What Is Alpaca Silver Jewelry?

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Close-up of alpaca silver rings.
Close-up of alpaca silver rings. (Image: vm/iStock/Getty Images)

Shopping for a new piece of jewelry means getting familiar with types of materials, as many can look remarkably alike. Most affordable accessories with a silver finish aren't authentic silver at all -- instead, they're made of alpaca silver. But don't let that discourage you: When you consider the quality of alpaca silver, you just might land on a budget-friendly alternative.

Origins

Alpaca silver is comprised of copper, nickel and zinc or iron. It was developed in 1823, during a contest between German and Austrian metalworkers who were tasked with creating the best imitation silver. It is also referred to as nickel silver or German silver, despite containing no traces of authentic silver.

Uses and Benefits

Alpaca silver is often the material of choice for those who craft jewelry by hand. It's malleable and can be bent into shape with pliers alone, while mimicking the sheen and appearance of silver. It's much more affordable than authentic silver jewelry -- a plus when shopping on a budget. High-grade alpaca does not stain and is hypoallergenic, making it ideal for those with silver and metal allergies.

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