What is melchior?
Melchior is a silver-colored alloy of copper and nickel. It may contain iron and manganese for a slight change in characteristics.
Melchior has no standard formula, the amount and ratio of impurities may vary. Here is an approximate ratio of metals in the alloy:
- Copper – 70 to 95%
- Nickel – up to 30%.
- Iron up to 0.8%
- Manganese – up to 1%
If the composition includes zinc, the alloy will be called a different name – nesilber. Some of the nickel will be substituted for zinc. This makes the alloy cheaper and more accessible. Neusilver has become common in coin production.
The word “melchior” has another meaning. It was the name of one of the three wise men (in some readings, kings or magi) who brought the baby Jesus gifts at Christmas. This name is used only in the Western European tradition. Their names and ministries are not mentioned in the Gospels, and the Orthodox Church did not put them into doctrine at all.
The alloy is sometimes called “German silver” or “new silver,” and in the 3rd century B.C. it was known as “white copper.”
Melchior is often considered a cheaper substitute for silver. In terms of production cost, it is indeed cheaper and looks similar to silver. But we believe that this metal is independent in its purpose and deserves attention from jewelry lovers.
How to Distinguish Melchior from Silver
Since silver and melchior are easy to confuse, here are some simple ways to tell the difference.
- As a general rule, silver has markings. These marks are 830, 875, 900, 925, etc. There may also be marks on articles made of melchior. For example, the abbreviation MN by the names of the metals in the composition – copper and nickel. But manufacturers often leave the alloy without identifying marks.
- Melchior heats slower than silver. In particular, due to the low thermal conductivity of dishes made of this alloy is in demand.
- A drop of water on the surface in 2-3 hours will give a green stain on the melchior. The surface of silver will remain clean.
- A drop of iodine, on the contrary, will leave a dark mark on the silver piece. It will not react with melchior and will not stain.
Advantages and disadvantages of melchior
If you continue to compare the two alloys, each will find a number of positive and negative qualities.
- Melchior is harder to identify. You can tell the amount of silver and other metals in the impurities, as well as where the item came from, from the silver assay. Melchior has no standard formula and is rarely branded, so the origin of things made of melchior is difficult to determine.
- Silver is valued higher than melchior. This is both a plus and a minus. The plus is that melchior pieces are cheaper. The disadvantage is that such items are suitable as monetary investment only in the case of especially craftsmanship.
- The melting point of melchior is higher than that of silver – about 1170 against 960 degrees Celsius. It also has good mechanical strength and resistance to corrosion.
- The plastic properties of melchior are higher than those of silver. The structure of this metal allows to work it both in cold and hot condition. Craftsmen can more easily stamp, engrave, emboss, solder, polish, and other artistic works.
How to Care for Melchior
Because of its copper content, melchior is easily oxidized and should be protected from water. Always wipe tableware and rings dry after washing and remove them before washing your hands.
This alloy is also oxidized by air, as a patina layer appears on it. It can be removed with the same cleaners used for silver. For more information on such cleaning, see our video: