Top 5 Facts about Silver
One of more than 100 naturally occurring elements found in our universe, it has been traded for thousands of years. Silver is rare, and sought after for both practical and aesthetic reasons, making it highly valuable. It is a vital material found in computers, cell phones, cars and kitchen cabinets.
- The first Silver mines were discovered more than 5,000 years ago in and around Greece and the area now known as Turkey. Later, circa 600 B.C.E., huge deposits were found near Athens, which became known as the Laurium mines. These large deposits fueled centuries of wealth and power for the Greeks, who produced coveted jewelry and housewares. Later, they began minting the first Silver coins known as drachmas. Their geographic neighbors, the Romans, gained control of Spanish Silver mines after winning the Second Punic War. These mines provided the money necessary to build the Holy Roman Empire. Artifacts made of Silver from this period are still collected today.
- Of all the basic elements, Silver has proven to be the world's most exceptional conductor of electricity. Electric current will rapidly flow through even the smallest slivers. Because of this, many electronics are built with switch membranes made of Silver. Each press of a button or keystroke connects two separated patches of Silver, creating enough current to send a signal to the processor. No other element has been found to produce this current more effectively. In fact, on a standardized scale of conductors running from 0 to 100, the conductivity of Silver ranks 100. Copper is close behind at 97, with Gold, Aluminum and Calcium rounding out the top 5.
- Silver naturally kills harmful bacteria. Even when present among a mixture of other metals, Silver chemically alters bacteria cells, penetrating the membranes and causing them to break down. Because of this, Silver has long been used in dental amalgam, working alongside Tin and Copper to create fillings for tooth cavities that fight infection. It has also been shown that bacterium does not develop a resistance to Silver, as is typical with pharmaceutical antibiotics.
- Large concentrations of Silver have become harder to find within Earth's crust. While lodes, such as the Comstock Lode in the United States, have been a significant source for millennia, most Silver extracted today comes from other metal ores, like Lead, Zinc and Copper. Raw ore is ground into a powder and mixed with water and chemicals to extract the small deposits of Silver. When the mixture is agitated, tiny metals cling to air bubbles and float to the top where they are collected. These metals are then heated and poured into molten Lead, where Silver will crystallize and float to the top.
- The physical properties of Silver make it the ideal material for minting coins and other small objects. It will maintain its shape even when pounded into very thin sheets and can be stamped with identifiable markings to designate value and national origin. It is durable enough to stand up to daily wear and tear and can be regularly polished to maintain a mirrorlike finish. Today, because of its high value, Silver is no longer used for circulated currency. Commemorative coins are still produced and collected, but the cost of the Silver content far outweighs any practical face value.