Silver Facts: The Ultimate Top 10 List
Contributed by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez
Silver serves a wide range of valuable industrial and artistic purposes. Given its uses in everything from electronics and jewelry to cars and medicines, you probably encounter silver almost every day.
But how much do you really know about this white-colored element?
Get ready to learn more than you ever imagined about silver! The rest of this article is filled with 10 mind-blowing facts about this incredible metal.
These silver facts are perfect for impressing your friends, family, and fellow silver bugs, too!
1. Silver is among the earliest elements discovered.
Silver was one of the first five elements known to humankind. Included among these are gold, copper, lead, and iron.
Silver objects are known to date back to around 4000BC. However, the metal was likely discovered around 1,000 years before that.
Ancient civilizations learned how to separate silver from lead by 3000BC. It was well worth the effort in figuring this process out; for around that time, silver was valued more highly than gold. Silver was at its peak value during the 15th century.
2. Silver is found in the Earth's crust.
You don’t need to go very far to find silver, for much of it is located in the top layers of Earth. Of course, getting to silver is another matter.
This precious white metal turns up in rocks and typically has to be retrieved through mining and refinement.
When found, silver is often comingling with a variety of other elements. Metals such as gold and copper and minerals like argentite and chlorargyrite are usually present.
Silver occurs as a natural alloy with gold, combining to make a metal known as electrum. Most of the silver mined today is produced as a byproduct of other metals and minerals.
3. Silver has some outstanding properties.
It’s a highly ductile element that can be pressed, squished, and stretched into any shape imaginable and retain its physical integrity.
For example, a single grain of silver can be pressed into a plate 150 times thinner than a typical sheet of paper. Meanwhile, an ounce of the metal can be transformed into a wire measuring 8,000 feet long—that’s about 1.5 miles long!
Silver is also a fantastic thermal conductor. Thus it's used in a variety of electronics and other industrial applications.
4. Silver production is becoming more efficient.
Mining procedures have become more advanced and, pardon the pun, refined.
The amount of silver being newly discovered or reprocessed from prior uses is generally increasing each year. In 2005, the globe produced about 20,500 metric tons of silver, whereas, in 2018, that number increased to 27,000.
5. Silver turns up around the globe.
Silver has been found in many parts of the world. Today, most of it is mined in places like Mexico and Peru, though it also is located in Canada, Russia, and Australia.
In the United States, silver has helped build much of the economy in towns and cities throughout the American Rockies and Southwest. The region became a hotbed of mining activity during the 19th century. Silver is still mined in many of these places today.
6. Silver is non-toxic to humans.
The famous Food Pyramid dietary chart never did tell us exactly how many servings of silver to eat every day. The argent metal does turn up in various foodstuffs, particularly ornamental items such as icings, metallic jimmies, and other decorative pieces.
Silver is also antimicrobial, and thus it is often used in sterile culinary and medical settings. This is something seen since ancient times. The Phoenicians were among the first to utilize silver bottles and vats for storing water, wine, and milk to prevent contamination.
Silver is also used in various medicines and is even turning up in medical-grade paper.
7. Silver is valuable as money.
One of the most common means in which silver is found is money.
Interestingly, the words “silver” and “money” are linguistically synonymous in at least 14 recognized languages.
Silver has been serving monetary purposes since around 700 BC. It has been used in coinage and other forms of money the world over.
In the United States, silver was used in circulating coinage through 1970. By then, it became too expensive to utilize in business-strike coins. However, the United States Mint still strikes a variety of non-circulating legal-tender silver coins, including commemoratives and bullion coinage.
8. Sterling silverware originated in England during the 13th century.
This particular silver alloy is a composition of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other precious metals, including copper. Today it is popular in jewelry and artistic applications.
The word “sterling” derives from the silver pennies that the Normans struck during the 11th century and were adorned with stars, or “sterres.” The term sterre later became “starling,” and that word eventually evolved into “sterling.”
9. Silver is abundant.
Yes, silver is a relatively scarce and precious metal, but there’s still a lot of it, too.
Approximately 20 billion ounces of silver is presently in use right now in a variety of items. Its applications include coins, jewelry, artistic pieces, religious artifacts, and other novelties.
While gold is meticulously recovered due to its value and relative rarity, a surprising amount of silver is discarded each year. This is in part because it is often found in industrial items that are impractical or too expensive to recycle.
10. "Silver" is an old word.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary states “silver” has been a part of the lexicon since before the 12th century. It derives from the Anglo-Saxon word “seolfor.”
The word silver has many meanings as a noun, verb, and adjective. However, its primary definition as an earthly element is as follows:
“A white metallic element that is sonorous, ductile, very malleable, capable of a high degree of polish, and chiefly univalent in compounds, and that has the highest thermal and electric conductivity of any substance.”
This treasured metal has been around for millennia and has been an inextricably important part of civilization for ages. Amazingly, the English language has not one scholastically recognized word that rhymes with “silver.”
Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a journalist, editor, and blogger who has won multiple awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild. He has also authored numerous books, including works profiling the history of the United States Mint and United States coinage.
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