Sunday, July 21, 2024

A Short History of Silver

September 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Silver Investment Basics

Gorgeous silver jewellery has encircled necks, armsm, wrists and fingers throughout history. It has been made into statues, ingots and decorated clothing and armour, been used for trade, and indicated high rank or royalty for thousands of years. Nowdays, it is seen dripping languidly from the bodies of todays royalty; rap stars, rock stars, movie stars and even sports stars. Silver’s story is as old as time and as new as the latest additions to the jewellery shop windows.

Silver: called argentum in the periodic table has an atomic number of 47 which means it is the 47th element on the periodic table and carries 47 electrons. It has a hardness rated between 2.5 and 2.7 and is therefore one of the most malleable of all metals. Silver is a white, lustrous metal prized for its purity and formability and because it can achieve the most brilliant polish of any metal.

The first major source of mined silver, is generally considered to be Turkey which served as the main source of silver for the near East, Crete and Greece. The early Egyptians used silver in their religious ceremonies and to create their articles of worship and it was considered even more precious than gold.

A concentrated effort to mine silver really began around 3000B.C. and the first sophisticated processing of the mined ore has been attributed to the Chaldeans at around 2500B.C. After the destruction of the Minoan empire in 1600B.C. the mines of Laurium, near Athens became the leading producers of mined silver. These mines proved to be highly productive, and for approximately 1000 years the Laurium mines were the largest source of silver in the known world.

The end of the monopoly of the Laurium mines saw the Romans come to the fore and mines in Spain and throughout Europe and Italy were pressed to meet the growing trading needs of Greece and Asia Minor. When the Moors invaded Spain and took control, it became necessary for the mining of silver to be expanded to more countries, mainly in central Europe and several new large deposits were discovered between 720 and 1200 A.D. But the real expansion in the production of silver occurred in a 500 year period between 100-1500A.D, when new developments were made in the mining and processing of silver particularly the development of the ‘mercury amalgamation method’.
This process enabled more silver to be taken from the ore and so silver production around the world increase exponentially during this time through discovery and better refining methods.

Even more significant was the discovery of seemingly almost infinite deposits of silver in the New World, and the first of these was in the Potosi District of Bolivia. At the same time major deposits were also found and mined in Mexico with the bulk of mining occurring between 1700 to 1800A.D.
For over 300 years, from 1500A.D. to 1800A.D. Mexico, Boliva and Peru accounted for over 85% of the world production of silver and trade, with the remaining portion obtained mainly from Germany, Hungary and Russia. From 1850, other countries like the US increased production and silver production increased again worldwide.

Did you know?:

Silver can be hammered into sheets so thin that it would take 100,000 of them to stack 2.5 centimetres high. It is this formability that makes silver such a wonderful art form for the artisans throughout history. It can be shaped by hammering, spinning (like wool), or drawing (like toffee), it can be melted and poured into moulds, and can be decorated with etching, engraving or chasing. Known as the queen of metals, not the least because it has a known association with the moon and the moon goddess Lunai from times of antiquity. Silver has been closely associated with the moon and lunar influences and used for magical utensils and ornaments for thousands of years. It is closely related to Isis, queen of Egyptian goddesses and the traits of creativity, flexibility and emotion. It is one of the seven sacred metals, and used in alchemical processes by the original ‘scientists’ those wizards of old called alchemists such as Merlinus Arturius and Isaac Newton. Silver is known is also a part of the ancient chakra system of the Hindi’s and associated with the 6th chakra or 3rd Eye seen as the bridge between the human and the divine. This chakra is compared to empty space, free form a place of purity and unity, the site of bliss.

Silver’s medical history: a silver coin was often dropped into a jug of milk to help prevent it from souring, in Vedic medicine silver water was known to cleanse the liver and spleen. More recently until sometime in the 1930’s silver compounds were used as a normal part of medicine, with silver nitrate being the main compound used. Silver Iodide was even used immediately at birth in babies eyes to prevent infections that resulted in blindness. We can find Colloidal Silver in use even today as a natural remedy for infections and many swear by it.

Amazing Uses of Silver: Invisible silver is a transparent coating of silver on the double pane in thermal windows; silver enjoys greater reflectivity than gold and can achieve the most brilliant polish; silver is the best electrical conductor of all metals.

Wearing Silver
Because of their long tradition and history silver artisans are some of the most highly skilled artisans in the world today. Only the finest craftsmen in each generation became master silversmiths, this evolution throughout the centuries has created a tradition of excellence in both artistry and craftsmanship that is found only in the silver field.

The meaning of the word jewellery is derived from the word, jewel, which is the anglicised form of the French word ‘jouel’ and even further back to the Latin word ‘jocale’ which means toy or plaything. Jewellery is one of the oldest forms of body adornment, and although it has been used to pin clothes together and as a form of wealth storage in ingot form, it is still mainly used throughout history for decoration.

Silver jewellery was once used to indicate status as it was restricted for use by only the wealthiest and noblest of all up until the end of the 18th century. It was only through the Industrial Revolution, through mass manufacturing that jewellery finally became available to the general public.
It is seen on its own and embedded with precious or semiprecious stones in areas all over the world and from many areas of history including; Mesopotamia, China, Japan, Egypt, Africa, Greece, Rome,  India, Mexico (Mayans), Indian Tribes of North America, Peru (Aztecs), and the British Isles (Celts).

Silver is still beautiful and for many, more affordable than gold. Wearing a find piece of silver jewellery can give the wearer a feeling of confidence and beauty and create the finishing touch to any outfit. All sorts of silver jewellery can be found from modern pieces to purchasing antique peices that have stood the test of time. Silversmiths still replicate the older styles and wearing these beautiful pieces can add a unique touch to any outfit and is sure to get the wearer noticed!!

Big, bold and beautiful pieces from around the world abound, and it can be such an amazing feeling to find just the perfect piece for you. Choosing from Tibetan, Mexican, Italian or other amazing styles is half the fun and finding such pieces has been made even easier by the internet, although buying from a reputable business is key to ensuring your investment is worthwhile.

Annie Rob is a creative web consultant who write articles, blogs and presents on topics for her growing client list. Annie has a Masters in NLP, Coaching and a Grad Dip in Education as well as being a writer, presenter and Web Business visionary. For more information on this subject go to: The Jewellery Gallery

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