German silver - also known as nickel or alpaca silver - is an alloy consisting mainly of copper, zinc and nickel. It originates from China, but was imitated by the Germans from around the mid 18th century, resulting in the name German silver. The alloy is merely silver in appearance, but can be plated with the more precious metal; German silver was originally used in this way as a base metal for silver-plated cutlery and dinnerware. German silver that has been plated is often marked with the letters EPNS, indicating 'Electro Plated Nickel Silver'. The material has been used for a wide variety of objects, including musical instruments, coins and cars. Since the 19th century, German silver has been used for different types of jewellery and accessories, including earrings, purses, belts, bracelets, rings and necklaces.