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topic 20858 p2

Toxicity of nickel silver flatware

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A discussion started in 2003 & continuing through 2017

July 19, 2014

Q. Very informative site: thank you for your maintenance of it!

I am very interested in electroless nickel coating of cast iron (or other materials) for cookware. I am a mechanical engineer, not a chemist, but I understand that EN is very different from nickel electroplate because EN deposits a new compound of Ni-Phosphorous which is a glass-like metallic, not a metal. Sounds great, but I've also seen that Ni leaching is a serious issue for WHO (for water) and has been adopted by Community European as a food contact standard, and the limit is VERY low, at 0.07 ppm, but EN coatings leach much more than that limit.

Am I missing something with everyone's comfort levels with EN coated pans? I know the manufacturer of the Olvida pans claims NSF approval, but that would be for corrosion I guess, not for Ni leaching, which it would fail.

So, given that there is no standard for Ni leaching in the USA, do you think US manufacturers should be following the EU directives, at least as a voluntary guide?

More specifically, do you see any problem with EN coating of cookware and the Ni that is inevitably leached?

I hope I'm proven wrong: I love the concept of this coating for cookware, and would adopt it in a heartbeat if someone could really convince me it was food safe.

Thank you in advance: your experience is much appreciated!

Best Regards,


- Dijon, Bourgignon, France

October 13, 2014

Q. Thank you for your wonderful insight into silver (and other) plating! Another vintage silverplate question: I know they say not to wash in the dishwasher, and I do anyway as my silverplate is not 'precious' and if it goes, it goes. But is it dangerous to my health to wash in the dishwasher?

Thank you for your time!


Barbara Pappas
- Wilmington, Massachusetts USA

October 2014

A. Hi. Silver is one of the longest used flatwares and drink containers, going back many centuries. It's not dangerous. But the plating is thin and it won't last long if repeatedly put in the dishwasher. At least put the flatware in a separate section of the basket. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

How to clean "Stainless Nickel Silver" flatware?

December 10, 2014

Q. Hello,

I inherited a set of spoon from my mum-in-law few years ago.
It says "SUPERFINE AI STAINLESS NICKEL SILVER" on the back of the spoon.
They were not in good shape - kind of yellowish tarnished colour and various size of stains on them.
I washed them thoroughly with detergent but those stains are still there.
I asked several so called professionals - antique dealers, sales assistants at department stores etc...
But everyone gave me completely different answer.
Some of them said I can use "Silvo". Then another person said polish with "Brasso".
And the other one told me I need to re-plate spoons.
I went online but I couldn't fine the answer.
So I have no idea what is the correct way to clean them and are they still safe to use?

Yu Blumenfeld
- London, UK

December 2014

Hello Yu. Most silverplated flatware is made of nickel silver. As the silver plating wears away, you see this discoloration because the plating and the base metal are not the same material. You can't remove such differences and they are not stains. I think this flatware was probably silver plated at one time.

They probably have a metallic taste. The correct answer is that they should be sent out for silver plating; then they will not have a metallic taste and they will look good.

It is possible that when they were made years ago the intention was to use them without silver plating, but there have been a number of stupid flatware ideas over the years: I have some "made in Japan"copper-nickel-chrome plated steel flatware from perhaps the same time period and it was just a bad idea :-)


Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 19, 2015

Q. Hi.
I am from India. I would like to gift a silver plate for my brother for his wedding anniversary. Is it safe to use it regularly for eating? Are silver plates hazardous when used on a regular basis? Do they have any chemical reactions when hot food or drinks like coffee are served? Is it safe to eat curd on silver plates? What chemical composition is right for silverware?
The shop has mentioned 92.5 silver purity. Can you please reply as early as possible.


Viji Nagalingam
- chennai, India

March 2015

A. Hi Viji. The best flatware is sterling silver. Sterling silver and silverplated teapots & tea cups, goblets and chalices have been used for hundreds of years. Silver plated or sterling silver serving trays are a commonplace. I am not an epidemiologist of course but I would have no reason at all to suspect any problem from frequent use of sterling silver (92.5 purity) or silver plated food service items. Best wishes to your brother.


Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 1, 2015

Q. How would one test for the level of nickel in silver plated cutlery? I am new to this. Grew up eating on silver plate and recently decided I would like to go back to silver plated cutlery from stainless steel. Someone told me that it may have health risks. I have just started collecting, love doing so, but don't want to poison the grandkids!


Carla Gracey
- Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts USA

March 2015

A. Hi Carla. There is nothing you can make food service items out of that nobody will say has "health risks"; but with tens or hundreds of millions of people using worn silverplate, I think it would be on the news every week if it was a real problem.

worn silverplate
(this is what silverplate looks like when the plating has worn through)

Click on graphic for "NickelAlert" test kit:
nonickel test kit

There are nickel test kits you could try =>

... but basically you can see the discoloration if the silver plating has worn through, and most people seem to get a "metallic taste" as well if the silver plating is worn out.


Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 27, 2015

Q. Yesterday I brought what I thought was sterling silver flatware (antique/grape pattern) to a shop with thought that I would sell. The owner told me it was silver plated and due to toxicity it was of no value in terms of financial worth and should not be used for food consumption, or handling. When I asked what could be done with it he suggested throwing it out. I am looking for information to confirm or reject this suggestion. Surely if it isn't fit to eat with I also wouldn't want to pollute the landfill with carcinogens either. This was quite a surprise. My Mom had been an antique dealer in the 60's thru 80's, which is how I acquired the flatware. Appreciate educated feedback. Thank you.

Jean Anderson DeVito
- Southington, Connecticut USA

June 2015

Hello Jean. Whether you send your nickel-silver to the landfill or not, I'm still not going to get my dinner from the landfill :-)

The point being that just because something like nickel silver isn't great to eat off of doesn't render it a worse toxin than rotting garbage; so you can certainly dispose of unwanted flatware. But your town's public works yard may have a metal-collection dumpster.

The deeper answer is that:
1. the silver plating on plated silverware is so thin that it's not saleable as precious scrap like sterling silver is.
2. if the silver plating has worn off, you will probably get an "off" taste, a metallic taste. It can be replated with silver, which solves the problem, but this may only be economically feasible if the flatware has sentimental value to you.
3. times change and tastes change and there is little market these days for silverplate of any sort; and worn silverplate has no value. Sorry.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

Oneida flatware

June 7, 2015

Good Afternoon!

I have been researching flatware for many months. I bought a set 20 years ago from Dillards for $165 and it has lasted until last week when I had to throw them away due to a plumbing issue. The flatware set was high quality, comfortable, and didn't rust. I loved this set!

After researching, I realized that the best quality is 18/10. I searched to find an economical price set. I found Oneida "Satin Countess" 45-piece set of 18/10 quality for $90. The pieces are quite heavy.

I don't use a dishwasher. I hand-washed the set three times before use. For breakfast I used the spoon in a bowl of cereal this morning. I was left with a metal taste in my mouth. I have never had this happen before. The taste is still here 4 hours later. Can you please help me determine if I need to take the set back? Or is this normal for an 18/10 flatware until the set is broken in?

I care about my health and the health of my two boys. I don't know if I have a nickel allergy. I tend to buy high quality jewelry so I haven't used a nickel product exclusively.

Thanks for you help!

Take care,

D. Scott
- Mesa, Arizona

June 2015

Hi D. This thread unfortunately conflates silver-plated nickel-silver flatware with stainless steel flatware, which can be a bit confusing.

But as far as I know there would not ever be a metallic taste from stainless steel flatware of any sort. I've certainly never encountered it, although I do taste the nickel-silver metal sometimes from some well-worn silverplate.

Your set has extremely good reviews on Amazon! You're sure you didn't take Cold-eze, or use an inhaler, or chew on a ballpoint pen recently? :-)

But I'm not so sure it's actually 18/10 ... the description I see of this product on Oneida.com says 18/0.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

June 8, 2015

A. See if a regular magnet (Alnico) will stick to it fairly strongly. If it does, it's one of the 400 series stainless steels, all of which contain no nickel and are, therefore, more prone to rusting (often, rust spotting), etc. 18/0 SS is in the 400 series.

If it doesn't stick, it is 300 series, which would include 18/8, 18/10, etc. The 18/8, e.g., contains 18 chromium/8 nickel The 300 series is less prone to corrosion than the 400 series, due to the nickel content.

It seems that 400 series is stronger and 300 series is more corrosion resistant. 410 stainless is so strong it is used to make jet engine stators.

The newer super-strong neodymium magnets, like those found in computer hard drives, are finding their way into new products and you can buy a big stack of just the magnets on Amazon and eBay. If you want an easier time holding up stuff on the refrigerator, get a dozen of these, at least 1/4" in dia. - on eBay, you can find 50 of them for under $10. The bigger they are, the harder they are to pull off - sometimes it's easiest to slide them off. If the stuff you're holding up is too heavy, use 2 or 3.

These new neodymium magnets will stick to both 400 and 300 series SS. The attraction to each series is dramatically different, so you could separate them with one of these magnets. They stick to 400 series so strong that it's hard to get them off. In my experience, with 300 series, these magnets stick about like a regular Alnico magnet does on 400 series. Stuck pretty tight, but easy to pull off.

Please read this thread:

Chris Owen
- Nevada, Missouri, USA

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Toxicity of my grandmothers silver plated flatware?

August 11, 2015 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I googled the question "is it safe to use my grandmother's silver plated flatware" and this forum popped up with a very interesting, very knowledgeable reply from a fellow former Pine Beach neighbor! I lived there for fourteen years before moving to downtown toms river. Still visit pine beach regularly, especially Moore's farm market. Mrs. Moore still going strong. So... "Is it safe?" ;-)

Thank you for your time.

lisa hummel
a regular gal! - toms river New Jersey (formerly Pine Beach)

August 2015

Hi Lisa. You moved the opposite direction that I did. I was in Toms River (Silverton) for 16 years.

We appended your inquiry to a thread on the subject. "Silverplate" is made of nickel-silver that is plated with pure silver. If the silver plating wears thru, you will first see it as in the photograph I previously posted on this page, and then you'll most likely taste it as a faint metallic or electric taste, especially if you lick the spoon when you eat.

If you see none of that discoloration, it's still completely covered with silver. Silver has been used for centuries and is certainly 100% safe.

If you do see that discoloration and taste it, the underlying nickel-silver is exposed. Personally I think it will be a matter of finding the discoloration unattractive, and the metallic taste annoying, long before you need to think about the possibility of too much metal in your diet. But you can have it replated if it looks like it requires it, and if you wish.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

October 7, 2015

Q. I have a silver plate tea and coffee service from the 1850's: the outside can still be polished to a nice finish, but the inside is very dull, dark, and in some spots pitted. In your opinion, is it safe to drink from?

20858-2a 20858-2b 20858-2c


Leslie Galbraith
- Toronto, ON, Canada

October 2015

thumbs up signHi Leslie. I doubt that you will find any research or any definitive answers on this question, and there really isn't much point asking for ever final nuance and subtlety from my answers -- I'm just the website administrator, not some expert in the safety of worn silver. But I wouldn't use it, sorry. Maybe someone else will chime in :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

January 31, 2016

! Mr. Mooney, in a earlier comment you wrote "the best flatware is sterling silver". Despite its history, I'm beginning to question that (aesthetics aside). Recently I stumbled across a study in which participants were asked to suck on spoons made from different metals and rate their taste. The metals were gold, silver, stainless steel, zinc, copper, tin and chrome. Silver cutlery didn't fare so well, particularly with acidic foods. Gold and stainless steel came out top.

A news story discussing the study can be found here:

Rob Maurice
- Norfolk, Virginia USA

February 13, 2016

Q. After I cleaned these spoons


(all of them) it was more visible that the part that goes in the mouth is gold in color, and the handles are silver.

I don't know what metal they're made out of. Can you guess the metal, and the most important, are they safe to be used?

I hope they are not toxic, since I would like to use them often.

Thank you very much.

Lilly Davenport
- Princeton, New Jersey

February 2016

A. Hi Lilly. There are no markings at all on this set? As we learned from "The Dress" last year, it is difficult to identify a color in a photograph unless it is in the midst of familiar colors like grass and sky and fire engines. So I'll have to take your word that the part that goes in the mouth is gold colored.

Easiest thing to do is just try to taste the spoons. If they have no taste, they probably are gold plated; and I'm very confident that they are safe. If they taste metallic you are not going to want to use them anyway no matter how safe they are. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

February 1, 2016

A. It is my understanding that silver has antibacterial properties (and is thus employed in some specialized water filtration processes) which to me anyway, would indicate that your silver service would be fine to use, as long as it was clean and there are no other contaminants on it?

Ana von Bunners
- vero beach, Florida, us

May 13, 2016

Hi, Ted!

I've enjoyed reading this informative thread.

I eat with a set of Stainless Steel flatware 18/8 from Japan. I've used them all the time, for almost 30 years. Only in the past year or 2, I started noticing that the spoons leave, on my Corelle ware bowls and some other ceramic mugs, a light gray ring around where I scrape the spoon, these rings are very faint but over time build up on the surface. At first, I thought I had lead in the natural salt that I used, and after I changed salts I still got more rings. I have tried everything I know, including Bon-Ami, to try to remove the rings and scrapes from these items. Nothing has worked. It seems very odd to me.

Could something be wrong with my SS Flatware, and is it safe?

I am especially interested in your answers, because I have a mysterious illness, that has only recently been connected with a deficiency in certain minerals in my body of Copper and Silver, this is with a very high level of Zinc.

So, for myself, I started using Silver Plated Silverware.
I have found new Silver Plated Silverware to be a slightly creamy looking Silver color, and old Silver Plated Silverware to be a more whitish looking Silver color. Is the Silver Plate on the outside of Silver Plated Items made up of Sterling Silver (Pure Silver), or is there something else mixed with the silver that they plate with?

I don't know if you can answer this next question. I have been looking at other Silver Plated items in the thrift shops and see they have many different types of markings and names, quite deceptive. Some newer items have no markings what so ever, they look like Silver Plated, but could be anything. Would these items have any Silver in them?

Thank you for your time!

Sara Armstrong
- Bensalem, Pennsylvania

May 2016

thumbs up sign Hi Sara. I'm just the site administrator posting the Q&A's, and have no training or experience in what is or isn't safe; But I do personally feel that in this age of GMOs & pesticides, and frequent e coli, listeria, & salmonella outbreaks it is a bit silly to ignore our food and focus instead on the service items which the food might touch while being served. Perhaps the hobgoblin phrase "heavy metals" is making everyone focus on the flatware instead of the food.

Ceramic/porcelain is harder than metal, and it is not really unusual for metal items to leave gray marks on light colored ceramic. We have lots of inquiries here of how to get marks from rings out of white sinks and toilet bowls.

If flatware has no markings at all, sorry, but I don't think it is possible to guess what it might be from its shade.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

Can we use nickel under gold plating on flatware?

August 20, 2017

I'm from Vietnam and we are planning to get into high end cutlery business by using gold electroplating to decorate ordinary stainless steel (18/10 or grade 304 ) cutleries.
We intend to use the same electroplating method as for non-edible stainless steel accessories which consists of applying 2 layers of nickels then 1 layer of Cobalt-gold and final layer of nearly pure gold (using gold salt 68,3%).
However, for cutlery, our concern is whether the nickel layer would be toxic and create allergies to users as cutlery have direct contact to users especially when they are using them to eat food.

I'd like to seek your advice whether nickel can be acceptable or not in this case?

Many many thanks,

Hanh Nguyen
- Hanoi, Vietnam

August 30, 2017

? Hello, what will be the overall gold plating thickness counting both coatings?

Mark Baker
process engineering - Phoenix, Arizona USA

December 7, 2017

Q. I have a 13 x 9 Mexican silver pan. Can I bake a cake in it?

Genevieve Bowman
Retired - Guy, Texas

December 2017

A. Hi Genevieve. Baking usually involves eggs, which are very high in sulfur and tarnish silver badly -- so I don't think it's a very good idea.

I don't think anyone can assure you whether it is safe or not unless the pan was a commercial product intended for baking.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

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