Tibetan silver

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Tibetan silver (chinese Zangyin) in modern usage refers to a variety of white non-precious metal alloys used primarily in jewelry components, with an appearance similar to aged silver.



Silver in Tibet

In ancient times silver was imported from regions near modern Iran (Bactria, Khorasan), and an association of silverwork with Iran appears to have developed. Silver was imported from China (as ingots), India (tankas), and from Mongolia and Siberia. Some silver was mined in Tibet, but imports were required to satisfy the country's requirements for minting. [1]

Silver Chemical element with atomic number 47

Silver is a chemical element with symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it exhibits the highest electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, and reflectivity of any metal. The metal is found in the Earth's crust in the pure, free elemental form, as an alloy with gold and other metals, and in minerals such as argentite and chlorargyrite. Most silver is produced as a byproduct of copper, gold, lead, and zinc refining.

Iran Country in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia and officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. The country's central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the country's capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center.

Bactria Historical region in Central Asia

Bactria ; or Bactriana was a historical region in Central Asia. Bactria proper was north of the Hindu Kush mountain range and south of the Amu Darya river, covering the flat region that straddles modern-day Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and parts of Northern Pakistan. More broadly Bactria was the area north of the Hindu Kush, west of the Pamirs and south of the Tian Shan with the Amu Darya flowing west through the center.

In addition to coinage silver was used in Tibet for repousse work, and as an inlay in brass and copper statues. [2]

Historically 'Tibetan Silver' did contain silver, and some old items may be predominately silver. [3]

Modern usage

'Tibetan Silver' includes copper-tin, and copper-nickel alloys; zinc alloys; and other alloy compositions, as well as base metals such as iron plated with a silver alloy. An X-ray fluorescence analysis showed that six of seven items acquired online and described as 'tibetan silver' were alloys containing primarily copper, nickel, zinc. [3]

X-ray fluorescence emission of characteristic "secondary" X-rays from a material that has been excited by bombarding with high-energy X-rays or gamma rays

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) is the emission of characteristic "secondary" X-rays from a material that has been excited by bombarding with high-energy X-rays or gamma rays. The phenomenon is widely used for elemental analysis and chemical analysis, particularly in the investigation of metals, glass, ceramics and building materials, and for research in geochemistry, forensic science, archaeology and art objects such as paintings and murals.

There are potential health hazards associated with Tibetan Silver due to the undefined or uncertain definition of the alloy - these include allergies due to Nickel, but also could include other serious hazards including the presence of lead or arsenic in the alloy. [3]

Nickel allergy allergic contact dermatitis that has allergic trigger nickel atom

Nickel allergy is a form of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) caused by exposure to the chemical element nickel.

Lead Chemical element with atomic number 82

Lead is a chemical element with symbol Pb and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metal that is denser than most common materials. Lead is soft and malleable, and also has a relatively low melting point. When freshly cut, lead is silvery with a hint of blue; it tarnishes to a dull gray color when exposed to air. Lead has the highest atomic number of any stable element and three of its isotopes each include a major decay chain of heavier elements.

Arsenic Chemical element with atomic number 33

Arsenic is a chemical element with symbol As and atomic number 33. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in combination with sulfur and metals, but also as a pure elemental crystal. Arsenic is a metalloid. It has various allotropes, but only the gray form, which has a metallic appearance, is important to industry.


Zangyin is a chinese term for 'Tibetan silver' - it seems to originate from a scholar's term for the inferior silver adulterated with high proportion of copper used for Tibetan coinage in the late Qing Dynasty period. [4]

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Alloy mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements

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Brass alloy of copper and zinc

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, in proportions which can be varied to achieve varying mechanical and electrical properties. It is a substitutional alloy: atoms of the two constituents may replace each other within the same crystal structure. In contrast, bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.

Bronze metal alloy

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Metal element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat

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Cupronickel (CuNi) is an alloy of copper that contains nickel and strengthening elements, such as iron and manganese. Despite its high copper content, CuNi is silver in colour, due to nickel's high electronegativity causing copper's d-shell electron loss.

Cymbals are made from four main alloys, all of them copper-based. These are: bell bronze, malleable bronze, brass, and nickel silver.

Nickel silver

Nickel silver, Maillechort, German silver, Argentan, new silver, nickel brass, albata, 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 due to its silvery appearance, but it contains no elemental silver unless plated. The name "German silver" refers to its development by 19th-century German metalworkers from the Chinese alloy known as paktong (白銅) (cupronickel). All modern, commercially important nickel silvers contain significant amounts of zinc, and are sometimes considered a subset of brass.

Brazing metal-joining technique by high-temperature molten metal filling

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Plating is a surface covering in which a metal is deposited on a conductive surface. Plating has been done for hundreds of years; it is also critical for modern technology. Plating is used to decorate objects, for corrosion inhibition, to improve solderability, to harden, to improve wearability, to reduce friction, to improve paint adhesion, to alter conductivity, to improve IR reflectivity, for radiation shielding, and for other purposes. Jewelry typically uses plating to give a silver or gold finish.

Nickel (Canadian coin) Canadian coin worth 5 cents

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Native metal Metal that is found in its metallic form, either pure or as an alloy, in nature

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Colored gold various colours of gold obtained by alloying gold with other elements

Pure gold is slightly reddish yellow in color, but colored gold in various other colors can be produced.

Historical money of Tibet aspect of history

The use of historical money in Tibet started in ancient times, when Tibet had no coined currency of its own. Bartering was common, gold was a medium of exchange, and shell money and stone beads were used for very small purchases. A few coins from other countries were also occasionally in use.

Group 11 element group of chemical elements

Group 11, by modern IUPAC numbering, is a group of chemical elements in the periodic table, consisting of copper (Cu), silver (Ag), and gold (Au). Roentgenium (Rg) is also placed in this group in the periodic table, although no chemical experiments have yet been carried out to confirm that it behaves like the heavier homologue to gold. Group 11 is also known as the coinage metals, due to their former usage. They were most likely the first three elements discovered. Copper, silver, and gold all occur naturally in elemental form.

The coinage metals comprise, at a minimum, those metallic chemical elements which have historically been used as components in alloys used to mint coins. The term is not perfectly defined, however, since a number of metals have been used to make "demonstration coins" which have never been used to make monetized coins for any nation-state, but could be. Some of these elements would make excellent coins in theory, but their status as coin metals is not clear. In general, because of problems caused when coin metals are intrinsically valuable as commodities, there has been a trend in the 21st century toward use of coinage metals of only the least exotic and expensive types.


  1. Bue 1991, pp. 26-7.
  2. Bue 1991, p. 27.
  3. 1 2 3 Helmenstine, Anne Marie (27 Dec 2017), "What Is Tibetan Silver?", www.thoughtco.com
  4. Fei, Li (Jan 2018), "In the name of "Zangyin (Tibetan silver)": material, consumption and identity in ethnic tourism of China", Tourism Tribune, 33 (1): 74–85, ISSN   1002-5006