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Is Silver a Metal? Facts About Silver

What is Silver?

The word “silver” comes from “seolfor”, the Anglo-Saxon word that means metal. In Latin, the word used to say “silver” is “argentum”, because of the color “argent”, which corresponds to the silver color.

Argent Color

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The term silver also refers to one of the chemical elements of the periodic table with the symbol Ag and the atomic number 47. It is soft, white, and brilliant. It is one of the best conductors of energy, heat, and reflectiveness. And because of these characteristics, it is highly used in several industrial areas.

Silver Atomic Number and Symbol

SD Bullion Logo

Valuable to investors, industrials, and collectors, silver-white metal has grabbed people’s attention worldwide because of its long-lasting role in most human cultures. It has historically been used for coinage and jewelry.

Throughout the centuries, silver bullion has been part of varied uses in such different contexts and although technology and science keep advancing fastly, bringing new elements and components to the spotlight, silver remains present in our lives.

For a long time, it was believed that silver was a holy metal that could keep evil spirits away because of its magical properties of protection. From Greeks to Egyptians and later, Europeans, this belief was kept alive and many objects used for protection like mirrors, amulets, shields, and religious objects were made with silver metal.

Besides protection, silver was also a sign of wealth and prestige. That’s where the expression “to be born with a silver spoon on one’s mouth” comes from.

Is Silver a Metal?

Yes, it is not only metal but just like gold, palladium, and platinum, silver is considered a precious metal.

Precious Metals and Karat Grading System

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Precious metals are scarce, hard to find in nature, which provides them high economic value. In terms of Chemistry, they are considered noble, because they are less reactive than other metals but more ductile and lustrous. Therefore, precious metals are valuable due to both their practical use and their role as investments.

More abundant and not as expensive as gold, silver is not found integrally pure in nature. This white metal is actually a by-product of other metals and its purity is measured according to a millesimal scale. That is the number describing purity in parts per thousand. So, if some silver alloy is considered .999 fine silver, it means this alloy is 99% pure silver. 

Where is Silver Found?

As mentioned before, silver is a by-product of other metals, like copper, gold, lead, and zinc and their main sources are ores. These ores can be mined through open-pit methods, for deposits that are relatively near the earth’s surface or through underground mining, if the extraction needs to go deeper into the ground. 

Nowadays, Mexico, Australia, Peru, Poland, Bolivia have been the major world miners and producers of silver over the centuries and in Central Asia, Tajikistan has the largest silver deposits.

What are the Uses of Silver?

Malleable, lustrous, nearly while, resistant to corrosion, silver has long been used in the manufacture of uncountable things. The most common one, though, is the minting of coins, decoration items, and utensils. 

Silver has been used to produce all kinds of ornament, jewelry, and cutlery, especially high-valuable tableware. However, as pure silver is soft and easily damaged, it is necessary to alloy pure silver with other hard metals in order to make durable items, able to last and resist daily use.

Silverware

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Medicinal uses

For medicine, the antibacterial properties of silver have a very important role. Silver is one of the components used to make wound dressings, bandages, and other medical devices. Evidence indicates that the use of devices that contain silver compounds can reduce the chances of infections in treatments.

Technological uses

Another interesting application is in photography. The most common chemical processes that produce both black-and-white and colored analog photography demand silver compounds as the main ingredient when recording images in films and printing papers. And despite the advance in polaroids and other photo processing units, this “gelatine silver process” is the most preferred to analog photography.

Photography Camera

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Being the highest known electrical conductivity metals of all, the possibility of using silver in other fields gets wider. In electronics, for example, it can be found in conductors, circuits, and electrodes. Alloyed with other metals, it is great for electrical contacts and wires.

Frequently used in solar panels, some recent discussion has come out because the use of silver in these panels adds cost to the final product. In this case, not only the silver conductivity properties are important, but also its reflectiveness is essential to produce solar energy. Actually, 90% of a crystalline silicon photovoltaic cell is composed of a silver paste, which works as a powerful conductor to collect electrons from the sunlight and enhance it into energy. So, the higher cost of having silver as the major ingredient to make solar panels can be justified by its greater efficiency.

Solar Panels

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Coinage and financial uses

Last, but not least, whenever we think of silver metals and their usage, we always remember coins and their monetary value. If we go back in time to research a bit about the first coins around the world, we will find out that silver metal was used as raw material alloyed to other metals at the beginning of the minting activity.

Since then, silver-white metal became a reference of value around the globe as a unit of account, called silver standards, which is a fixed weight of silver. 

Today, for monetary purposes, silver coins are very sought-after. Silver coins have become a good investment for those looking for stability because it is a physical asset and has intrinsic worth. So, despite inflationary periods and market fluctuations, silver coins could offer long-term value.

Yet, silver coins are collectible items. Their design represents historical moments, the culture, and art related to the period they were idealized and minted, which provide the coins with numismatic value. And according to the edition, silver coins can be extremely valuable.

American Silver Eagle

2015 American Silver Eagle Coin

More than coins, silver can be found in silver bars and silver rounds, just like other precious metals: gold, palladium, and platinum.

Facts About Silver

Silver bullion is valuable for many different reasons. But how can we measure this value? 

Different from currencies, investing in bullion can be more stable because its price tends to move less, to vary less according to the economic fluctuation.

The price of silver is calculated in troy ounces. One troy ounce represents approximately 31.1 grams and its cost is daily announced by The London Fix - London Bullion Market Association, which is responsible for setting prices for precious metals (not only silver) in US Dollars and some other currencies.

The investor who wants to purchase silver pays a spot price, plus an additional charge, called a premium, on top of the spot price for any purchase he or she makes. One thing to note is most dealers will give a discount when purchasing silver in bulk. Therefore if you purchase more of the same SKU (stock keeping unit), it is likely you will save money. That’s why sometimes it is worth purchasing greater quantities of metals. But any quantity of ounces can be purchased. It is only important to look for a trustworthy dealer, who offers great prices, fast shipped, and trusted service.

Is The Silver You are Buying Real?

The most popular silver bullion products contain 99.9% silver, which makes them .999 fine. When searching for silver products to invest in, like coins, rounds, and bars, proper dealers usually display this information in the description of the product. 

But not all products contain this level of purity. Some old silver coins, also called “junk- silver”, were mixed with other metals during minting and are 90% pure silver.

The term “sterling silver” should also be explained. This expression indicates that the product contains 92.5% of pure silver. This category is largely used to manufacture jewelry alloyed with other metals like zinc or nickel, which provides hardness and durability to the piece. However, this mixture with other metals tends to make these pieces more prone to tarnishing or corrosion.

Do tarnished silver pieces lose value?

Tarnished silver items should not lose their value. Silver is not iron-based metal, so it doesn’t rust, but as explained above, it may tarnish according to the number of other metals it was alloyed with. 

Sterling silver usually begins to tarnish from 2 months to 3 years, no matter where it is being stored. But tarnishing is not a definite situation and not a big deal. Whenever the sterling silver item loses its brightness, it is possible to clean and restore it. Having proper cases or boxes, like boxes for collections, maybe a good idea to keep jewelry and coins protected. 

If you are looking for a silver cleaning solution, E-Z-EST Coin Cleaner works great in these scenarios.

E-Z-EST Coin Cleaner

e-Z-est Coin Cleaner

A curious clue that may help you spot fake silver is magnetism. Silver metal has lots of properties, but magnetism is not one of them. Pure silver does not react to metal detectors. So when testing something with magnets, if there is attraction, it is not pure silver.

On the other hand, we must consider that most metal detectors are able to find non-magnetic metals too. In this case, silver and gold coins, for example, are easily found because the metal detector sets up a slight electric field, which is sensed, indicating the presence of the coin. It is called the Lenz effect principle.

Thus, it is very difficult to find something, considering common day-to-day items, that are integrally pure, like silver, which is too soft and would not resist regular use if singularly applied. Most of the metallic objects we use are the product of a mix of metals. And these mixtures are used for the specific purpose of making the silver metal item, or any other noble metal object, resistant, long-lasting and beautiful.

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James Anderson
James Anderson
Content Director

A bullion buyer years before the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, James Anderson is a grounded precious metals researcher, content creator, and physical investment grade bullion professional. He has authored several Gold & Silver Guides and has been featured on the History Channel, Zero Hedge, Gold-Eagle, Silver Seek, Value Walk and many more. You can pick up Jame's most recent, comprehensive 200+ Page book here at SD Bullion.

Given that repressed commodity values are now near 100-year low level valuations versus large US stocks, James remains convinced investors and savers should buy and maintain a prudent physical bullion position now, before more unfunded promises debase away in the coming decades.

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