What is Silver | Define Silver | Silver Definition | Silver Meaning
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal. 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.
Silver has long been valued as a precious metal, and it is used to make ornaments, jewelry, high-value tableware, utensils (hence the term silverware), and currency coins. Today, silver metal is also used in electrical contacts and conductors, in mirrors and in catalysis of chemical reactions. Its compounds are used in photographic film and dilute silver nitrate solutions and other silver compounds are used as disinfectants and microbiocides. While many medical antimicrobial uses of silver have been supplanted by antibiotics, further research into clinical potential continues.
Silver is a very ductile, malleable (slightly harder than gold), monovalent coinage metal, with a brilliant white metallic luster that can take a high degree of polish. 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. Despite this, 13,540 tons were used in the electromagnets used for enriching uranium during World War II (mainly because of the wartime shortage of copper).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. Another notable exception is in high-end audio cables, where scaling copper conductors by 6% achieves slightly better results.
Among metals, pure silver has the highest thermal conductivity (the nonmetal diamond and superfluid helium II are higher) and one of the highest optical reflectivities.(Aluminium slightly outdoes silver in parts of the visible spectrum, and silver is a poor reflector of ultraviolet light). 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); in addition, +2 compounds (for example, silver(II) fluoride: AgF2) and the less common +3 compounds (for example, potassium tetrafluoroargentate: K[AgF4] ) are known.
Naturally occurring silver is composed of two stable isotopes, 107Ag and 109Ag, with 107Ag being the most 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 that are less than an hour, and the majority of these have half-lives that are 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 nucleosynthetic event. 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.
Many well known uses of silver involve its precious metal properties, including currency, decorative items and mirrors. The contrast between the appearance of its bright white color to other media makes it very useful to the visual arts. 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 Jewelry | Silverware
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.
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 up to 91.7 gold and 8.4% silver or copper or a mixture of both. The more copper added, the more orange the gold becomes. Rose Gold (stamped 375 or 9K (can be stamped 9c) was very popular in the UK in the late 19th century.
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.
Silver is much cheaper than gold, though still valuable, and so is very popular with jewelers who are just starting out and cannot afford to make pieces in gold, or as a practicing material for goldsmith apprentices. Silver has also become very fashionable, and is used frequently in more artistic jewelry pieces.
Traditionally, silversmiths mostly made silverware (cutlery, table flatware, bowls, candlesticks and such). Only in more recent times has silversmithing become mainly work in jewelry, as much less solid silver tableware is now handmade.
Silver Occurrence | Silver Extraction
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 Proaño / Fresnillo (Mexico), Cannington (Queensland, Australia), Dukat (Russia), Uchucchacua (Peru), San Cristobal (Bolivia) and Greens Creek (Alaska).
The metal is primarily produced through 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 2007, Peru was the world’s top producer of silver, closely followed by Mexico, according to the British Geological Survey
At an April 2011 price of about $49 USD per troy ounce,silver is about 1/30th the price of gold. The ratio has varied from 1/15 to 1/100 in the past 100 years.
In 1980, the silver price rose to a peak for modern times of US$49.45 per troy ounce (TO) due to market manipulation of Nelson Bunker Hunt and Herbert Hunt. Some time after Silver Thursday, the price was back to $10/TO. By December 2001, the price had dropped to US$4.15/TO, and in May 2006, it had risen back as high as US$15.21/TO. In March 2008, silver reached US$21.34/TO.In late April 2011, silver reached an all-time high of $49.76/TO.
In earlier times, silver has commanded much higher prices. In the early 15th century, the price of silver is estimated to have surpassed $800 per ounce, based on 1998 dollars.The discovery of massive silver deposits in the New World during the succeeding centuries has caused the price to diminish 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 1/8 of a gram of pure, unrefined silver, at market price.
Silver as an Investment
Silver, like other precious metals, may be used as an investment. For more than four thousand years, silver has been regarded as a form of money and store of value. However, since the end of the silver standard, silver has lost its role as legal tender in the United States. In 2009, the main demand resulted from industrial applications (40%), jewellery, bullion coins and exchange-traded products.
Silver Investment Methods
A traditional way of investing in silver is by buying actual bullion bars. In some countries, like Switzerland and Liechtenstein, bullion bars can be bought or sold over the counter at major banks.
Physical silver, such as bars or coins, may be stored in a home safe, a safe deposit box at a bank, or placed in allocated (also known as non-fungible) or unallocated (fungible or pooled) storage with a bank or dealer. Silver is traded in the spot market with the code XAG. When settled in United States Dollars, the code is XAGUSD.
1000 oz troy bars – These bars weigh about 68 pounds avoirdupois (31 kg) and vary about 10% as to weight, as bars range from 900 ozt to about 1,100 ozt (28 to 34 kg). These are COMEX and LBMA good delivery bars.
100 oz troy bars – These bars weigh 6.8 pounds (3.11 kg) and are among the most popular with retail investors. Popular brands are Engelhard and Johnson Matthey. Those brands cost a bit more, usually about 40 cents to 2.00 dollars per troy ounce above the spot price, but that price may vary with market conditions.
Odd weight retail bars – These bars cost less and generally have a wider spread, due to the extra work it takes to calculate their value and the extra risk due to the lack of a good brand name.
1 kilogram bars (32.15 oz troy)
10 oz troy bars and 1 oz troy bars (311 and 31.1 g)
Silver Coins | Silver Rounds
Buying silver coins is another popular method of physically holding silver. One example is the 99.99% pure Canadian Silver Maple Leaf. Coins may be minted as either fine silver or junk silver, the latter being older coins with a smaller percentage of silver. U.S. coins 1964 and older (half dollars, dimes, and quarters) are 25 grams per dollar of face value and 90% silver (22½ g silver per dollar). All 1965-1970 and one half of the 1975-1976 Bicentennial San Francisco proof and mint set Kennedy half dollars are clad in a silver alloy and contain just under one half of the silver in the pre-1965 issues.
Junk-silver coins are also available as sterling silver coins, which were officially minted until 1919 in the United Kingdom and Canada and 1945 in Australia. These coins are 92.5% silver and are in the form of (in decreasing weight) Crowns, Half-crowns, Florins, Shillings, Sixpences, and threepence. The tiny threepence weighs 1.41 grams, and the Crowns are 28.27 grams (1.54 grams heavier than a US $1). Canada produced silver coins with 80% silver content from 1920 to 1967.
Other hard money enthusiasts use .999 fine silver rounds as a store of value. A cross between bars and coins, silver rounds are produced by a huge array of mints, generally contain a troy ounce of silver in the shape of a coin, but have no status as legal tender. Rounds can be ordered with a custom design stamped on the faces or in assorted batches.