Silver - a precious metal
Silver is a precious metal because it is durable, malleable, has an attractive lustre and if carefully cared for does not easily tarnish. Also, it is not present in large amounts in the earth's crust. Silver is indeed a valuable commodity.
Aluminium was once more expensive than silver because it could not be extracted from the compounds in which it was locked, but once a method was found, its price fell through the roof.
Silver along with gold is traditionally known as the two "coinage metals" and together are regarded as the two stand alone "precious metals".
Up until 1966, silver was a component of Australia's silver coins. Payment could truly be made in 'silver'. However today's 20 cent coin is composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel because inclusion of silver could make the value of the coins more than their face value.
Gold had earlier followed the same path as siver, so that today's Australian dollar may look 'goldy' but is actually 92% copper, 6% aluminium and 2% nickel.
The value of the Australian 'silver' currency is by virtue of its legal tender value only.
Ancient civilizations found a way of extracting silver from minerals such as galena.The amounts of silver were relatively small and the metal was found to be durable, malleable and non reactive. It also possessed shine and lustre, making it an item of value and in due course a precious metal.
Silver soon found its niche as a coinage - and as a metal most suitable for jewellery.
The importance of silver as a jewellery item has grown and flourished over the ages.
The mining and making of Silver
Australia has the world's largest share of silver bearing minerals, and Broken Hill and Mount Isa loom large in the history of silver mining in this country. Olympic Dam has recently appeared on the scene as a contributor of silver to the Australian economy.
Silver is especially found in lead mineralization deposits of galena a crystalline form of lead sulphide.
Galena being relatively soft is easily crushed into finer particles before it is subject to a simple process of 'floating' the mineral particles to the surface allowing the dregs to settle to the bottom of the flotation tank.
The concentrates of silver and lead then go through a smelting process that eventually finishes up with about 2 kg of silver to 1 tonne of lead. The value of the silver well exceeds that of the lead.
As far back as Roman times, the lead produced was used for making plumbing pipes for Roman houses and streets - hence Pb as the symbol for the element, lead.
Silver is a brilliant conductor of electricity
Silver has the highest electrical conductivity of any element. Being durable, non-reactive and malleable, it is a wondrous metal servicing many industrial purposes:
- electrical switching - particularly in motor cars - high class performance
- wiring in electronics - excellent long term performance
- photofilm - provides a stable result
- catalyst - induces chemical change without itself being affected
- brazing - makes for perfect joins for electrical pathways
- bearings - most surprisingly the silver 'lining' minimizes wear and breakdowns
Sterling Silver or 925 Silver is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. The effect of the copper is to take the softness out of the silver without reducing any of its special properties as a precious metal.
Sterling Silver Jewellery has been in vogue for centuries across civilizations and cultures.
Its attraction and importance is a never ending story.
Do you have some Sterling Silver Jewellery?
Is it old? Is it new?
Does it have a family history?
Is it an heirloom?
Would you like to tell us about it?
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