Silver is a white noble metal, known for its sparkly blue-white hue. Like gold, silver resists the corrosive effects of moisture and oxygen. It is cheaper than gold as it is more available for mining on Earth.
For centuries, silver has been used to make long-lasting jewellery, bullion coins and to craft precious tableware and spectacular religious artefacts.
What is silver?
The purity of silver is usually indicated by the manufacturer’s hallmark on each object. A hallmark of 999, for example, indicates that the item is 99.9% pure silver. This is known to be the purest, softest and most malleable type. Among other major purity hallmarks is the Lion Passant, which indicates sterling silver (92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper).
Silver is known to naturally possess non-toxic antibiotic properties which derive from its ability to generate an electrical field that distributes electricity and heat around the body. This simply means that by interacting with the skin’s natural conductivity, silver protects us against irritations, germs and bacteria.
Silver is mined in various places around the world, such as Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Poland, China, Turkey and Australia. Unlike gold, silver is nearly always found in ores, which means that it requires specialised mining techniques to extract.
In recent years, Fairtrade Silver has been a revolutionary initiative to implement ethical practices in the mining of silver by offering fair prices and safe working conditions to smaller-scale miners.
The history of silver
From 3,000 BC Anatolia to the Laurium mines of ancient Athens, humans have mined this beautiful metal and have extensively used it to make valuable coins, religious items and ornaments that survive the test of time. It has helped civilisations prosper, and expanded their trade and influence.
The earliest known coins in history were made in the kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor in 600 BC from electrum, a natural alloy of silver and gold.
The antimicrobial properties of silver were also known from ancient times, as Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” recommended its use for treating ulcers and controlling infectious diseases. It was also used to reduce nervous system stress and improve mental health.
In ancient mythology, silver was a symbol of the Egyptian Moon goddess Isis, and in many civilisations it represented female power, fertility and pureness. This mystical relationship is symbolised by the crescent moon.
Perhaps the most important chapter in silver’s fascinating history is the arrival of Columbus in the New World in 1492. Between 1500 and 1800, the Spanish established a silver mining empire in Peru, Bolivia and Mexico, which accounted for over 85% of world silver production.
The metal's widest use today is found in industry and the design of cell phones, computers, automobiles and solar panels.