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Is Silver More Precious Than Gold?

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The word "silver" (Old High German silabar) is derived from the common Germanic root * silubra, as well as the names in other Germanic languages, (English. Silver).

In addition, the Basque has adopted the Germanic word: Zilar.

The same Indo-European origin as the Germanic names have the Baltic (Lithuanian Sidabras) and the Slavic (Russian and Croatian srebro).

Ultimately, the etymon is probably borrowed from an Oriental language, a derivative of the Semitic root SRP.

The Philology of the 19th century spawned a variety of theories about the origin of the word.

In other Indo-European languages the word for silver on the Indo-European root “arg” so Greek argyros (ἄργυρος) und Latin argentum. Because of its deposits of silver ore, Argentina got its name; it is the only country named after a chemical.


Humans since about the fifth millennium BC process silver.

The Assyrians, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, the Goths as well as Germanic tribes used it already.

At times, people considered Silver more valuable than gold because of its wider practical use.

The silver of ancient times came mostly from the mines in Laurion, about 50 kilometers south of Athens. The ancient Egyptians called silver “moon metal.”

In the Middle Ages and the early modern period were in Central Europe silver ore was found in the Harz mountains near Goslar in Germany, near Frankenberg, in the Thuringian Forest, in Saxony (Freiberg, still worldwide known for its Mining University), in the Black Forest only to name the most important areas for silver mining in Germany.

In Bohemia and Slovakia Silver has been discovered. Abundant silver deposits were found also in Norway near Kongsberg.

The largest silver producer in the Medievals was the town of Schwaz near Innsbruck in Austria. Up to 80% of the then silver came out of the tunnel called the “Schwazer Knappen (the miners from Schwaz)”.

Later, the Spaniards brought large quantities of silver from Latin America, among others from the legendary mines of Potosí in Bolivia to Europe. Even Japan was a silver exporter in the 16th century. With increased supplies of silver, its value decreased in the Old World.

Since after 1870, mainly gold was the main currency metal, silver lost more and more of its economic importance. The value of silver is dependent on the consumption and production development of other metals where silver is used in alloys with.

In the middle of the 19th-century stainless steel has been developed, which then penetrated due to its ease of use as well as of its attractive price after the First World War main application areas of silver.

Platters, cutlery, candlesticks, and other kitchen appliances were more and more fabricated from stainless steel due to its hardness and carefree handling.

In contrary, the silver use in photography and photographic chemistry has developed.

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Wide using of silver salts throughout the 20th century

Since the transition of paper based to electronic imaging the use of silver lost a lot of ground in this former dominant application.

Now Silver found new use increasingly in the field of electrics / electronics and control of microbes in textiles.

By the future enlarged use of RFID (Radio frequency identification) chips and plates, this demand will continue to increase, because the chips of the radio antennas consist of silver. The surface contacts at the top of solar cells are coated today with silver also.

Therefore, whenever one application of silver decreased new bigger ones are coming. This fact will happen in future and gives also stability to silver investments. We will later see why.

Silver as a mineral and varieties thereof

Silver is a rare element, with a share of about 0.079 ppm (0.0000079 percent respectively) in the earth's crust. It is thus about 20 times more profuse than gold and about 700 times less than copper.

In nature, it occurs solid or elementary, usually in the form of grains, more rare in larger nuggets, in thin plates and sheets or as wiry branched out braid (dendrite) or as thin silver wires in hydrothermal dispositions.

In addition to native silver, which so far was detected in around 4300 localities, it is found mainly in sulfide minerals. Among the most important ores of silver like acanthite (silver finish) Ag2S with a silver content of approximately 87% and stromeyerite (Copper Silver Gloss) CuAgS with about 53% silver. However, the mineral with the highest silver content of at most 99% is the rarely occurring Allargentum.

These are the more important Silver occurrences among so many.

In addition to these silver ores, there are even so-called silver-containing ores, which usually contain only small amounts of silver (0.01-1%). These are often PbS, lead Sulfide and CuFeS2 and copper iron sulfide.

For this reason, silver is often obtained as a by-product in the manufacturing of lead or copper.

A designated as Kongsbergit silver amalgam with a mercury content of about 5% is assigned as the silver variety. Kongsbergit today is found in 35 localities

A silver variety with a content of between 10 and 30% gold is known under Küstelit and has so far (as of 2011) been detected in around 60 localities.

Again, here are mentioned only the more important silver ores, or lead and cupper ores containing silver worth to be isolated.

Occurrence and mining

As said above the most important silver deposits are located in North America (Mexico, USA, and Canada) in South America in Peru and Bolivia. With around 30% of global mining production, Peru in 2009 was the world's largest silver producer. In 2011, Mexico produced with 4500 t worldwide the most of silver. China was able to increase its production in the last three years by more than 50%.

Most of the silver recovery is coming from silver ores, which often occurs together with lead, copper, and zinc ore as sulfides or oxides. Between the beginning of the 20th century and the end of the Second World War, the annual amount of silver production has fluctuated, but remained constant on average. From the end of WWII until today, it has more than doubled.

The Polish company KGHM with an average of 1200 tons of annual production is the EU's largest silver company and the second-largest worldwide.

According various studies, which are mostly roughly consenting the worldwide silver resources, will (estimated in the year of 2011) reach only for 29 more years. Thus, taking a shortage of silver in the coming decades in consideration is important for users as well as investors.

However, more and silver is recycled, giving the known deposits longer mining periods. Based on the data of the US Geological Survey from January 2013 results in terms of reserves in relation to the global production figures of 2011 and 2012, a current range for silver lasts for 22 to 23 years, without substitutes and recycling.


Production and synthesis

Recovery of silver ores

Twenty percent of the silver is made from silver ores. From these, the silver is separated usually by cyanide using a 0.1% sodium cyanide solution. For this purpose, the ore first will be crushed to fine mud. Subsequently, the sodium cyanide solution will be added.

With the addition of sodium cyanide, both elemental silver and silver ores are transformed into a solution of dicyanoargentate (Ag (CN) 2).

Since the reaction of sodium cyanide is in equilibrium with silver sulfide, sodium sulfide will be removed either by oxidation with oxygen, or by precipitation.

Then silver as the more noble metal precipitates with zinc.

The precipitated crude silver is filtered and further purified.

Again, a rough description of the refining process that is very similar like refining Gold.

Extraction of lead ores

In the recovery of lead ores, z. B. from galena, the so-called crude lead, or lead bullion is produced after roasting and reduction. This ore usually contains a fraction of silver (between 0.01 and 1%). In the next step, the precious metal will be removed and metallic silver gained as a valuable by-product.

Extraction of copper ores

Silver is also incorporated in copper ore. Among other precious metals, for the manufacture of copper silver precipitates as the so-called anode mud. Copper reacts with sulfuric acid added. Silver is then melted in the oxidizing furnace, while the other metals are contained in the slag to go and can be removed.


The pure silver metal, electrolytically is deposited with clearly visible dendritic structures.

Raw silver will be purified by electrolytic means in the so-called Möbius process. For this purpose, the crude silver will precipitate at the anode in an electrolytic cell.

This method corresponds to the electrolytic purification of copper. During electrolysis, silver and all lower metal elements in raw silver (for example, copper or lead) can be oxidized and dissolved. Precious metal portions as gold and platinum cannot be oxidized. They form the Anodic mud, which is an important source of gold and other precious metals. At the cathode, now only silver is deposited. This very pure silver is called electrolyte silver or fine silver.

Scrap silver in the refining process

As with the other precious metals, scrap silver plays an important raw material base in reprocessing silver materials as part of recycling.

Photo paper, X-ray films, developer and fixer solutions, electronic waste like circuit boards from all kinds of electronic instruments like computers, TV Sets are all silver also recycled batteries are an important part of sourcing silver from scrap material.


Physical Properties

Silver is a shiny white precious metal. The metal crystallizes in the cubic face-centered crystal system. Under normal pressure, the melting temperature should be ~ 961 ° C and the boiling point is ~ 2212 ° C.

It boils forming mono-atomic, blue vapor. The metal has a density of 10.49 g / cm³ (at 20 ° C) and therefore belongs to the precious metals, like all heavy metals.

Silver has a metallic gloss. Fresh cut, not yet corroded surfaces of silver show the highest light-reflecting properties of all metals; freshly deposited silver reflects 99.5 percent of visible light. As the most "white" of all metals the production of highly effective mirrors still are produced with silver.

With decreasing grain size, the color becomes darker and is black with photographically finely dispersed silver crystals.

Silver conducts heat and electricity as the best of all metals. Because of its elasticity and softness, it allows to hammering finest, shimmering foil of a thickness of only 0.002 to 0.003 mm. 1g of silver may be stretched to very fine wires up to two kilometers of length.

Chemical properties

Silver is relatively inert meaning it is not reacting with the most other chemical molecules or compounds. Even at higher temperatures it does not react with the oxygen in the air.

As traces of hydrogen sulfide, H2S, are contained in the air, silver surfaces, get black over the time.

Silver only dissolves in oxidizing acids such as nitric acid. In non-oxidizing, acids silver is not soluble. In cyanide solutions, it dissolves by the presence of oxygen with the formation of a very stable silver cyanide complex.

In concentrated sulfuric and nitric acid silver dissolves only at elevated temperatures.

Silver is stable against molten alkali hydroxides such as sodium hydroxide. In the laboratory for this melting process silver instead of porcelain or platinum crucibles are used for analytical purposes

Medical and Biological Properties

Silver has bactericidal properties if it is prepared in a finely dispersed form. It is low toxic, which attributes to the large reactive surface.

In the living organism, silver ions, however, bind fast to sulfur and will be excreted from the organism as a dark, difficult to dissolve silver sulfide.

This effect is employed in medicine for wound dressings as well as for invasive devices such as (i.e. endotracheal tubes).

In general, silver for bactericidal purposes is therefore raw material for medical devices as a coating or in colloidal form.

Increasingly, nano-silver ions are found as disinfectants and as a therapeutic agent in the wound therapy use.

These silver ions can reversibly inhibit silver susceptible strains of bacteria or viruses after relatively extended exposure time. Silver ions in high dispersed form are also bacteriostatic or even bactericidal.

In some cases, chlorine compounds will be added to enhance efficacy of the bactericidal or bacteriostatic properties of silver.

Various mechanisms are becoming effective: Blocking of enzymes and elimination of their vital transport functions in the cell, impairment of cellular structural integrity and damaging the membrane structure. The described effects can lead to cell death.

Biological effects on humans

In addition to argyria, an irreversible slate-gray discoloration of skin and mucous membranes, it also may occur that elevated silver accumulation in the body may lead to cerebral seizures and to taste and smell disorders.

Silver accumulates in the skin, the liver, the kidneys, and the cornea of the eyes, the gums, and mucous membranes as well as in the nails and in the the spleen.

The therapeutic ingestion of colloidal silver is discussed controversial: For some years now, colloidal silver it is marketed via the Internet and other channels.

Advertised primarily as a universal antibiotic being able to cure all sorts of ailments. Scientific studies on the effectiveness do not exist.

Many doubts exist for the antibiotic effect by oral administration. Very small amounts up to 5 micrograms of silver per kilogram of body weight per day administered orally should are not leading to poisoning according the view of EPA, the United stated Environmental Protection Agency.

The effects of silver as nanoparticles to human health and the environment were tested under REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) in 2014 as part of the Substance evaluation in the Netherlands.

Mythological Properties

Silver in many fairy tales and legends is the only metal being able to kill werewolves and other mythological creatures, which is often taken up in modern fantasy novels and films.

Use of Silver

The following information of the use of silver is also very important for investors in precious metals. Silver is not only an investment tool for its metallic form like in Bullions or coins to name a few. Silver as we have seen above and as we will see below is an excellent investment form by looking into all applications were silver is used.

Lets assume a company making computer chips containing silver wires: The value of these companies are moving also with the silver price as they usually have massive silver storages in form as production materials. A change of th silver price affects directly their bottom line.

The Silver Price

The price of silver is determined on the open market. This is done since the 17th century on the London Bullion Market.

The introduction of the Silver Fixings 1897 in London marked the beginning of the market structure. The London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) was founded in 1987.

Three LBMA members are participating each working day at the Silver Fixing chaired by the Bank of Nova Scotia. Other members of the silver fixing committee are the Deutsche Bank AG London and the HSBC Bank USA, London Branch.

In the 1970s, the Silver speculation of the Hunt brothers led to a record level of the silver price. They bought in cooperation with wealthy businesspersons from Saudi Arabia huge amounts of silver and silver contracts at the commodity futures exchanges around the world and tried to control and corner the silver market.

On January 18, 1980 at the Silver Fixing at the London Bullion Market, a record high of 49.45 US dollars per troy ounce was determined. The next record of the silver price has been reached as many as 31 years later, on 25 April 2011, when one ounce of silver in Hong Kong was traded with 49.80 US dollars traded. According the inflation calculator of the United States Department of Labor comply the 49.45 US dollars from 1980 to a total of 134.99 US dollars in 2011. Therefore, it will be likely a long time until the price of 1980 will be exceeded taking into account the inflation.

For the standardized silver trading on commodity exchanges. "XAG" was awarded as a separate currency code according to ISO 4217. It means the price of a troy ounce of silver (31.1 Grams)

Currency and Investment

The previously most important use of silver was the production of silver coins as a way of payment. In the Old- as well as in the Middle ages coins only made of silver, gold, copper, and bronze were in circulation. The coin denomination corresponded largely to the metal value. In Germany, silver coins were prevalent before 1871, the currency was protected by silver (silver standard). After 1871, the gold standard replaced the silver standard.

The reason for the use of these precious metals were the high value through rarity and stable value of silver and gold. Only in modern times coins were prepared of other metals, such as iron, nickel, or zinc, but their metal value is low and does not meet the face value. Silver is now used only as a coinage metal only for commemorative and special coins.

Especially in times of economic crises, like the one since 2007 - next to gold, silver has proven its important form as an investment. This I mainly due to its value stability in various forms such as silver bullion, silver jewelry, or silver coins.



Silver in Business and Sports

Silver in addition to gold and precious stones (e.g. diamonds) is an important material for the manufacture of jewelry. Silver is in use since centuries for fine and value holding silverware and for its use as sacral devices by various religion groups.

In jewelry, equipment, and silver bullion, the silver content, is determined by a stamp telling the fineness of the silver content.

Silver Medals are awarded in many sports competitions. Like in the Olympics, silver medals are the sign of reaching the second place. This is because silver is traditionally seen as next to the precious metal of gold.

However, the gold medal in Olympics is made of 92.5% silver and gilded with 6 grams of pure gold only.

Musical Instruments

Silver is also highly sought after for musical instruments, since for its nice, warm tone coming from its density. It is easy to work with and replaces often the delicate wood in concert flutes.

Industrial applications

Silver has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals, high thermal conductivity, and a strong optical reflectivity. This makes it ideal for applications in electrical, electronics and optics. The reflectivity of a glass mirror is reached through chemical silvering of glass. This principle is also used in the production of Christmas tree decorations, optics and light or heat reflectors.

A suspension of silver powder in adhesives makes them electrically and thermally conductive adhesives.

The blackening of the silver halides due to their decay with light finds its use in photographic paper. The light sensitivity of silver halides as the base of photography was detected around 1800 and was continuously refined for photography until the spreading of Digital technology.

Silver utensils and equipment in use with foods and beverages always give miniscule silver particles to foods and drinks, which can result in a noticeable unpleasant metallic taste. To avoid this, the inner surfaces of silver drinking vessels are often gilded. Silver sulfide tarnished silver instruments need either polishing or chemical reduction.


Medical applications

Materials or coating methods use the antibacterial effect of silver in medical devices and other applications in the form of silver coatings with colloidal silver, nanosilver, and silver in the form of threads. Examples in medical devices:

Wound dressings with colloidal silver or nanosilver

Silver coatings for endoscopic tubes

Silver coating for endoprostheses

Plastics with silver coating for use in medical devices.

Silver-containing creams as medicines and cosmetics, e.g. when dandruff with fungal skin infection is suspected or for treating eczema.

Silver plates are used as bone substitutes, typically for skull bones.

Examples of hygiene and other applications

Silver fibers or silver ions inhibit when used in textiles, the growth of bacteria on the skin and prevent unpleasant odors.

Coating with silver ions of surfaces, as in refrigerators, on kitchen furniture, light switches, and other objects avoid as frequently used devices cross-contamination mainly with pathogenic bacteria.

Antibacterial enamels and ceramics.

Water Filter Cartridges and devices use silver coating as additional bacterial barriers.

Silver as a catalyst

Silver catalysts find industrial applications in the partial oxidation of ethylene-to-ethylene oxide or of methanol to formaldehyde.

Due to the importance of the silver for the oxidation catalysis, numerous studies on the interaction of silver surfaces were carried out with oxygen.

This is of interest in connection with the fact that the partial oxidation of methanol to formaldehyde requires stoichiometric amounts of oxygen. The formation of the oxygen species is dependent on the temperature but also on the type of reaction atmosphere.

Silver on the other hand also catalyzes the reduction of organic substrates with hydrogen.

Non-metallic and non-bactericidal silver applications

Silver E174 is also used as a food-coloring agent in the food sector, for example for coating of confectionery such as chocolates and liqueurs.

Silver salts color glass and enamel yellow.

Silver Alloys

Silver is alloyed with many metals. Silver alloys it can be done with gold, copper, or palladium. In a limited way, silver is alloyed with chromium, manganese, or nickel. Alloying increases mostly the hardness of silver. Alloys of silver with cobalt or iron are not possible.


The following listing and short description of reaction of properties is and cannot be complete in such kind of an article. Therefore the most important are mentioned. Also their use has some meaning to investors dealing in the field of silver or trading stocks of companies working with silver in their production.

Silver halides

Halides are compounds containing the elements of the halogen group of Fluor, Chlorine, Brome, and Iodine as the common ones.

Among the most important silver compounds are the halides. They decompose in the light and are therefore made the photography possible.

Silver fluoride, AgF, is colorless and as the only silver compound which is highly water soluble. It is not sensitive to light, in contrast to the other silver halides.

Silver chloride, AgCl is a white, crystalline water-insoluble powder. It serves as proof reagent of chloride ions. Every chemist knows it from its first analytical laboratory days. It is also used in reference electrodes, and in photography.

Silver bromide is pale yellow and also water insoluble. Since it is more sensitive to light than silver chloride, it is very often introduced as a photosensitive layer in photography.

Silver iodide, AgI, is yellow like silver bromide and water-insoluble. It is rarely used in photography. Sometimes silver iodide is sprayed from airplanes as condensation nuclei to propagate the creation of rain.

Silver fluoride AgF2 (silver sub fluoride) is one of the few non-complex bivalent silver salts. It is used as a fluorinating agent in place of elemental fluorine.


Silver oxide, Ag2O, is a dark brown solid substance is precipitated from silver-containing solutions with caustics. At higher temperatures, Ag2O decomposes into the elements.

Silver sulfide, Ag2S, of all water-soluble silver salts is dissolving most difficult. It is black and formed directly from the elements or by adding silver-containing solutions with hydrogen sulfide. The dark coating of silver ware consists of silver sulfide.

Other important silver compounds

Silver nitrate, AgNO3, is the most important starting material for the manufacture of most other silver compounds. It is slightly soluble in water and is prepared by dissolving silver in nitric acid.

Silver sulfate,Ag2SO4, is obtained by dissolving silver in concentrated sulfuric acid.

Silver azide, AgN3, and Silver acetylide, Ag2C2, are highly explosive. The former can serve as a primer of explosives in mines or quarries.

Silver cyanide, AgCN, is a highly toxic colorless powder, which precipitates when Silver salt solutions react with Cyanide compounds like HCN (hydrogen cyanide), NaCN (Sodium Cyanide) or KCN (Potassium cyanide)

Actual Silver Prices

The London Spot price per ounce of Silver at the time of writing.

$ 27.80

This little figure above moves the markets and applications of Silver and its companies involved with day by day. The Investor concentrating in this precious metal trading will participate in a huge marketplace great in past and even larger in years to come.


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