with this pewter and silver plating. Dependent on source, these can be either thick and robust, or attractive but easily broken due to a loose, fragile inner casting. The latter productions are therefore only suitable for small castings up to around 12mm, or transient 'fashion' jewellery with a short lifespan.
Metallurgical testing of twelve items in 2007 offered for sale on eBay as Tibetan Silver indicated that the articles frequently contained no silver whatsoever. Tests also found that high levels of lead and other dangerous metals such as arsenic were present.
TIBETAN SILVER DATA SHEET
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13 April 2011
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