Silver is heralded as a precious metal. This status is upheld all over the world—everywhere you go, silver is a precious commodity. It is found in concentrations of just 0.1 parts per million in the Earth's crust, making it relatively rare.
However, in the silver-rich American West, the metal has an even more special status due to its history.
Silver's storied and exciting history will be on display next week at the Tuscon Gem & Mineral Show. The annual show has been held in Tuscon, Arizona each of the last 62 years. It is a chance for the general public and enthusiasts of mining or geology to view all kinds of rare gems and minerals.
Admission to the annual show (held on February 11 — 14) is free to everyone!
The Diverse Value of Silver
For literally thousands of years, silver was used by societies as a medium of exchange. It facilitated trade and commerce between individuals, businesses, and governments. Up until 1965, silver was used as money in the United States for dimes, quarters, half dollars, and one-dollar coins. 1965 was the year the American government debased its coinage from 90 percent silver to cupronickel (copper-nickel).
The conversion of pure silver into compounds such as silver bromide, silver chloride, and silver iodide allowed photographers and filmmakers to use the precious metal for photographic film.
Silver ore is primarily found interspersed with copper, lead, gold, and manganese deposits.
Today, the following industries all make use of silver:
- Specialized batteries
- Silverware (dining utensils)
- Coins and bars (investments)
- Dentistry (amalgams prevent tooth decay)
Silver's History in Arizona
The beginnings of silver mining in Arizona go back to the era of rule by the Spaniards. 18th-century Spanish silver mines included workings in the Cerro Colorado Mountains, Patagonia Mountains, and Santa Rita Mountains.
The 1850s saw extremely rich silver ore being extracted from the Heintzelman Mine (located in the Cerro Colorado Mountains) and the Mowry Mine (located in the Patagonia Mountains).
However, large-scale silver production in Arizona truly began following the passage of the Bland-Allison Act of 1878. This law stipulated that the federal government would buy $2 million worth of silver each month to mint into Morgan Silver Dollars.
This law brought a boom to the Arizona silver mining industry. Pinal County, AZ soon became known as the "Pioneer District." In the area's Tombstone Hills, silver could be found mingling with other minerals like lead and manganese.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the silver deposits "sits atop a 2-mile-wide, mineralized belt extending 30 miles southwest-northeast, trending from the Huachuca Mountains to the Dragoon Mountains."
In Mohave County, the McCracken Mine and nearby Signal Mine combined to produce $800,000 worth of silver between 1875 — 1906.
This pales in comparison to the famous Silver King Mine, which yielded $6.5 million of silver between 1875 — 1928. Silver King Mine was the sister project of the Gold King Mine located in neighboring Colorado.
Elsewhere in Arizona, the Bradshaw Mountains are home to the Peck Mine and the Tip Top Mine. The state is fifth in the nation in yearly silver production. This also includes the Old Dominion Mine and the Silver Butte Mine.
With this long history as a backdrop, Arizona's second-most-populous city, Tuscon, is a fitting host for the gem and mineral show. On display will be some of the world's most famous silver specimens, originating from as far away as Batopilas, Mexico; Frieberg, Germany; and Kongsberg, Norway.
If you are in the area, check out the show for yourself!
The opinions and forecasts herein are provided solely for informational purposes, and should not be used or construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell any product.