Argento, plata, silver. In any language, it is one of the most widely used and indispensable precious metals in modern society. Throughout history, silver has played a key role in many of civilizations’ greatest advancements. Silver. The element of change.
Since it was first extracted from the Earth in ancient Turkey some 5000 years ago, silver has helped transform society. Early civilizations prized its innate beauty and intrinsic value, fashioning ornaments, jewellery, eating utensils, and of course, silver coins. Silver changed the course of countless lives in the time of the Greek and Roman empires when it was first used to prevent infection. In the Middle Ages, silver was first used to disinfect water and food during storage. Sailors found that putting silver coins in barrels of water or wine would keep the liquid potable during long ocean voyages. But no single event in the history of silver was more important than the discovery of the New World. Extensive deposits of the precious metal were discovered throughout North and South America and the Spanish exploration of the New World led to mining of the silver ore that dramatically eclipsed anything that had come before. Over the ensuing centuries, silver has time and again demonstrated its remarkable properties as an element of change.
The Properties of Silver
Today, no metal is indispensable to modern life as is silver. Beautiful, valuable, malleable, durable. Silver is the best conductor of electricity of all metals. It withstands extreme temperatures and is an excellent reflector of light and conductor of heat. While silver is found throughout the world, some of the largest producing nations are Mexico, Peru, China, Australia and Chile. Less than thirty percent of the silver produced annually comes from primary silver mines. The vast majority is a by-product of gold, copper, lead, and zinc mining operations. Silver is also recycled, especially from industrial catalysis processes and comes from other sources such as scrap melt.
The Uses of Silver
Sophisticated advances in processing techniques have led to ever-increasing uses of silver worldwide. The word silver evokes images of exquisite pieces of jewellery or fine tableware. Fashioned consumers value silver jewellery and silverware not only because of its beauty but ease-of-use in contemporary designs and its affordability. But the fact is that well over half of all silver produced globally is used in industrial applications, and every day it seems another, even more innovative use for this most precious metal is developed. While silver's antibacterial properties have been evident for centuries, only recently have we come to understand silver's amazing germ fighting properties. Silver is a naturally occurring bactericide. It effectively kills microorganisms, but does not harm humans or animals. Look just about anywhere in a hospital and you will find silver in bandages, instruments, even on furniture, helping to prevent infection and promote healing. Silver-based drinking water purifiers are popular and many swimming pool owners are switching to silver-based cleansers. Silver also helps make today's mobile interconnected lifestyle possible. Nearly every computer, cell phone, automobile, and appliance contain silver. Its high electrical conductivity makes it perfect for coating contacts on circuit boards. This magnificent element of change also helps reduce the world's reliance on fossil fuels. Silver is integral in the manufacture of solar cells and panels, including electric and hybrid vehicles. When used as part of the low emittance coating on window glass, silver can help dramatically reduce energy usage for heating and cooling. In the soldering and brazing of pipes, faucets, ducts, and joints, silver provides safety, strength, and quality unrivalled by any other material. Worldwide, there is a movement toward using safer solder and the traditional mixture of tin and lead is quickly being replaced by a combination of silver, tin, and copper.
The Value of Silver
Silver has been a popular store of value for centuries. Today, large and small investors alike recognize silver’s intrinsic worth and are including silver in their investment portfolios. Without question, few other substances are as versatile, as beneficial, as beautiful as silver. It has been instrumental in changing the course of history, and no doubt the future possibilities are limitless for silver, the element of change.
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