Science, Tech, Math › Science What Is Tibetan Silver? Share Flipboard Email Print De Agostini/A. Dagli Orti/Getty Images Science Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated February 08, 2019 Tibetan Silver is the name given to the metal used in some jewelry available online, such as on eBay or via Amazon. These items typically ship from China. Have you ever wondered how much silver is in Tibetan Silver or about the chemical composition of Tibetan Silver? Would you be surprised to learn that this metal can be dangerous? Tibetan Silver is a silver-colored alloy consisting of copper with tin or nickel. Some items described as Tibetan Silver are cast iron that has been plated with the silver-colored metal. Most Tibetan Silver is copper with tin rather than copper with nickel because nickel causes skin reactions in many people. Health Hazards Ironically, the metal often contains other elements that are much more toxic than nickel. It is inadvisable for pregnant women or children to wear items made with Tibetan Silver because some of the items contain high levels of dangerous metals, including lead and arsenic. eBay issued a buyer warning so that bidders would be aware of the metallurgical testing conducted on Tibetan Silver items and the possible toxicity of these items. In six of seven items that were analyzed using x-ray fluorescence, the primary metals in the Tibetan Silver were actually nickel, copper, and zinc. One item contained 1.3% arsenic and extremely high lead content of 54%. A separate sampling of items revealed comparable compositions, with trace amounts of chromium, aluminum, tin, gold, and lead, although in that study, all of the samples contained acceptable levels of lead. Note that not all items contain toxic levels of heavy metals. The warning for pregnant women and children is intended to prevent accidental poisonings. Other Names Sometimes comparable metallurgical compositions have been called Nepalese silver, white metal, pewter, lead-free pewter, base metal, or simply tin alloy. In the past, there was an alloy called Tibetan Silver that actually did contain the element silver. Some vintage Tibetan silver is sterling silver, which is 92.5% silver. The remaining percent could be any combination of other metals, although usually, it is copper or tin.