The element silver has an atomic number of 47 and the chemical symbol Ag, from the Latin argentum, meaning “shining.” A precious metal, silver has been highly sought after throughout history for its beauty, but it also has many practical industrial uses, too.

Although harder than gold, silver is still very malleable and ductile. A single grain of silver can be beat into a sheet that is one hundred and fifty times thinner than a piece of paper. This malleability makes it an ideal metal for use in jewelry.

Silver has been sought after for thousands of years. Over five thousand years ago humans first developed ways to separate silver from lead. Although gold has been historically more common in art and jewelry, historical examples of both created with silver are plentiful.

Commonly, pure silver isn’t used to create jewelry. Instead, an alloy is used to create a stronger, harder metal. This is often sterling silver, which contains 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. Another silver alloy commonly used is Britannia silver, which contains 95.8 percent silver and 4.2 percent copper. Britannia silver is commonly used in eating utensils, hence the name “silverware.”

Silver is often used in dentistry. Because it can be combined with mercury and tin at room temperature to create an alloy, dentists will often use it for dental fillings. These metals can be combined to create a paste that quickly hardens and takes the shape of the cavity.

The most popular industrial use of silver is in photography. Nearly one-third of all the silver used since 1998 has been for photography, although the need for silver for this purpose has dropped in recent years. Silver crystals on film are struck with light, creating an image. Around 5,000 color photographs can be created with a single ounce of silver. However, the rise of digital photography has hastened the declining demand of silver for photographic purposes.

At the U.S. Gold Bureau we have an excellent selection of silver coins and bullion for you to choose from. Call us today and speak with a representative about how you can start building or expanding your collection.