Nickel silver, also known as German silver, Argentann, new silver, nickel brass, albata, or alpacca, is a copper alloy with nickel and often zinc. The usual formulation is 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. Nickel silver is named for its silvery appearance, but it contains no elemental silver unless plated.
The Alpacca alloy was developed in 1823 by the German chemist Dr. Ernst August Geitner (1783-1852). It was very similar in its appearance to silver, but significantly cheaper. Therefore, this new alloy was first called "Argentan". It consisted of 20% nickel, 55% copper and 25% zinc. The new silver-imitating alloy soon became very popular.
The great advantage of the use of Alpacca alloy as the base metal for silver plating is that the appearance of the objects does not change significantly with the wearing away of the silver layer.