Silver is a metal used in a myriad of applications, many that the average person would not realize. Amonst
its many uses is as the major component in Sterling Silver, at a ratio of 92.5% of the total
makeup. Sterling Silver is used in making many types of products primarily Jewellery and Silverware.
In both cases the use of pure or virgin silver is not practical as the metal is too soft for durability.
It is in the jewellery product lines that the word Silver can often be used in the context of 'Silver
Jewellery' as well as 'Sterling Silver Jewellery' however the two terms are not synonyms as Sterling Silver
needs to meet a standard fineness of a minimum of 92.5% silver content whilst mauch jewellery marketed as
silver jewellery is in fact simply silver plated and hence has a very miniscule content of actual silver.
So the word 'Silver' needs to be understood and used in its correct context particularly when it is
alloyed with other metals as is the case for many products.
Silver is a chemical element with symbol Ag
árguros, Latin: argentum, both from the Indo-European root *arg- for "grey" or
"shining") and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous
transition metal, it possesses the highest
electrical conductivity of any
element, the highest thermal conductivity of any metal and
is the most reflective metal on the planet. The metal occurs naturally in its pure, free form
(native silver), as an alloy with gold and other metals, and in minerals such as
argentite and chlorargyrite. Most silver is produced as a
byproduct of copper, gold, lead, and zinc refining.
While silver has long been valued as a precious metal it is also used in
currency coins, solar panels, water filtration, jewelry and ornaments,
high-value tableware and utensils (hence the term silverware) and as an investment in
the forms of coins and bullion. Silver is used industrially in electrical
contacts and conductors, in specialized mirrors,
window coatings and in catalysis of chemical reactions. Its compounds are
used in photographic film and X-rays. Dilute silver nitrate solutions and other silver
compounds are used as disinfectants and microbiocides (oligodynamic effect), added to bandages and wound-dressings, catheters and other medical instruments.
lustrous white metal
|Silver in the periodic table
|Standard atomic weight
group 11, d-block
[Kr] 4d10 5s1
2, 8, 18, 18, 1
1234.93 K (961.78 °C, 1763.2 °F)
2435 K (2162 °C, 3924 °F)
|Density (near r.t.)
10.49 g·cm−3 (at 0 °C, 101.325 kPa)
at m.p.: 9.320 g·cm−3
|Heat of fusion
|Heat of vaporization
|Molar heat capacity
at T (K)
1, 2, 3 (an amphoteric oxide)
1.93 (Pauling scale)
1st: 731.0 kJ·mol−1
2nd: 2070 kJ·mol−1
3rd: 3361 kJ·mol−1
empirical: 144 pm
|Van der Waals radius
|Speed of sound
thin rod: 2680 m·s−1
(at 25 °C)
174 mm2/s (at 300 K)
at 20 °C: 15.87 nΩ·m
before 5000 BC
|Most stable isotopes
|Decay modes in parentheses are predicted, but have not yet been observed
Silver 1000 oz t
(~31 kg) bullion bar
Silver is produced during certain types of supernova explosions by nucleosynthesis from lighter elements through
the r-process, a form of nuclear fusion that produces many
elements heavier than iron, of which silver is one.
Silver is a very ductile, malleable (slightly harder than gold), univalent coinage metal, with a brilliant white metallic
luster that can take a high degree of polish. It is the most reflective metal on Earth.
It has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals, even higher than copper, but its greater cost has
prevented it from being widely used in place of copper for electrical purposes. An exception to this is
in radio-frequency engineering, particularly at VHF and higher frequencies, where silver plating to improve
electrical conductivity of parts, including wires, is widely employed. During World War II in the US, 13,540 tons were used
in the electromagnets used for enriching uranium, mainly because of the wartime shortage of
Among metals, pure silver has the highest thermal conductivity (the nonmetal
carbon in the form of diamond and superfluid helium II are higher) and the highest optical
(protected silver has higher reflectance than aluminium at all wavelengths longer than ~450 nm;
below 450 nm, silver is inferior to aluminium and its reflectance drops to zero near
310 nm). Silver
is the best conductor of heat and electricity of any metal in the periodic table. Silver also has the
lowest contact resistance of any metal. Silver halides are photosensitive and
are remarkable for their ability to record a latent image that can later be developed chemically. Silver is stable in
pure air and water, but tarnishes when it is exposed to air or
water containing ozone or hydrogen sulfide, the latter forming a black
layer of silver sulfide which can be cleaned off with
dilute hydrochloric acid. The most
common oxidation state of silver is +1 (for example,
silver nitrate, AgNO3); the less
common +2 compounds (for example, silver(II) fluoride, AgF2),
and the even less common +3 (for example, potassium tetrafluoroargentate(III), KAgF4) and
even +4 compounds (for example, potassium hexafluoroargentate(IV),
K2AgF6) are also
Naturally occurring silver is composed of two stable isotopes, 107Ag and 109Ag, with
107Ag being slightly more abundant (51.839% natural abundance). Silver's isotopes are
almost equal in abundance, something which is rare in the periodic table. Silver's atomic weight is 107.8682(2) g/mol.
Twenty-eight radioisotopes have been characterized, the most
stable being 105Ag with a half-life of 41.29 days, 111Ag with a
half-life of 7.45 days, and 112Ag with a half-life of 3.13 hours. This element has
numerous meta states, the most stable being 108mAg
(t1/2 = 418 years), 110mAg (t1/2 = 249.79 days) and
106mAg (t1/2 = 8.28 days). All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lives of less than an
hour, and the majority of these have half-lives of less than three minutes.
Isotopes of silver range in relative atomic mass from 93.943 (94Ag)
to 126.936 (127Ag); the
primary decay mode before the most abundant stable isotope,
107Ag, is electron capture and the primary mode after is
beta decay. The primary decay products before 107Ag are
palladium (element 46) isotopes, and the primary
products after are cadmium (element 48) isotopes.
The palladium isotope 107Pd decays by beta emission to
107Ag with a half-life of 6.5 million years. Iron meteorites are the only objects with a high-enough
palladium-to-silver ratio to yield measurable variations in 107Ag abundance. Radiogenic 107Ag was first discovered in
the Santa Clara meteorite in 1978. The
discoverers suggest the coalescence and differentiation of iron-cored small planets may have occurred 10 million years after a
107Pd–107Ag correlations observed in bodies that have clearly been melted since
the accretion of the solar system must reflect the presence of unstable
nuclides in the early solar system.
Silver metal dissolves readily in nitric acid (HNO
3) to produce silver nitrate (AgNO
3), a transparent crystalline solid that is photosensitive and readily soluble in water.
Silver nitrate is used as the starting point for the synthesis of many other silver compounds, as an
antiseptic, and as a yellow stain for glass in
stained glass. Silver metal does not react with
sulfuric acid, which is used in jewelry-making to clean and remove copper oxide firescale from silver articles after silver soldering or annealing. Silver reacts readily with
sulfur or hydrogen sulfide H
2S to produce silver sulfide, a dark-colored compound familiar
as the tarnish on silver coins and other objects. Silver sulfide
2S also forms silver whiskers when silver electrical contacts are used in an atmosphere
rich in hydrogen sulfide.
- 4 Ag + O2 + 2 H2S → 2 Ag2S + 2 H2O
Silver chloride (AgCl) is precipitated from solutions of silver nitrate in the presence of
chloride ions, and the other silver halides used in the manufacture of
photographic emulsions are made in the
same way, using bromide or iodide salts. Silver chloride is used in glass electrodes for pH testing and potentiometric measurement, and as a transparent
cement for glass. Silver iodide has been used in attempts to
seed clouds to produce rain. Silver
halides are highly insoluble in aqueous solutions and are used in gravimetric analytical methods.
Silver oxide (Ag
2O), produced when silver nitrate solutions are treated with a base, is used as a positive
electrode (anode) in watch batteries. Silver carbonate (Ag
3) is precipitated when silver nitrate is treated with sodium carbonate (Na
- 2 AgNO3 + 2 OH− → Ag2O + H2O + 2
- 2 AgNO3 + Na2CO3 → Ag2CO3 + 2
Silver fulminate (AgONC), a powerful, touch-sensitive explosive used in percussion caps, is made by reaction of silver
metal with nitric acid in the presence of ethanol (C
5OH). Other dangerously explosive silver compounds are silver azide (AgN
3), formed by reaction of silver nitrate with sodium azide (NaN
silver acetylide, formed when silver reacts
with acetylene gas.
Latent images formed in silver halide crystals are
developed by treatment with alkaline solutions of reducing agents such as hydroquinone, metol (4-(methylamino)phenol sulfate) or ascorbate, which reduce the exposed halide to silver
metal. Alkaline solutions of silver nitrate can be reduced to silver metal by reducing sugars such as glucose, and this reaction is used to silver glass
mirrors and the interior of glass Christmas ornaments. Silver halides are
soluble in solutions of sodium thiosulfate (Na
3) which is used as a photographic fixer, to remove excess silver
halide from photographic emulsions after image development.
Silver metal is attacked by strong oxidizers such as potassium permanganate (KMnO
4) and potassium dichromate (K
7), and in the presence of potassium bromide (KBr); these compounds are used in photography to bleach silver images, converting them to silver halides
that can either be fixed with thiosulfate or redeveloped to intensify the original
image. Silver forms cyanide complexes (silver cyanide) that are soluble in water in the
presence of an excess of cyanide ions. Silver cyanide solutions are used in electroplating of silver.
Although silver normally has oxidation state +1 in compounds, other oxidation
states are known, such as +3 in AgF
3, produced by the reaction of elemental silver or silver fluoride with krypton difluoride.
Silver artifacts primarily under go three forms of deterioration. Silver sulfide is the most common form
of silver degradation. Fresh silver chloride is pale yellow colored, becoming purplish on exposure to light
and projects slightly from the surface of the artifact or coin. The precipitation of copper in ancient
silver can be used to date artifacts.
Many well-known uses of silver involve its precious metal properties,
including currency, decorative items, and mirrors. The contrast between its bright white color and other
media makes it very useful to the visual arts. By contrast, fine silver particles form the dense black
in photographs and in silverpoint drawings. It has also long been used to
confer high monetary value as objects (such as silver coins and investment bars) or make objects symbolic of
high social or political rank. Silver salts have been used since the Middle Ages to produce a yellow or
orange colors to stained glass, and more
complex decorative color reactions can be produced by incorporating silver metal in blown, kilnformed or
Silver, in the form of electrum (a gold–silver alloy), was coined to produce
money around 700 BC by the Lydians. Later, silver was refined and coined in its pure
form. Many nations used silver as the basic unit of monetary value. In the modern world, silver
bullion has the ISO currency code XAG. The name of the pound sterling (£) reflects the fact it
originally represented the value of one pound Tower weight of sterling silver; other
historical currencies, such as the French livre, have similar etymologies. During the
19th century, the bimetallism that prevailed in most countries was
undermined by the discovery of large deposits of silver in the Americas; fearing a sharp decrease in the
value of silver and thus the currency, most states switched to a gold standard by 1900. In some languages, such as
Sanskrit, Spanish, French, and Hebrew, the same word means both silver and money.
The 20th century saw a gradual movement to fiat currency, with most of the world monetary
system losing its link to precious metals after Richard Nixon took the United States dollar off the gold standard
in 1971; the last currency backed by gold was the Swiss franc, which became a pure fiat currency on 1
May 2000. During this same period, silver gradually ceased to be used in circulating coins. In 1964, the
United States stopped minting their silver dime and quarter. They minted their last circulating silver
coin in 1970 in its 40% half-dollar.
In 1968, Canada minted their last circulating silver coins which were the 50% dime and the 50% quarter.
The Royal Canadian Mint still makes many collectible silver coins with various dollar denominations. In
addition to Canada, the United States and many other countries continue to mint silver coins that are
collected for their bullion and numismatic value. The U.S. coin is known as the "Silver Eagle".
Silver is used as a currency by many individuals, and is legal tender in the US state of Utah. Silver
coins and bullion are also used as an investment to guard against inflation and devaluation.
Jewelry and silverware
Shallow silver bowl, Persian, 6th century BC (Achaemenid
). The deeper depressions
reperesent lotus buds, an Egyptian motif. Walters Art Museum
Main articles: jewelry
Jewelry and silverware are traditionally made from sterling silver (standard silver), an alloy of 92.5% silver with 7.5% copper. In
the US, only an alloy consisting of at least 90.0% fine silver can be marketed as "silver" (thus
frequently stamped 900). Sterling silver (stamped 925) is harder than pure silver, and has a lower
melting point (893 °C) than either pure silver or pure copper. Britannia silver is an alternative, hallmark-quality standard containing 95.8%
silver, often used to make silver tableware and wrought plate. With the addition of germanium, the patented modified alloy Argentium Sterling silver is formed,
with improved properties, including resistance to firescale.
Sterling silver jewelry is often plated with a thin coat of .999 fine silver to give the item a
shiny finish. This process is called "flashing". Silver jewelry can also be plated with rhodium (for a bright,
shiny look) or gold (to produce silver gilt).
Silver is a constituent of almost all colored carat gold alloys and carat gold solders,
giving the alloys paler color and greater hardness.
White 9 carat gold contains 62.5% silver and 37.5% gold, while 22 carat gold contains a
minimum of 91.7% gold and 8.3% silver or copper or other metals.
Historically, the training and guild organization of goldsmiths included silversmiths, as well, and the two
crafts remain largely overlapping. Unlike blacksmiths, silversmiths do not shape the metal
while it is red-hot, but instead, work it at room temperature with gentle and carefully placed hammer
blows. The essence of silversmithing is to take a flat piece of metal and to transform it into a useful
object using different hammers, stakes and other simple tools.
While silversmiths specialize in, and principally work silver, they also work with other metals, such as gold, copper, steel, and brass. They make jewelry, silverware, armor, vases, and other artistic items. Because silver is such a
malleable metal, silversmiths have a large range of choices with how they prefer to work the metal.
Historically, silversmiths are mostly referred to as goldsmiths, which was usually the same guild. In the western Canadian silversmith tradition,
guilds do not exist; however, mentoring through colleagues becomes a method of professional learning
within a community of craftspeople.
Traditionally, silversmiths mostly made "silverware" (cutlery, tableware, bowls, candlesticks and such). Only in more
recent times has silversmithing become mainly work in jewelry, as much less solid silver tableware is
Solar modules mounted on solar trackers
About 20g of silver is used in every crystalline solar photovoltaic panel made.
Silver is also used in plasmonic solar cells. 100 million ounces
of silver are projected for use by solar energy in 2015.
Silver is the reflective coating of choice for concentrated solar power
reflectors. In 2009,
scientists at the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory (NREL) and SkyFuel teamed to develop large curved sheets of metal
that have the potential to be 30% less expensive than today's best collectors of concentrated solar
power by replacing glass-based models with a silver polymer sheet that has the same performance as the
heavy glass mirrors, but at much lower cost and weight. It also is much easier to deploy and install.
The glossy film uses several layers of polymers, with an inner layer of pure silver.
Silver is used in water purifiers. It prevents bacteria and algae
from building up in filters. The catalytic action of silver, in concert with oxygen, sanitizes water and
eliminates the need for chlorine. Silver ions are also added to water purification systems in hospitals,
community water systems, pools and spas, displacing chlorine.
Silver can be alloyed with mercury at room temperature to make
amalgams that are widely used for dental
fillings. To make dental amalgam, a mixture of powdered silver and
other metals such as tin and gold is mixed with mercury to make a stiff paste that can
be adapted to the shape of a cavity. The dental amalgam achieves initial hardness within minutes, and
sets hard in a few hours.
Photography and electronics
The use of silver in photography, in the form of silver nitrate and silver halides, has rapidly declined due to the lower demand
for consumer color film from the advent of digital technology. From the peak global demand for
photographic silver in 1999 (267,000,000 troy ounces or 8304.6 metric tonnes) the market had contracted almost 70%
Some electrical and electronic products use silver for its superior conductivity, even when tarnished.
The primary example of this is in high quality RF connectors. The increase in conductivity is
also taken advantage of in RF engineering at VHF and higher frequencies, where conductors
often cannot be scaled by 6%, due to tuning requirements, e.g. cavity filters. As an
additional example, printed circuits and RFID antennas can be made using silver paints, and
computer keyboards use silver electrical contacts. Silver cadmium oxide is used in high-voltage
contacts because it can withstand arcing.
Some manufacturers produce audio connector cables, speaker wires, and power cables using silver
conductors, which have a 6% higher conductivity than ordinary copper ones of identical dimensions, but cost
much more. Though debatable, many hi-fi enthusiasts believe silver wires improve sound
Small devices, such as hearing aids and watches, commonly use silver oxide batteries due to their long
life and high energy-to-weight ratio. Another usage is high-capacity silver-zinc and silver-cadmium batteries.
In World War II, there was a shortage of copper and silver borrowed from the United States Treasury for electrical
windings for several production facilities including those of the Manhattan Project; see below under History,
- Telescopic mirrors
Mirrors in almost all reflective telescopes use vacuum
However thermal or infrared telescopes use silver coated
mirrors because of silver's ability to reflect some types of infrared radiation more effectively than
aluminum, as well as silver's ability to reduce the amount of radiation actually emitted from the mirror
(its thermal emissivity).
Silver, in protected or enhanced coatings, is seen as the next generation metal coating for reflective
Using a process called sputtering, silver, along with other optically
transparent layers, is applied to glass, creating low emissivity coatings used in high-performance
insulated glazing. The amount of silver used
per window is small because the silver layer is only 10–15 nanometers thick. However,
the amount of silver-coated glass worldwide is hundreds of millions of square meters per year, leading
to silver consumption on the order of 10 cubic meters or 100 metric tons/year. Silver color seen in
architectural glass and tinted windows on vehicles is produced by sputtered chrome, stainless steel or
Silver-coated polyester sheets, used to retrofit windows, are another popular method for reducing light
Other industrial and commercial applications
Silver and silver alloys are used in the construction of high-quality musical wind instruments of many
types. Flutes, in
particular, are commonly constructed of silver alloy or silver plated, both for appearance and for the
frictional surface properties of silver.
Silver's catalytic properties make it ideal for use as a catalyst in oxidation reactions, for example, the
production of formaldehyde from methanol and air by means of silver screens or
crystallites containing a minimum
99.95 weight-percent silver. Silver (upon some suitable support) is probably the only catalyst
available today to convert ethylene to ethylene oxide (later hydrolyzed to ethylene glycol, used for making polyesters)— an important industrial reaction. It is
also used in the Oddy test to detect reduced sulfur compounds and
Because silver readily absorbs free neutrons, it is commonly used to make control rods to regulate the fission chain reaction in pressurized water nuclear reactors,
generally in the form of an alloy containing 80% silver, 15% indium, and 5% cadmium.
Silver is used to make solder and brazing alloys, and as a thin layer on bearing surfaces
can provide a significant increase in galling resistance and reduce wear under heavy load, particularly
Silver stains are used in biology to increase the
contrast and visibility of cells and organelles in microscopy. Camillo Golgi used silver stains to study cells of
the nervous system and the Golgi apparatus. Silver
stains are used to stain proteins in gel electrophoresis and polyacrylamide gels, either as primary
stains or to enhance the visibility and contrast of colloidal gold stain. Different
yeasts from Brazilian gold mines, bioaccumulate free and complexed silver ions. A sample
of the fungus Aspergillus niger was found growing from gold
mining solution; and was found to contain cyano metal complexes; such as gold, silver, copper iron and
zinc. The fungus also plays a role in the solubilization of heavy metal sulfides.
The medical uses of silver include its incorporation into wound dressings, and its use as an
antibiotic coating in medical devices. Wound dressings containing silver sulfadiazine or silver nanomaterials may be used to treat
external infections. Silver is also used in some medical applications, such as urinary catheters and endotracheal breathing tubes, where there is
tentative evidence that it is effective in reducing catheter-related urinary tract infections and
ventilator-associated pneumonia respectively.
The silver ion (Ag
) is bioactive and in sufficient concentration readily kills bacteria in vitro. Silver and silver nanoparticles are used
as an antimicrobial in a variety of industrial, healthcare and domestic applications.
Silver coins and bullion are used for investing. Mints sell a wide
variety of silver products for investors and collectors. Various institutions provide safe storage for
large physical silver investments, and various types of silver investments can be made on the stock
markets, including mining stocks. Silver bullion bars are sold in a wide range of ounces, provided by
various mints and mines around the world. Silver coins and bullion bars are generally 99.9% pure, and
labeled with ".999".
Silver inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi on clothing, such as socks, so is sometimes added
to reduce odors and the risk of bacterial and fungal infections. It is incorporated into clothing or shoes
either by integrating silver nanoparticles into the polymer from which yarns are made or by coating yarns
with silver. The loss
of silver during washing varies between textile technologies, and the resultant effect on the
environment is not yet fully known.
The crescent moon
has been used since ancient times to
Silver has been used for thousands of years for ornaments and utensils, trade, and as the basis for many
monetary systems. Its value as a precious metal was long considered second only to gold. The word "silver"
appears in Anglo-Saxon in various spellings, such as
seolfor and siolfor. A similar form is seen throughout the Germanic languages (compare Old High German silabar and
silbir). The chemical symbol Ag is from the Latin word for "silver", argentum (compare
Greek άργυρος, árgyros), from the
Indo-European root *arg-, meaning "white"
or "shining". Silver has been known since ancient times. Mentioned in the Book of Genesis, slag heaps found in Asia Minor and on the islands of the Aegean Sea indicate silver was being separated from
lead as early as the 4th millennium BC using surface
The stability of the Roman currency relied to a high degree on the
supply of silver bullion, which Roman miners produced on a scale unparalleled
before the discovery of the New World. Reaching
a peak production of 200 t per year, an estimated silver stock of 10,000 t circulated in the Roman economy in the middle of the second century
AD, five to ten times larger than the combined amount of silver available to medieval Europe and the Caliphate around 800 AD. Financial
officials of the Roman Empire worried about the loss of silver to pay for highly demanded silk from Sinica (China).
Mines were made in Laureion during 483 BC.
In the Gospels, Jesus' disciple Judas Iscariot is infamous for having taken a
bribe of 30 coins of silver from religious
leaders in Jerusalem to turn Jesus of Nazareth over to soldiers of the High Priest
The Chinese Empire during most of its history
primarily used silver as a means of exchange. In the 19th century, the threat to the balance of payments
of the United Kingdom from Chinese merchants demanding
payment in silver in exchange for tea, silk, and porcelain led to the Opium War because Britain had to find a way to address
the imbalance in payments, and they decided to do so by selling opium produced in their colony of British India to China.
Silver mining and processing in Kutná Hora
, Central Europe, 1490s
Islam permits Muslim men to wear silver rings on the little finger of either hand.
Muhammad himself wore a silver signet ring.
In the Americas, high temperature silver-lead cupellation technology was developed by pre-Inca
civilizations as early as AD 60–120.
World War II
During World War II, the shortage of copper led to the
substitution of silver in many industrial applications. The United States government loaned out silver
from its massive reserve located in the West Point vaults to a wide range of industrial
users. One very important use was for bus bars for new aluminum plants needed to make aircraft. During
the war, many electrical connectors and switches were silver plated. Another use was aircraft master rod
bearings and other types of bearings. Since silver can replace tin in solder at a lower volume, a large amount of tin was freed
up for other uses by substituting government silver. Silver was also used as the reflector in
searchlights and other types of lights. Silver was used in nickels during the war to save
that metal for use in steel alloys.
The Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb
used about 14,700 tons of silver borrowed from the United States Treasury for calutron windings for the electromagnetic separation
process in the Y-12 National Security Complex at
the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
After the war ended, the silver was returned to the vaults.)
Occurrence and extraction
Time trend of silver production
Main article: Silver mining
Silver is found in native form, as an alloy with gold (electrum), and in ores containing sulfur, arsenic, antimony or chlorine. Ores include argentite (Ag2S), chlorargyrite (AgCl) which includes horn silver, and pyrargyrite (Ag3SbS3). The
principal sources of silver are the ores of copper, copper-nickel, lead, and lead-zinc obtained from
Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, China, Australia, Chile, Poland and Serbia. Peru,
Bolivia and Mexico have been mining silver since 1546, and are still major world producers. Top
silver-producing mines are Cannington (Australia), Fresnillo (Mexico), San
Cristobal (Bolivia), Antamina (Peru), Rudna (Poland), and Penasquito (Mexico).
Top near-term mine development projects through 2015 are Pascua Lama (Chile), Navidad (Argentina),
Jaunicipio (Mexico), Malku Khota (Bolivia), and
Hackett River (Canada).
In Central Asia, Tajikistan is known to have some of
the largest silver deposits in the world.
The metal is primarily produced as a byproduct of electrolytic copper refining, gold, nickel, and
zinc refining, and by application of the Parkes process on lead metal obtained from lead
ores that contain small amounts of silver. Commercial-grade fine silver is at least 99.9% pure, and
purities greater than 99.999% are available. In 2011, Mexico was the top producer of silver (4,500
tonnes or 19% of the world's total), closely followed by
Peru (4,000 t) and China (4,000 t).
Silver price history in 1960–2011
As of 5 August 2014, the price of silver is US$649.28 per kilogram (US$20.1950 per troy ounce). This
equates to approximately 1/64 the price of gold. The ratio has varied from 1/15 to 1/100 in the past
Physical silver bullion prices are higher than the paper prices, with premiums increasing when demand is
high and local shortages occur.
In 1980, the silver price rose to a peak for modern times of US$49.45 per troy ounce (ozt) due to market manipulation of Nelson Bunker Hunt and Herbert Hunt.
Inflation-adjusted to 2012, this is approximately US$138 per troy ounce. Some time after Silver Thursday, the price was back to
$10/ozt. From 2001
to 2010, the price moved from $4.37 to $20.19 (average London US$/oz).
According to the Silver Institute, silver's recent gains have greatly stemmed from a rise in investor
interest and an increase in fabrication demand.
In late April 2011, silver reached an all-time high of $49.76/ozt.
In earlier times, silver has commanded much higher prices. In the early 15th century, the price of
silver is estimated to have surpassed $1,200 per ounce, based on 2011 dollars. The
discovery of massive silver deposits in the New World during the succeeding centuries has been stated
as a cause for its price to have diminished greatly.
The price of silver is important in Judaic law. The lowest fiscal amount a Jewish court, or Beth Din, can convene to adjudicate a case over is a
shova pruta (value of a Babylonian pruta coin). This is fixed at .025 grams (0.00088 oz) of pure, unrefined silver, at
market price. In a Jewish tradition, still continuing today, on the first birthday of a first-born son,
the parents pay the price of five pure-silver coins to a Kohen (priest). Today, the Israel mint fixes the coins
at 117 grams (4.1 oz) of silver. The Kohen will often give those silver coins back as a gift
for the child to inherit.
Human exposure and consumption
Silver plays no known natural biological role in humans, and possible health effects of silver are a
disputed subject. Silver itself is not toxic to humans, but most silver salts are. In large doses,
silver and compounds containing it can be absorbed into the circulatory system and become deposited in
various body tissues, leading to argyria, which results in a blue-grayish pigmentation of
the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Argyria is rare, and although,
so far as known, this condition does not otherwise harm a person's health, it is disfiguring and usually
permanent. Mild forms of argyria are sometimes mistaken for cyanosis.
Overexposure to silver can occur in workers in the metallurgical industry, persons taking
silver-containing dietary supplements, patients who have received silver sulfadiazine treatment, and
individuals who accidentally or intentionally ingest silver salts. Silver concentrations in whole blood,
plasma, serum, or urine may be measured to monitor for safety in exposed workers, to confirm the diagnosis
in potential poisoning victims, or to assist in the forensic investigation in a case of fatal
Use in food
Silver is used in food coloring; it has the E174 designation and is approved in the European Union.
The safety of silver for use in food is disputed.
Traditional Indian dishes sometimes include the use of decorative silver foil known as vark, and in
various cultures, silver dragée are used to decorate cakes, cookies, and
other dessert items.
The use of silver as a food additive is not approved in the United States.
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