Silver was first mined more than 5000 years ago in the ancient civilizations of Greece and Anatolia (Turkey). Those civilizations had advanced understanding of metallurgy and had begun using cupellation to purify silver. The silver that they obtained from mines had traces of copper and lead, and in cupellation, they used to blow air over molten silver ore. The oxygen formed oxides of the other metal impurities of silver are taken out, leaving a much purer form of silver. Silver has a tendency to often appear together with lead. The mineral galena is made of lead sulfide.
But those initial uses were still in the shadow of the more valuable and profitable metal gold. Silver began to be mined in a big way only in the 15th century. South America’s rich veins of silver ore became the source of more than eighty percent of all the world’s silver for the next two to three hundred years. Historically, silver also has had a strong association with money. The French, for example, use the same word Argent to refer to both silver and money. The Romans used a word meaning silver trader to refer to bankers, and the word was argentarius. This seems to have come from the Latin word argentum, which refers to silver. Again, this Latin word seems to have originated from a Sanskrit word argunas, which stands for ‘shining’.
Silver is a very soft metal, and like gold, is very malleable and ductile. It is also very shiny, just like gold is. Its resistance to the presence of water and air (oxygen) has historically made it a very common metal used for minting coins. Pure silver is so soft that it can’t be used for making jewelry or cutlery. That is why it is made into an alloy by mixing with copper in a rough composition of 93:7, and this alloy is called Sterling silver which is molded into coins, jewelry or dinnerware. A slight tweak of this ratio gives us Britannia silver, which has silver to the extent of about 96%. Both these types of silver are used for making jewelry and dinnerware.
Some of the common uses of silver are listed below :
- The maximum usage of silver has been in the photography industry where the films were coated with silver iodide.
- Silver iodide is also used in the seeding of clouds to produce simulated rainfall.
- Used as an accepted additive for food, and used as a coloring material as well. It is used to make microthin foil for some desserts.
- It has several industrial uses in solders, batteries and for making good conducting electrical contacts.
- Mirrors are invariably made using silver.
- Silver is used widely for its anti-bacterial and antibiotic properties.
- Silver is still used in small quantities in making coins.
But one of the most popular uses of silver is in the production of very attractive and durable jewelry. There are several well recognized jewelers like Giliarto which can provide high quality silver jewelry online.
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