Silver is a shiny white metal and chemical element valued for its decorative beauty and electrical conductivity. Silver is commonly used in jewelry, coins, electronics, and photography. It has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals and is therefore a very valuable substance.

In many global cultures and religions, silver is used in traditional ceremonies and is worn as jewelry on important occasions. Silver jewelry and ornaments have been found in royal tombs dating back to 4000 BC.

Silver is generally found in lead ores, copper ores, and cobalt arsenide ores. It is also frequently associated with gold in nature. Most of the silver is derived as a by-product of the minerals that are mined and processed to obtain these other metals. Native silver deposits (chemically free or uncombined) are also commercially important.

Silver characteristics

Silver, along with gold and platinum group metals, is one of the so-called precious metals. Due to its comparative scarcity, bright white color, malleability, ductility, and resistance to atmospheric oxidation, silver has long been used in the making of coins, ornaments, and jewelry.

This element has the highest known electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals and is used in the manufacture of printed electrical circuits and as a vapor-deposited coating for electronic conductors. It is also alloyed with elements such as nickel or palladium for use in electrical contacts.

Silver is also used as a catalyst for its unique ability to convert ethylene to ethylene oxide, which is a precursor to many organic compounds. It is also one of the noblest transition elements, that is, less chemically reactive.

It is widely distributed in nature, but the total amount is quite small compared to other metals; metal makes up 0.05 parts per million of the earth’s crust. Virtually all lead, copper, and zinc sulfides contain some silver.

What is silver for and what are its uses?

Silver has a wide variety of uses in industry due to its generous characteristics. In short, silver is used to:

  • Silver is used as a food additive / colorant and is assigned the number E174.
  • About 30% of the silver produced is used in the photographic industry, mainly as silver nitrate.
  • Sterling silver (an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper) or Britannia silver (an alloy of 95.8% silver and 4.2% copper) are used for jewelry and silverware.
  • Silver is used in silver-cadmium and silver-zinc solders, electrical contacts, and batteries.
  • Silver paints are used in the manufacture of electronic printed circuits.
  • It is used in the production of superior mirrors, as silver is the best known visible light reflector, although it tarnishes over time.
  • Silver iodide is used in artificial rain to seed clouds.
  • Silver compounds were used successfully to prevent infection in the First World War.

Silver in electricity

As we mentioned earlier, silver is a metal widely used to conduct electricity since it can maintain and transmit high voltages and at high speed.

This element is used to make electronic components, integrated circuits, semiconductor cables, computer keyboards, contacts, and much more. It is very common to find silver pieces inside appliances and similar devices.

Silver in medicine

Silver also has great use in the medical field. However, for these cases the pure element is not used but in combination with other elements. This is how silver nitrate is obtained, which is applied topically to treat some conditions such as warts.

There is also colloidal silver, which is basically a colloid that is made up of nanoparticles of this element but in high purity. In medicine it is used as a powerful antibiotic. Although many claim that its use does not cause health problems and in fact, it has been used since the last century, other specialists assert that colloidal silver can be extremely toxic.

What is certain is that ingesting silver is highly toxic, since silver particles tend to accumulate somewhere in the body. If it is close to the skin, it loses its color and takes on a grayish color. If it accumulates in organs, it can cause the organs to stop working properly or cause other diseases from this.

It is always recommended to consult a specialist before using any of these medications, even if it is for topical use, since there are people allergic to silver. It will be the doctor who will decide if these products will be the most appropriate to treat your pathology.

Silver in photography

This element has the ability to be very sensitive to light, which is beneficial for developing photographs. It is used in the form of salts or silver nitrate, which spreads over the surface of the paper and this creates a film that facilitates development. In addition, it also has bromide and iodide, components also necessary at the time of development.

Silver alloys

Another very common use is the alloys created with silver. This process is based on combining silver with other metals, such as lead, thallium or zinc, in order to make them more resistant and conductive. It is common to find these alloys in the field of aeronautics, in the manufacture of electric batteries, in dental pieces, etc.

Silver jewelry

As we mentioned earlier, silver has enormous use in jewelry making. This is because it is a shiny metal that cannot be oxidized (as this metal does not react with oxygen) and is highly valued socially.

The advantage of silver is that it is used for both women’s and men’s jewelry. With it necklaces, earrings, chains, charms, bracelets and others are made.

Silver coins

Another well-known use of silver is in coins. These have been around for many centuries, using silver as a form of payment for goods or services. The custom has spread throughout the world and therefore silver coins are well known.

However, currently very few countries continue to use silver for this. Most have chosen to use nickel in their coins as it is much cheaper than using pure silver. Even so, silver coins still exist around the world and many collectors spend their lives looking for the different variations of these through time and space.

Other uses of silver

Beyond everything we’ve already mentioned, silver is also used in other areas of the industry. For example, it is often used for the manufacture of mirrors, although not much, since this type is usually more expensive. Silver is also used for the production of edged weapons such as knives, pocket knives, swords, arrowheads; it is used for the manufacture of cutlery; and it is also used as a catalyst that prevents the oxidation of other metals.

As we have already seen, this element is widely used in various areas of life. It is not only used in everyday life but also in the manufacture of products, construction, important alloys and even in products that serve to improve our health.

Samantha Robson
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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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