Alpaca’s are those furry animals living in the highlands of the Andes in South America. They are used as pack animals because of their sure footing and ability to carry heavy loads. Silver is a chemical element with the Symbol Ag and has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity as well as reflectivity of any metal. Silver is used in electronics, jewelry, and alloys. Neither of these terms has anything to do with the common term “Alpaca Silver”.
Alpaca Silver is an alloy that contains no silver or Alpacas whatsoever! Alpaca silver is commonly used in Central and South American jewelry making and is sometimes called “Nickel Silver” or “German Silver”. Alpaca Silver is usually made of 60% Copper, 20% Nickel, and 20% Zinc. Alpaca Silver, like its counterpart “Sterling Silver” polishes to a high luster but is not as soft and is easier to use in jewelry due to its durability. Another great thing about Alpaca Silver is the cost associated with it, silver is expensive and the Alpaca Silver keeps the cost down which is good for not only the artisans using it but also the wearers of the jewelry.
Alpaca Silver will tarnish like any other metal but is rather easy to clean with common household items. All you need is a little lemon juice or some warm soapy water (I have found that the lemon juice works the best). Submerge the piece in the juice or the soapy water and gently brush with an old toothbrush to remove any tarnish then polish with a dry, lint-free cloth. Now it is beautiful again! Because of the copper in the alloy the piece can darken over time (this is the tarnish) and can leave that dreaded green look on your skin. This is not an allergy it is just a normal reaction. Regular cleaning will help.
I will say though, anyone with an allergy to copper or nickel should NOT wear Alpaca Silver jewelry.