Jeffrey Herman Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, August 2020, Consulting the Silver Expert

Consulting the Silver Expert

by Jeff Herman


There are two metals to be aware of when eating, drinking, or dispensing from a silverplated object. The easiest method for determining if plating has been removed is to hold a piece of glossy white paper next to the piece; you should see a color difference.


Most silverplated flatware has a nickel base metal. If you see this metal because of over polishing, discontinue use and have it replated.


Plated vessels you drink from are sometimes made from an alloy called white metal. This material will contain lead with the addition of one or more of the following metals: antimony, tin, cadmium, bismuth, and zinc. The alloy, when exposed, is toxic and can leach into liquids, especially those that are acidic. If you see this gray metal inside a plated coffeepot, teapot, or other vessel, discontinue use and have the piece replated or repurpose it. If you’re unsure, send me an image of the manufacturers stamp and the affected area.

Regarding Pewter

There are two types of pewter: leaded and lead-free. Old pewter is gray in appearance and contains lead and tin as a hardener. Lead-free pewter appears silver in color and is made-up of at least 90% tin, with the remainder antimony, copper, and sometimes bismuth. Leaded pewter must never be used with food or drink. If you’re unsure if the object contains lead, send me an image of the piece.

Solid silver alloys and intact silverplate have actual health benefits! Click this link to find out more.

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either contact him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or via email: jeff @

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.