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The History of Silver

 

Silver has been used for thousands of years for ornaments and utensils, for trade, and as the basis for

many monetary systems. Its value as a precious metal was long considered second only to gold.


 

The word "silver" appears in Anglo-Saxon in various spellings, such as seolfor and siolfor. A similar form is seen throughout the Germanic languages (compare Old High German silabar and silbir). The chemical symbol Ag is from the Latin for "silver", argentum (compare Greek άργυρος, árgyros), from the Indo-European root *arg-, meaning "white" or "shining". Silver has been known since ancient times. Mentioned in the Book of Genesis, slag heaps found in Asia Minor and on the islands of the Aegean Sea indicate silver was being separated from lead as early as the 4th millennium BC using surface mining.

The stability of the Roman currency relied to a high degree on the supply of silver bullion, which Roman miners produced on a scale unparalleled before the discovery of the New World. Reaching a peak production of 200 t per year, an estimated silver stock of 10,000 t circulated in the Roman economy in the middle of the second century AD, five to ten times larger than the combined amount of silver available to medieval Europe and the Caliphate around 800 AD. Financial officials of the Roman Empire worried about the loss of silver to pay for the greatly in demand silk from Sinica (China).

In the Gospels, Jesus' disciple Judas Iscariot is infamous for having taken a bribe of 30 coins of silver from religious leaders in Jerusalem to turn Jesus of Nazareth over to soldiers of the High Priest Caiaphas.

 

Recorded use of silver to prevent infection dates to ancient Greece and Rome; it was rediscovered in the Middle Ages, when it was used for several purposes, such as to disinfect water and food during storage, and also for the treatment of burns and wounds as wound dressing. In the 19th century, sailors on long ocean voyages would put silver coins in barrels of water and wine to keep the liquid potable.

 

 

Recorded use of silver to prevent infection dates to ancient Greece and Rome; it was rediscovered in the Middle Ages, when it was used for several purposes, such as to disinfect water and food during storage, and also for the treatment of burns and wounds as wound dressing. In the 19th century, sailors on long ocean voyages would put silver coins in barrels of water and wine to keep the liquid potable.

Pioneers in America used the same idea as they made their journey from coast to coast. Silver solutions were approved in the 1920s by the US Food and Drug Administration for use as antibacterial agents.

Silver has long been valued as a precious metal, and is used as an investment, to make ornaments, jewelry, high-value tableware, utensils (hence the term silverware), and currency coins.

Today, silver metal is also used in electrical contacts and conductors, in mirrors and in catalysis of chemical reactions. Its compounds are used in photographic film, and dilute silver nitrate solutions and other silver compounds are used as disinfectants and microbiocides (oligodynamic effect). While many medical antimicrobial uses of silver have been supplanted by antibiotics, further research into clinical potential continues.

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