Unlike gold, and because it is plentiful and cheaper than its rival bullion metal, silver has enjoyed many industrial uses – apart from adornment, Silver-Bromide and Silver-Iodide were the main ingredients in light sensitive film papers (those that pre-date digital photography).
In the financial world, as the illustration of the US dollar on the accompanying page shows, silver was able to provide the physical backing for currency. In the mid-1960s the US Treasury decided to disengage their currency from its bullion backing. Some astute traders realising this, placed advertisements in philatelist & numismatist shops throughout the US offering prices in excess of US$1 for US$ notes. These notes were then collected and delivered to the US Treasury to be redeemed for 1 toz of silver in the belief that the value of silver in futures years would be in excess of 1 US$ per toz. As history shows, they were right.
Lipmann Walton is a supplier of silver grain or 1kg/10kgs ingots used for alloy making.
Silver has been known since ancient times. It is mentioned in the book of Genesis, and slag heaps found in Asia Minor and on the islands of the Aegean Sea indicate that silver was being separated from lead as early as the 4th millennium BC.
Silver has been used for thousands of years for ornaments and utensils, for trade, and as the basis for many monetary systems. Its value as a precious metal was long considered second only to gold. In Ancient Egypt and Medieval Europe, it was often more valuable than gold.
Europeans found a huge amount of silver in the New World in Zacatecas and Potosí, which triggered a period of inflation in Europe. The conquistador Pizarro was said to have resorted to using silver in the production of every day items due to the metal’s abundance, in contrast to the relative lack of iron in Peru.
Silver is a soft, malleable metal with a characteristic silver sheen when polished. It is stable in water and oxygen but is slowly attacked by sulphur compounds in the air to form a black sulphide layer. Silver dissolves in H2SO4 and HNO3.
Silver has been used for thousands of years for jewelry and decorative items of all types. Likewise, it has been used for silverware. Of all the metals, untarnished silver is one of the best reflectors of light. As a result, it was used in ancient times to make mirrors (modern mirrors are now backed with aluminium). Unfortunately, silver tarnishes very easily and quickly, and its use as a mirror could be frustrating.
Sterling silver is silver alloyed with another metal, usually copper. For such an alloy to be called “Sterling” it has to have 92.5% silver content. Silver is also used as a currency and at one time, along with gold, was the standard for the currency in many countries such as the United States of America.
Silver bromide and silver nitrate are used in photography. It is estimated that about one-third of the silver used in the United States is used in various photographic materials and processes. It is also used in electrical products (especially in high voltage contacts where it is the only metal that will not arc across contacts), because it conducts electricity so well and so is extremely safe (silver has the lowest contact resistance of any metal). Silver’s catalytic properties make it ideal for use as a catalyst in oxidation reactions. The malleability, non-toxicity and beauty of silver make it useful in dental alloys for fittings and amalgam fillings. Silver is also used in the production of bearings.
Silver is found in native form. At least two-thirds of the silver resources in the world are found combined with sulfur, arsenic, antimony, or chlorine and in various ores such as argentite (Ag2S) and horn silver (AgCl). However, the remaining third of the sources of silver are found in association with deposits of copper, copper-nickel, gold, lead and lead-zinc ores obtained from Canada, Mexico, Peru, Australia and the United States.
Relative atomic mass