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Silver is a precious metal that is commonly used in jewelry as well as in daily utensils, tools, and various other objects. Next to gold, silver was once used by the Romans as a form of currency, called the denarius, from which other words for money such as ‘dirham’, and ‘dinar’ originate from.
Silver is an easily workable and malleable metal, and is nearly as malleable as gold. This allows silver to be made into fine thread or hammered out into extremely thin sheets.
Unlike gold, silver tarnishes overtime, usually developing a thin black patina with exposure to sulfur and the surrounding atmosphere in general. While tarnishing is considered unsightly for some forms of jewelry, a patina found in silver is usually left in place due to the added ‘antique’ appeal that it provides.
Pure silver is too soft for daily use, so silver jewelry, cutlery, coins, and other objets d’art is usually alloyed with a much harder metal such as copper, tin, or zinc. Different alloyed consistencies make for different types of silver.
The most common types of silver are Sterling Silver, Britannia Silver, Mexican Silver, Brazilian Silver, and Coin silver.
An alloy of silver and gold is called electrum, and is one of the earliest alloys of the two metals to be used in both jewelry and currency. Electrum can occur naturally, although it has been produced artificially by the Ancient Greeks and other civilizations since the third millennium BC. The fabled capstone of pyramids, called pyramidons were usually coated with, if not made from naturally mined or artificially alloyed electrum. The alloy was so useful and durable that it was made into vessels for water, wine, vinegar, and oil by the Ancient Egyptians.
The world ‘silver’ actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for the metal – ‘seolfor’. In Latin, silver is called argentum, and its corresponding heraldic color is argent.
It has been a long-held belief that silver is a holy metal capable of warding off any malignant or evil spirits. Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, silver has been thought of as possessing mystical properties that conferred protection from unholy creatures. This belief then spread into diverse cultures such as that of the Egyptians where amulets made of silver were worn against evil spirits. Eastern Europeans believed that silver protected against demonic entities such as vampires and werewolves. Because ancient mirrors were once coated with a thin film of silver, vampires and other demonic entities could not cast a reflection upon it. Nowadays though, mirrors are usually coated with aluminum film… which is probably the reason why vampires can now preen themselves on mirrors!
Silver is also said to possess therapeutic properties much like gold. While the expression ‘to be born with a silver spoon on one’s mouth’ now connotes wealth and prestige conferred upon birth, during the time of the Ancient Greeks it was used to connote a healthy child. The Greek physician Hippocrates advised that silver utensils be used to feed infants, as it was said to encourage a healthy growth. Because of the popularity of silver as utensils, it is to this day referred to formally as silverware.
Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for coinandbullionpages.com © coinandbullionpages.com 2012
Note - this site provides general information about gold, silver, coins and bullion. None of the contents of this web site should be seen as financial or investment advice.