We are all familiar with silver, as it is the medal given in the Olympics. A precious metal, there is more to it than just a runner up award and the means to kill werewolves. Let’s take a closer look at it and why this is valued.
Properties of Silver
Silver has an atomic weight of 107.8682 and an atomic number of 47. Its symbol is Ag on the elements table and is solid at room temperature. Its symbol Ag, does not seem to be connected to silver at all. But Ag actually stands for argentums, which is Latin for silver.
With a density of 10.01 g per cu cm, silver has a boiling point of 2162 C or 3,924 F and a melting point of 961.78 degrees Celsius or 1,763.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
This metal has 66 isotopes of which 2 are stable. The most common are Ag-109 48.161%, and Ag-107 51.839%.
Facts about Silver
Among all metals, silver is the finest conductor of electricity and heat. In research done by the Jefferson National Linear Accelerator Laboratory, silver was also shown to be the best at reflecting light.
Silver’s ability to reflect visible light is the main reason why it is used to make mirrors. However, silver turns gray and tarnishes when expose to air. That’s the reason why mirrors and silverware need regular cleaning.
Silver in its purest form is not hard enough for tableware and jewelry, so the majority of those products are most likely sterling silver. Usually these are a combination of 7.5% copper and 92.5% silver, though some manufacturers use other metals.
Just like gold, silver is used as a component in some batteries and electronic equipment. Silver is also known for its antimicrobial properties, which is why silver nanoparticles are weaved into clothes so bacteria does not build up in oil and sweat. The antimicrobial properties of silver have been proven time and again in various studies.
Silver also played a major role in the development of early photography, as silver nitrate was applied on photo plates on cameras. Because silver nitrate reacts to light, it became possible to catch light. Even with the explosive growth of digital cameras, silver remains in use.
In 2003 more than 1900 tons of silver were used for silver, while more than 1200 tons were used for wires, electronic equipment and various gadgets. Electroplated objects, jewelry and sterling also use silver.
Anyone who owns silverware knows that leaving it locked will cause it to dull. So the question is, why is the silver in museums still clear even when they are under lock and key? The answer is in the transparent lacquers that are applied on them.
Today researchers are looking for ways to keep silver from tarnishing. One of the latest attempts is to use nanometer coatings, as they may be more effective than lacquer.
The antimicrobial properties of silver has ensured it would make it way to the doctor’s office. There are dressings with silver to treat wounds as well as antibiotic creams with silver for injuries. This only goes to show how efficient the antimicrobial elements of silver are.
History of Silver
The use of silver dates back to at least 3000 BC in Greece and Turkey. There is evidence ancient civilizations learned how silver was refined. Studies show the ancients heated the silver ore and blew air above it, and this process is known as cupellation.
During cupelation, silver doesn’t react, but copper, lead and the other base metals start oxidizing and isolate silver.
Silver can also be found in the stars as supernovas produce them in abundance. A study was published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics in September 2012 which states that large exploding stars produce gold while explosions from small stars generate silver.
While silver has been in use for a long time, it didn’t really take off until 1492 when the Europeans came to the New World. The Spaniards who came to the Americas learned that South American mines were rich in silver and they mined it. Researchers state that from 1500 to 1800, 85% of silver in the world came from Mexico, Bolivia and Peru.
The first big silver strike in the US was in 1857 at the Comstock Lode in Nevada. During the rush, silver worth $305,779,612.48 was mined from 1859 to 1992. As pointed out above, silver has long been used as jewelry and there is evidence to prove this. In February 2014 researchers found 3200 year old silver earrings in Israel.
Silver is more than just the stuff given to the runner up in sports competitions. It is a very useful metal, with new ways of using it being discovered on a regular basis. So maybe it’s time we stop thinking of silver as always being inferior to gold.