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Today's Top Silver Uses: More Than Silver Bullion Coins

Updated on September 17, 2014

Silver Uses: Traditional, Industrial, and Emerging Technologies

As a silver investor, the word silver brings to mind shiny, valuable silver bullion coins and bars. However, silver is much more than a commodity to be bought, held, traded, and sold.

The number of silver uses is growing every day due to new developments in industry and technology that utilize forms of silver.

Silver investing can extend beyond just silver bullion into the numerous silver industries and technologies of the present and future. This valuable commodity plays an important role in many different fields and in the global economy.

silverware
silverware

Traditional Silver Uses

Silver has traditionally been used in coinage, silver jewelry, photography, and silverware and place settings. The inherent value of silver has been used to create objects which represent lasting value and elite social status. If you've ever heard reference to a "Silver Club" or "Silver Membership", you can see why the idea of silver carries prestige with it.

COINAGE

Silver has been used as a form of currency for thousands of years. The earliest known use of silver as a medium of exchange was by 700 BC, where it was used by the Lydians in the form of electrum (a gold-silver alloy). The Romans began using silver in their coins by 269 BC. Later, silver was refined and coined in it's pure form to be used by hundreds of nations as the basic unit of currency, on what was called the "Silver Standard."

In the 1800s, many nations such as Great Britain and the United States switched their standard monetary value from silver to gold. The term "pound" used in the United Kingdom originates from the value of one troy pound of sterling silver. At this time, the only country still using small amounts of silver in it's circulating coins is Mexico. Most countries now use copper and nickel instead. However, several countries mint non-circulating coins that are pure silver and sold to collectors and investors for their value in silver if it is above the face value. These coins are 99.9% pure silver and often come in 1 ounce weights. Some examples include the Silver American Eagle coin minted in the U.S., the Libertad silver coin minted in Mexico, The Canadian Silver Maple Leaf coin, and the Australian Kookaburra silver coin, and the Austrian Philharmonic silver coin.

SILVER JEWELRY

Silver jewelry is has been around for centuries, with sterling silver being the standard for jewelry making since the 1500s. Silversmiths who make jewelry rarely use pure silver because it is often too soft to be durable. They use sterling silver, which is an alloy of 92.5% silver mixed with 7.5% copper in order to strengthen the metal so it is more resistant to warps and scratches. Most silver sterling jewelry is plated with a fine coat of .999% silver to give it a shiny finish; this process is known as 'flashing'.

Silver jewelry has increased in demand in recent years as the 'white look' has become more fashionable. While white gold is still very expensive, less expensive silver offers buyers a similar look for less money.

SILVERWARE AND TABLE SETTINGS

During the 50-year silver craze between 1870 and 1920, silver uses skyrocketed in America and Europe. People were so enamored with its beauty that new items were manufactured just for its use. Silverware went from being a fork, knife, and spoon, to numerous types of silverware accessories. There were about 100 new types of silverware created during this period. From this silver obsession grew a new age of social dining etiquette--trying to know what fork or spoon to use at a formal dinner. If you're like most people, the choices can be boggling.

Similar to silver jewelry, silverware is rarely made from pure silver. It is often a mixture of 92.5% silver, 7.5% copper, and possible zinc or platinum to make it more durable and brilliant. Less-expensive table settings are sometimes plated with a 20-30-micron-thick silver coating. Genuine silverware is still popularly used in many households today.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Other traditional silver uses include silver-based photography. The process involves light hitting silver-halide crystals on film, which allows an image to form when a photograph or x-ray is developed. In 1998 over 30.98% of all silver consumed was used for photography in the form of silver halides and silver nitrate. With the advancement of digital technology, silver use for photography has declined rapidly in the last decade, although it is still used by some devices and applications. For example, many medical professionals prefer to use silver-based x-ray films because of their high accuracy and low cost compared to newer digital x-ray systems.

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silver batteries
silver batteries

Industrial Silver Uses

Not only a metal of riches and beauty, there are also many positive industrial silver uses. The properties of a silver, which include malleability, strength, thermal ability and conductivity, make it an ideal source for use in various industrial processes.

BATTERIES

Silver oxide batteries are one of many industrial silver uses. Both disposable and rechargeable batteries are made with silver (Ag) alloys to create the cathode (negative side). Batteries with these alloys tend to be more expensive than the alkaline battery, but they make up for it with a superior weight-to-power ratio. Some examples include the small button batteries used in watches, toys, and some electronics. Silver oxide batteries may also be a future potential replacement for lithium-ion batteries due to safety reasons.

BEARINGS

Silver has great chemical properties, but it also achieves feats in strength. There are steel ball bearings in jet engines; to reduce the stress and fatigue rate on these bearings, they have been electroplated with silver. Unlike steel, silver has a greater reduction of friction, thus minimizing the stress from friction on the bearings. Again, when safety is an issue, silver is often the remedy. When an engine's oil level is dangerously low, silver reduces friction enough so that the engine can be shut off in time to reduce potential damage and malfunction.

BRAZING AND SOLDERING

The composition of silver makes it useful when brazing (using temperatures above 600 degrees Celsius) and soldering (below 600 degrees Celsius) materials together to form joints. When silver is brazed or soldered on something, it gives it a sleek and even look and makes it resistant to leaks. It has a high tensile strength, is ductile, and very thermally conductive. Brazing with silver alloys is used in the automobile, air-conditioning, and other industries. Previously, solder contained toxic lead, and is not being replaced with silver alloy solder.

CATALYSTS

Catalysts are substances that speed up or otherwise facilitate reactions. The chemical industry uses more than 700 tons of silver as catalysts each year to aid in the production of formaldehyde and also ethylene oxide. The plastics industry relies on these two chemicals to make it's numerous flexible and solid plastic products. These chemicals are also used in the production of plywood, antifreeze for vehicles, molded plastic items, casing and insulating materials, surface coatings, and many more uses.

ELECTRONICS

Silver not only has great thermal conductivity, but electrical as well. Almost all electronic products, from giant TV screens to circuit boards, use silver alloys in their production. Both CDs and DVDs utilize silver in their coatings due to it's inherent resistance to tarnish and pitting. It is used in switches (such as light switches or even computer keyboards) because of it's durability.

The use of silver is also growing in small electronic devices. RFID tags (radio frequency identification) are being commonly used in hundreds of millions of products to prevent theft, allow easy inventory control, and access personally identifying information. These tags are also used in prepaid toll road passes, passports, and credit cards.

The Silver Economy

Emerging Silver Uses

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MEDICAL APPLICATIONS

Silver has been known to be antibacterial for centuries, and was used to help keep liquids fresh longer. Scientific research has shown silver to have broad-spectrum antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, which make it useful in many medicinal applications. Silver functions in this way by the silver ions binding to the bacterial wall, disrupting the bacteria's ability to form chemical bonds.

Some medical silver uses include silver-based therapy for treating chronic wounds and burns. Silver is also used in medicinal creams such as silver sulfadiazine or in conjunction with another wound treatment such as alginate or foam. Studies have shown that using silver foam in treating wounds has significantly reduced the wound size and drainage. Due to the increasing incidence of antibiotic-resistant super bugs, silver is being increasingly used in the manufacturing of hospital supplies, bandages, and surgical implements and tools like catheters, needles, and stethoscopes.

SOLAR ENERGY

Silver paste and silver coated mirrors are used in generating solar energy. Most crystalline silicon photo-voltaic cells (known as solar cells) use silver paste in them. Silver coated mirrors are used to reflect and concentrating solar energy into the collectors, which in turn run the generators, producing electricity.

MIRRORS AND COATINGS

Silver is also used in mirrors and coatings. An optical coating process called as silvering, involves a deposit of thin layer of silver, which has a reflectivity of 95% to 99%, on mirror and glass surfaces, thus changing the way in which the optic object transmits light. This process is used in creating anti-glare spectacles, photographic lenses, and also in making energy efficient double-pane windows. This metal is also used in paint to prevent mold and germs on surfaces.

WATER PURIFICATION

Silver's antimicrobial properties are being used in building water supply systems and water purification devices. Silver ions placed in filters and canisters are used in pipes, connections and water tanks to create biocide screen, which keeps the water bacteria and fungus free. Silver is also being used as a promising alternative to harsh chemicals such as chlorine in swimming pools to keep the water free of microbes.

Why I Love Silver...

Silver has a bright future in industry and emerging technologies with the ingenuity and drive of researchers, scientists, and engineers. While silver often takes a back seat to other compounds, it is a shining example of what can be accomplished when man and earth come together with the purpose of improving the quality of life for human beings.

Silver Savings Account

Silver Savings Account
Silver Savings Account | Source

Saving and Collecting Silver and Gold

Silver Savings Account

There is new way to collect and use silver and gold--in a Silver or Gold Savings Account!

It's like starting a traditional savings account for yourself or your child or grandchild, but what you are actually saving is real silver and gold. It's easy to use and to buy and sell. You can deposit as little as $25 per month towards a purchase of silver or gold.

For more information such as informative videos, please click on the Silver Saving image.

Do You Know of More Silver Uses? Please Share!

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      DoItNowSurvival 3 years ago

      Silver has a bright future, indeed. Great lens. I love silver because it's easy to buy on a budget and is a great preserver of buying power for crisis. Learn more about buying silver at http://CompleteSurvival.net