What is Silver?

native silver

Native silver nugget

Symbol: Ag

Atomic Number: 47
Melting Point:
1234 °K, 1763 °F, 961 °C
Boiling Point:
2435 °K, 3924 °F, 2162 °C



Silver and silver compounds have many uses. Silver is very ductile and malleable, being just slightly harder than gold. It is the best known as the highest conductive metal of electricity at common temperatures and pressures. It is also the best reflector of visible light, but silver coated mirrors must be given a protective coating to prevent them from tarnishing.

Silver has also been used for coinage although because of its value today most coinage is made from less expensive metals. Before digital cameras became the main way to record images, silver nitrate was used to make photographic films and papers. Sterling silver, an alloy containing 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper is used to make silverware, jewelry and other decorative items.

Silver is often used with gold to give gold a greater hardness. White 9 carat gold contains 62.5% silver and 37% gold, while 22 carat gold contains 8.4% silver (and possible copper) and 91% gold. Silver, like gold, can be shaped and transformed at room temperature by hammering.



Silver has been known and used for at least as long as gold, nearly 5000 years. Silver is sometimes found free in nature but it is usually found in ores containing gold, lead, or copper. Early Greeks and Romans used silver to prevent infection. During the Middle Ages it was used to disinfect water and food during storage. In the 1920s silver solutions were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use as antibacterial agents.

Silver occurs in either veins or alluvial deposits and is recovered by hard rock or placer mining. The silver deposits of the Klondike region were placer deposits. Although not as abundant as gold in the Klondike region silver was extracted by panning or sluicing and didn't require the need for heavy earth moving equipment or blasting.


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