Silver is an element that has been around since antiquity and used in a multitude of items from silverware and jewellery to mirrors and currency. One of the most popular elements in the world, silver – as a jewellery component – saw its popularity over gold grow rapidly during the later part of the 20th century and in the early years of the 21st Century. At present, there are more uses for silver than there has ever been. It continues to be a popular precious metal and will undoubtedly continue to be one.
As a long standing symbol of wealth and status in a majority of cultures, silver has been used to make high quality products from kitchen utensils, ornaments and jewellery. It is also used in various other ways such as in electronics, dentistry, mirrors, medication, clothing, food and a lot more.
As a metal, silver has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals, even higher than copper, but its greater cost and the fact that it tarnishes more easily have prevented it from being widely used in place of copper for electrical purposes. However, high end audio equipment still uses silver wiring to minimize the loss of audio quality and it was used in the electromagnets that enriched Uranium during World War II – mainly because of the wartime shortage of Copper.
Silver has been used in medicine throughout history. It has found modern uses in medicine, too, because of its effectiveness as an anti-bacterial agent. Silver in clothing is often used to prolong the life of the material, prevent bacterial growth on the material and prevent the formation of odour.
Pure silver also has the highest optical reflectivity and is often painted on the backs of mirrors to provide a greater reflective surface and silver halides are photosensitive and so used in photographic film and paper. Silver sources
The principal sources of silver are copper, copper-nickel, gold, lead and lead-zinc ores obtained from Canada, Cobalt, Ontario, Mexico, Peru, Australia and the United States. This metal is also produced during the electrolytic refining of copper and by application of the Parkes process on lead metal obtained from lead ores that contain small amounts of silver.
Commercial grade fine silver is at least 99.9% pure silver and purities greater than 99.999% are available. Mexico is the world’s largest silver producer. According to the Secretary of Economics of Mexico, it produced 80,120,000 troy ounces (2492 metric tons) in 2000, about 15% of the annual production of the world.