Silver Bullion Guide

Silver is a soft, shiny and heavy metallic element with a brilliant white luster. Its atomic number is 47 and its chemical symbol is Ag, derived from the latin word Argentum, which means "white and shining".

A very ductile and malleable metal, silver is very easy to work with, being only slightly harder than gold. Its thermal and electrical conductivity is the highest of all known metals. Of all metals, silver also possesses the lowest contact resistance.

Silver has the highest optical reflectivity amongst metals and is capable of achieving the most brilliant polish but it tarnishes when exposed to hydrogen sulphide, ozone, or air containing sulphur.

On the health front, silver is also a natural anti-bacteria agent and its antiseptic properties has been known since ancient times thousands of years ago.  

History of Silver

Silver has long been valued as a precious metal since antiquity and used as currency and in making ornaments and jewelry.
Silver has long been valued as a precious metal since antiquity and used as currency and in making ornaments and jewelry.

Like gold, silver has been known and used since the dawn of civilization. Silver ornaments fashioned out of pure silver were found in Egyptian royal tombs dating back to 3500 BC. Being a relatively scarce metal with a high value to weight ratio, silver was used, together with gold, as money as early as 700 BC by every nation in ancient Middle East.

At around 500 BC, the Athenians of ancient Greece discovered an enormous silver mine right near Athens. The silver extracted from this mine alone paid for the building of Athens' first navy, and helped Athens to become a powerful city-state.

In 1792, silver took on a critical role in the US monetary system when the government adopted a bimetallic monetary standard using both gold and silver. The dollar was fixed to represent 24.75 grains of fine gold or 371.25 grains of fine silver. This standard fixed the value of gold as being 15 times greater than silver. However, this monetary use of silver was discontinued by the US government by 1965. Most other nations have also ceased official silver coinage production for monetary circulation, with the exception of bullion coins, which are produced for investment buyers.

Today, silver has lost its once dominant role as an important monetary metal and is now valued primarily as an industrial commodity.

Silver Production

Although silver is relatively scarce, it is the most plentiful and least valuable of all the precious metals. Silver is seldom found as a free metal and mostly occur compounded with zinc, copper or lead. Hence, it is mostly produced as a by-product of copper, lead and zinc mining.

Total silver mine production reached 646.1 million ounces in 2006. The largest silver producing countries are Peru, Mexico, China, Australia and Chile.