Silver (Ag)
 
 
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag (Greek: άργυρος árguros, Latin: argentum, both from the Indo-European root *arg- for "grey" or "shining") and atomic number 47.   A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal.   This metal occurs naturally in its pure free form (native silver), as an alloy with gold and other metals, and in minerals such as argentite and chlorargyrite.   Most silver is produced as a by-product of copper, gold, lead, and zinc refining.
 
Long valued as a precious metal, silver is used as an investment, to make ornaments, jewelry, high-value tableware, utensils (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 diluted 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.
 
 
Applications
 
Many well-known uses of silver involve its precious metal properties, including currency, decorative items, and mirrors.   The contrast between its bright white color and other media makes it very useful to the visual arts.   It has also long been used to confer high monetary value to objects (such as silver coins and investment bars) or to make objects symbolic of high social or political rank.
Jewelry and Silverware
Jewelry and silverware are traditionally made from sterling silver (standard silver), an alloy of 92.5% silver with 7.5% copper. In the US, only an alloy consisting of at least 90.0% fine silver can be marketed as "silver" (thus frequently stamped 900). Sterling silver (stamped 925) is harder than pure silver and has a lower melting point (893°C) than either pure silver or pure copper. Britannia silver is an alternative, hallmark-quality standard containing 95.8% silver, often used to make silver tableware and wrought plate. With the addition of germanium, the patented modified alloy Argentium Sterling silver is formed, with improved properties, including resistance to firescale.
Sterling silver jewelry is often plated with a thin coat of .999 fine silver to give the item a shiny finish. This process is called "flashing". Silver jewelry can also be plated with rhodium (for a bright, shiny look) or gold (to produce silver gilt).
Silver is a constituent of almost all colored carat gold alloys and carat gold solders, giving the alloys paler color and greater hardness. White 9k gold contains 62.5% silver and 37.5% gold, while 22 carat gold contains up to 91.7% gold and 8.4% silver or copper or a mixture of both.
Historically, the training and guild organization of goldsmiths included silversmiths as well, and the two crafts remain largely overlapping. Unlike blacksmiths, silversmiths do not shape the metal while it is red-hot, but instead, work it at room temperature with gentle and carefully placed hammer blows. The essence of silversmithing is to take a flat piece of metal and to transform it into a useful object using different hammers, stakes and other simple tools.
While silversmiths specialize in and principally work silver, they also work with other metals, such as gold, copper, steel, and brass. They make jewelry, silverware, armor, vases, and other artistic items. Because silver is such a malleable metal, silversmiths have a large range of choices with how they prefer to work the metal. Historically, silversmiths are mostly referred to as goldsmiths, which was usually the same guild. In the western Canadian silversmith tradition, guilds do not exist; however, mentoring through colleagues becomes a method of professional learning within a community of craftspeople.
Silver is much cheaper than gold, though still valuable, so is very popular with jewelers who are just starting out and cannot afford to make pieces in gold, or as a practicing material for goldsmith apprentices. Silver has also become very fashionable, and is used frequently in more artistic jewelry pieces.
Traditionally, silversmiths mostly made "silverware" (cutlery, tableware, bowls, candlesticks and such). Only in more recent times has silversmithing become mainly work in jewelry, as much less solid silver tableware is now handmade.
 
 
Currency
 
Silver, in the form of electrum (a gold–silver alloy), was coined to produce money around 700 BC by the Lydians.   Later, silver was refined and coined in its pure form.   Many nations used silver as the basic unit of monetary value.   In the modern world, silver bullion has the ISO currency code XAG.   The name of the pound sterling (£) reflects the fact it originally represented the value of one pound Tower weight of sterling silver; other historical currencies, such as the French livre, have similar etymologies.   During the 19th century, the bimetallism that prevailed in most countries was undermined by the discovery of large deposits of silver in the Americas; fearing a sharp decrease in the value of silver and thus the currency, most states switched to a gold standard by 1900.   In some languages, such as Spanish and Hebrew, the same word means both silver and money.
 
The 20th century saw a gradual movement to fiat currency, with most of the world monetary system losing its link to precious metals after Richard Nixon took the United States dollar off the gold standard in 1971; the last currency backed by gold was the Swiss franc, which became a pure fiat currency on 1 May 2000.   During this same period, silver gradually ceased to be used in circulating coins; the United States minted its last circulating silver coin in 1970 in its 40% half-dollar.
 
The Royal Canadian Mint still makes many silver coins with various dollar denominations.   Silver is used as a currency by many individuals, and is legal tender in the state of Utah.  Silver coins and bullion are also used as an investment to guard against inflation and dollar devaluation.
 
 
Dentistry
 
Silver can be alloyed with mercury, tin and other metals at room temperature to make amalgams that are widely used for dental fillings.   To make dental amalgam, a mixture of powdered silver and other metals is mixed with mercury to make a stiff paste that can be adapted to the shape of a cavity.   The dental amalgam achieves initial hardness within minutes, and sets hard in a few hours.
 
 
Photography and electronics
 
Photography used 30.98% of the silver consumed in 1998 in the form of silver nitrate and silver halides.   In 2001, 23.47% was used for photography, while 20.03% was used in jewelry, 38.51% for industrial uses, and only 3.5% for coins and medals.   The use of silver in photography has rapidly declined, due to the lower demand for consumer color film from the advent of digital technology; since 2007, of the 907 million ounces of silver in supply, just 117.6 million ounces (13%) were consumed by the photographic sector, about 50% of the amount used in photography in 1998.   By 2010, the supply had increased by about 10% to 1056.8 million ounces, of which 72.7 million ounces were used in the photographic sector, a decline of 38% compared with 2007.
 
Some electrical and electronic products use silver for its superior conductivity, even when tarnished.   The primary example of this is in high quality RF connectors.   The increase in conductivity is also taken advantage of in RF engineering at VHF and higher frequencies, where conductors often cannot be scaled by 6%, due to tuning requirements, e.g. cavity filters.   As an additional example, printed circuits and RFID antennas can be made using silver paints and computer keyboards use silver electrical contacts.   Silver cadmium oxide is used in high-voltage contacts because it can withstand arcing.
 
Some manufacturers produce audio connector cables, speaker wires, and power cables using silver conductors, which have a 6% higher conductivity than ordinary copper ones of identical dimensions, but cost very much more.   Though debatable, many hi-fi enthusiasts believe silver wires improve sound quality.
 
Small devices, such as hearing aids and watches, commonly use silver oxide batteries due to their long life and high energy-to-weight ratio. Another usage is high-capacity silver-zinc and silver-cadmium batteries.
 
 
Mirrors and optics
 
Mirrors which need superior reflectivity for visible light are commonly made with silver as the reflecting material in a process called silvering, though common mirrors are backed with aluminium.   Using a process called sputtering, silver, along with other optically transparent layers, is applied to glass, creating low emissivity coatings used in high-performance insulated glazing.   The amount of silver used per window is small because the silver layer is only 10–15 nanometers thick.   However, the amount of silver-coated glass worldwide is hundreds of millions of square meters per year, leading to silver consumption on the order of 10 cubic meters or 100 metric tons/year.   Silver color seen in architectural glass and tinted windows on vehicles is produced by sputtered chrome, stainless steel or other alloys.   Silver is seldom used as the reflector in telescope mirrors, where aluminum is generally preferred because it is cheaper and less susceptible to tarnishing and corrosion.   Silver is the reflective coating of choice for solar reflectors.
 
 
Other industrial and commercial applications
 
This Yanagisawa A9932J alto saxophone has a solid silver bell and neck with a solid phosphor bronze body.   The bell, neck, and key-cups are extensively engraved.   It was manufactured in 2008.
 
Silver and silver alloys are used in the construction of high-quality musical wind instruments of many types.   Flutes, in particular, are commonly constructed of silver alloy or silver plated, both for appearance and for the frictional surface properties of silver.
 
Silver's catalytic properties make it ideal for use as a catalyst in oxidation reactions, for example, the production of formaldehyde from methanol and air by means of silver screens or crystallites containing a minimum 99.95 weight-percent silver.   Silver is quite probably the only catalyst available today to convert ethylene to ethylene oxide (later hydrolyzed to ethylene glycol, used for making polyesters)— an important industrial reaction.   It is also used in the Oddy test to detect reduced sulfur compounds and carbonyl sulfides.
 
Because silver readily absorbs free neutrons, it is commonly used to make control rods to regulate the fission chain reaction in pressurized water nuclear reactors, generally in the form of an alloy containing 80% silver, 15% indium, and 5% cadmium.
 
Silver is used to make solder and brazing alloys, and as a thin layer on bearing surfaces can provide a significant increase in galling resistance and reduce wear under heavy load, particularly against steel.
 
 
Medical
 
The medical uses of silver include its incorporation into wound dressings, and its use as an antibiotic coating in medical devices.   Wound dressings containing silver sulfadiazine or silver nanomaterials may be used to treat external infections.   Silver is also used in some medical applications, such as urinary catheters and endotracheal breathing tubes, where there is tentative evidence that it is effective in reducing catheter-related urinary tract infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia respectively.   The silver ion (Ag+) is bioactive and in sufficient concentration readily kills bacteria in vitro.   Silver and silver nanoparticles are used as an antimicrobial in a variety of industrial, healthcare and domestic applications.
 
 
Investing
 
Silver coins and bullion are used for investing.   Mints sell a wide variety of silver products for investors and collectors.   Various institutions provide safe storage for large physical silver investments, and various types of silver investments can be made on the stock markets, including mining stocks.   Silver bullion bars are sold in a wide range of ounces, provided by various mints and mines around the world.   Silver coins and bullion bars are generally 99.9% pure, and labeled with ".999".   Canadian Silver Maple Leafs are also popular, with a purity of 99.99% silver.
 
 
Clothing
 
Silver inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi on clothing, such as socks, so is added to reduce odors and the risk of bacterial and fungal infections.   It is incorporated into clothing or shoes either by integrating silver nanoparticles into the polymer from which yarns are made or by coating yarns with silver.   The loss of silver during washing varies between textile technologies, and the resultant effect on the environment is not yet fully known.
 
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 word 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).
 
Mines were made in Laureion during 483 BC.
 
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.
 
The Chinese Empire during most of its history primarily used silver as a means of exchange.   In the 19th century, the threat to the balance of payments of the United Kingdom from Chinese merchants demanding payment in silver in exchange for tea, silk, and porcelain led to the Opium War because Britain had to find a way to address the imbalance in payments, and they decided to do so by selling opium produced in their colony of British India to China.
 
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.
 
 
Characteristics
 
Silver is a very ductile, malleable (slightly harder than gold), monovalent coinage metal, with a brilliant white metallic luster that can take a high degree of polish. It has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals, even higher than copper, but has a greater cost which prevents it from being widely used in place of copper for electrical purposes. An exception to this is in radio-frequency engineering, particularly at VHF and higher frequencies, where silver plating to improve electrical conductivity of parts, including wires, is widely employed. In the US during World War II 13,540 tons were used in the electromagnets used for enriching uranium, mainly because of the wartime shortage of copper.
Pure silver has the highest thermal conductivity (the nonmetal carbon in the form of diamond and superfluid helium II are higher) of all metals and one of the highest optical reflectivities, although aluminium is slightly better in parts of the visible spectrum, and silver is a poor reflector of ultraviolet. Silver also has the lowest contact resistance of any metal. Its halides are photosensitive and are remarkable in their ability to record a latent image that can later be developed chemically. Silver is stable in pure air and water, but tarnishes when it is exposed to air or water which contains ozone or hydrogen sulfide which forms a black layer of silver sulfide which can be cleaned off with dilute hydrochloric acid.
 
 
Compounds
 
Silver metal dissolves readily in nitric acid (HNO3) to produce silver nitrate (AgNO3), a transparent crystalline solid that is photosensitive and readily soluble in water. Silver nitrate is used as the starting point for the synthesis of many other silver compounds as an antiseptic, and as a yellow stain for glass in stained glass. Silver metal does not react with sulfuric acid, which is used in jewelry-making to clean and remove copper oxide firescale from silver articles after silver soldering or annealing. Silver reacts readily with sulfur or hydrogen sulfide H2S to produce silver sulfide, a dark-colored compound seen as the tarnish on silver coins and other objects. Silver sulfide Ag2S also forms silver whiskers when silver electrical contacts are used in an atmosphere rich in hydrogen sulfide.
 
 
Silver chloride (AgCl) is precipitated from solutions of silver nitrate in the presence of chloride ions, and the other silver halides used in the manufacture of photographic emulsions are made in the same way, using bromide or iodide salts. Silver chloride is used in glass electrodes for pH testing and potentiometric measurement, and as a transparent cement for glass. Silver iodide has been used in attempts to seed clouds for the production of rain. Silver halides are highly insoluble in aqueous solutions and are used in gravimetric analytical methods.
 
Silver oxide (Ag2O), produced when silver nitrate solutions are treated with a base, is used as a positive electrode (anode) in watch batteries. Silver carbonate (Ag2CO3) is precipitated when silver nitrate is treated with sodium carbonate (Na2CO3). Silver fulminate (AgONC), a powerful, touch-sensitive explosive used in percussion caps, is made by reaction of silver metal with nitric acid in the presence of ethanol (C2H5OH). Other dangerously explosive silver compounds are silver azide (AgN3), formed by reaction of silver nitrate with sodium azide (NaN3), and silver acetylide, formed when silver reacts with acetylene gas.
 
Latent images formed in silver halide crystals are developed by treatment with alkaline solutions of reducing agents such as hydroquinone, metol (4-(methylamino)phenol sulfate) or ascorbate, which reduce the exposed halide to silver metal. Alkaline solutions of silver nitrate can be reduced to silver metal by reducing sugars such as glucose, and this reaction is used to silver glass mirrors and the interior of glass Christmas ornaments. Silver halides are soluble in solutions of sodium thiosulfate (Na2S2O3) which is used as a photographic fixer, to remove excess silver halide from photographic emulsions after image development.
 
Silver metal is attacked by strong oxidizers such as potassium permanganate (KMnO4) and potassium dichromate (K2Cr2O7), and in the presence of potassium bromide (KBr); these compounds are used in photography to bleach silver images, converting them to silver halides that can either be fixed with thiosulfate or redeveloped to intensify the original image. Silver forms cyanide complexes (silver cyanide) that are soluble in water in the presence of an excess of cyanide ions. Silver cyanide solutions are used in electroplating of silver.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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