Sterling Silver Through the Ages

Sterling Silver Through the Ages
Origins of Silver

A study on the origins of silver published in the Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics in 2012 concluded that silver is formed when small stars explode, also attributing the formation of gold to the explosion of much larger stars. The first evidence of silver mining dates back to around 3000 B.C. in Turkey and Greece. In a process called cupellation, the Ancient Greeks worked out how to refine silver, where air is blown over heated silver, which separates the base metals like lead and copper as they oxidise. Pure silver is too soft for things like tableware and jewellery, so your finest cutlery is probably made from sterling silver, an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% of generally copper.

Sterling Silver

The first legal definition of Sterling Silver is found in 1275 when Edward the 1st specified that for every 12 ounces of silver for coins, it must contain a specific ratio of pure silver to alloy, extremely close to the 92.5% we still use today. Over a hundred years earlier, during the reign of Henry the 2nd, silver’s composition was subject to official governance, with its purity ratio probably dating back to Saxon times, and certainly it was being used in commerce in Northern Europe by the twelfth century.

The Americas

Silver really took off when the Americas were discovered and South America was found to have very rich veins of silver and silver ore. Mining was extensive and around 85% of global production between 1500 and 1800, came from Mexico, Bolivia and Peru. The term Sterling Silver is first alluded to in its Latin form, libræ sterilensis monetæ around the beginning of the eleventh century. There are many theories as to how the term we are familiar with today was finally cemented, with numerous people suggested as being the origin.

Silver in the Twenty First Century

While silver was originally used predominantly in coins and jewellery, its uses in recent times have expanded greatly. Silver was an important factor in early photography, with silver nitrate being used on the photographic plates, which reacts to exposure to light by turning black. Even with the growing use of digital cameras, silver is still important in the photographic industry today. Silver is the best electrical conductor of all the metals and is used extensively through the electronics industry. It is also the best reflector of light, explaining why it is regularly used in making mirrors.

Many people think of silver and jewellery as synonymous, and at Silver by Mail, a leading online supplier and its use in this field ranks third in its usage worldwide, many people check out the various options available. Because it has anti-microbial properties, nanoparticles can be sewn into clothing to reduce the build-up of bacteria and colloidal silver solutions are becoming quite popular in homeopathic medicine, though while beneficial topically, drinking it is inadvisable as it makes ones skin turn blue. Sterling silver is even used in musical instruments, such as the saxophone, as it has a special acoustic character which is said to improve the resonance and timbre.

Silver is definitely a shiny and pretty metal, which has made it attractive to humans for thousands of years. Its multiple beneficial properties in so many different areas mean that it is likely to remain popular and in demand for a very long time to come.