Undoubtedly the most common precious metal. It is also the most inexpensive and abundant. Just like gold, silver has been widely used for a great number of years by various civilizations. Silver is still commonly used today. Just consider cutlery, silverware and other tableware, coins, and technical or industrial applications, primarily in the photographic industry.
The chemical symbol of silver, Ag, comes from the Latin argentum, which means, “white and shining”. The English word for it comes from the Old English siolfor. All ancient civilizations, whether Greek, Roman, Egyptian or Assyrian, used and appreciated this metal.
It was probably due to its relatively low melting point and high plasticity that ancient craftsmen found silver easy to work with. As silver is abundant and found almost everywhere, many civilizations worked with it leaving behind magnificent silver artifacts.
Silver has been used in coins ever since coins themselves were invented. The purity of silver coins varied; it could be as low as 50% or as high as 100% fine silver. The minimum standards for designating silver as a precious metal vary from one country to another and from one era to another, but they are generally between 80% and 90% pure silver, by weight.
Silver is a noble metal and resists most acids. However, it has great affinity with sulphur. It is also due to the sulphur present in the atmosphere that it tarnishes. This is not an oxidation or corrosion process. On contact with the air, silver combines with sulphur and tarnishes. When it tarnishes, only the surface is affected. Tarnished silver regains its shine when it is polished. Rhodium plating prevents silver from tarnishing.
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