Health HazardsIronically, 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 for Tibetan SilverSometimes 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.
Other Jewelry Metals and AlloysComposition of Sterling Silver
Composition of White Gold
Common Gold Alloys