Silver is known by mankind since Pre-History, it has been recognised and utilised by many cultures as a metal with unique properties. Its discovery is estimated to have happened shortly after that of copper and gold. The earliest people known to process silver ores were the pre-Hittites of Cappadocia, located in eastern Anatolia. When the world reached 2000 BC, the smelting and mining of silver became increasingly larger.
The oldest reference to the element appears in the book of Genesis. A profound reference to silver in the Bible according to the account in the Gospel of John, Judas carried the disciples' money bag. He betrayed Jesus for a bribe of "thirty pieces of silver" by identifying him with a kiss. The Egyptians considered gold to be a perfect metal, and gave it the symbol of a circle. Since silver was the closest to gold in perfection, it was given the symbol of a semi-circle. Later this semi-circle led to a growing moon symbol, probably due to the likeness between the shining metal and the moon glow. The Romans called silver argentium, keeping this as the international name of the element, from where its chemical symbol derives.
Silver is one of the most major of major precious metals, second in acclaim only to gold, it's big sister. Goverments lock up silver. 'The United States Treasury stopped trading it for paper money in 1968 and the U.S. Mint has struck no silver coins since 1976. But more than 4,000 tons are in federal strong rooms in San Francisco and West Point: the nation's strategic stockpile.'(National Geographic, vo. 160 No.3 September 1981) Silver has a hardness rated between 2.5 and 2.7, and is therefore one of the most malleable of all metals. Silver is white and lustrous. While it is a metal, it is more aptly described as a transition element. In fluids, silver can exist in four basic forms - as a compound, a neutral particle (as in ground silver ), a negatively charged aggregate ( particle ), and a positively charged ion.
Silver and silver compounds have many uses. Pure silver is the best conductor of heat and electricity of all known metals, so it is sometimes used in making solder, electrical contacts and printed circuit boards. Silver is also the best reflector of visible light known. Silver has also been used to create coins, although today other metals are typically used in its place. Sterling silver, an alloy containing 92.5% silver, is used to make silverware, jewellery and other decorative items.
expression, “Born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” is a reference to health, not wealth. Because being fed with a silver
spoon did, in fact, help children stay healthier, the old adage contains more
than a grain of truth. "(Silver
not just a Pretty Face - by Peter Stone - Peterstone.com: December 27, 2010
Posted in About our Jewellery) Royalty who ate using
silverware were referred to as 'blue bloods" relating to the silver
content in their blood. This common observation is part of the reason why
silverware came into fashion in the middle ages: people who ate with their
hands got sick more often and more easily.
The usage of silver came into being sometime between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. Although it may have been even earlier - records vary. Certainly we can go back to the early Egyptian period and the time of the Sumerian Civilisation. Silver mining was a very dangerous business in those far off days. The problem was that silver is mixed with, lead. And often the lives of the early miners lasted for only 2 or 3 years. Lead poisoning was not diagnosed as such in the early days - though the poor slaves who were actually doing the mining must have had their suspicions about the very high death toll. Because of this, most free men wouldn't work in the mines, and so they forced slaves to work in the mines instead.
Ancient silver mines in Lavrion, .Greece Remains of silver washing plant with channels and receptacles. The precious metals sank and were retained in the cups.
|Athenian silver coin displaying Athena and her Owl|
The areas where silver is mined are found all over the world, but some of the main producers are: The U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, Russia, Australia and Germany.
|Ancient punch marked silver coin ,India,BC 300.|
The convenience and use of silver in the coinage of the world has always lent great respectability to the commodity. And created a consistently high demand. Although it is interesting to note that the current value of silver bullion is now approximately 2% of the value 500 years ago! Although this may well be the case for perhaps 15 years, silver production has been unable to meet silver demand, and that trend is only becoming more and more pronounced.
Although jewelry and silverware are still the top two uses for silver , other fields are vying for their spot on the list. As the demand for silver in medical, electronic, and technological fields continues to grow, the price of silver is forced upward. Silver is truly multi-functional. In addition to its many health-related uses, silver is flexible, ductile, conducive, and reflective, all of which make it extremely valuable in a wide variety of technologies.
The great beauty of silver, its malleability and long ( almost permanent ) shell-life makes it ideal for jewellery and silverware. Whereas the traditional uses for silver, in coinage , jewellery and silver flatware, there is also a very large silver content in pewter. Photography, medicine and the production of toiletries are all important these days and also make use of this most magnificent of metals.
"Silver is a great antibacterial agent. Tiny amounts of silver or silver salts can chemically affect the cell membranes of bacterial cells, killing them and creating a sterile environment. Bacteria cannot build up a resistance to silver, as they can to most antibiotics, which means that silver is one of the more dependable methods of sterilization.
Today, silver’s antibacterial properties make it perfect for use in the medical field: burn treatments and wound dressings often incorporate silver. Medical research has shown that silver can promote the healing and regeneration of bone and skin. Silver also works to purify water in much the same way. The presence of silver or silver salts will kill present bacteria and prevent the growth of more. Aristotle knew this centuries ago, and advised Alexander the Great to use silver containers to store boiled water… in order to prevent disease. In time, wealthy Greeks and Romans began to store their wine and oil in silver casks to prevent spoilage."(Silver not just a Pretty Face - by Peter Stone - Peterstone.com: December 27, 2010 Posted in About our Jewellery)
As a jeweller I use silver daily in the manufacture of objects of beauty therefore not only do I have a deep love of it but a great respect and can relate to this quote "But it troubles an engraver that people will so eagerly sell family treasures for paper dollars. " I see silver come in and I recognise the work of artist's now dead." he muses sadly." People don't realize that the craftmanship in their fine silverwork is worth more than the metal. Melting it is like slashing a famous painting in the Louvre. When silver prices get hot, crucibles get hotter. "National Geographic, vo. 160 No.3 September 1981)