What is silver?
Silver is a precious metal and chemical element, holding the atomic number 47 on the period table. Its symbol Ag is derived from the Latin ‘argentum’, while its anglicized translation – silver – denotes its ‘shiny’, ‘white’ properties.
As a commodity, silver, like gold, has long been seen as valuable – the UK’s pound coin is so named, as it was originally worth a pound of silver. The precious metal was noted as a currency in ancient Rome, with the term ‘argentarius’ used to mean silver trader or banker.
Since those times it has ceased to be a currency in its own right, but remains a component of various other world currencies, such as the American Eagle Silver dollar and of course, as a popular tradeable commodity.
The metal is more abundant than gold, and with lesser value. But, this doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Silver can be a more accessible option for traders, and an attractive investment prospect.
How is silver produced?
Silver can be found and mined from the Earth’s crust in its purest form, known as native silver. It is often found in alloys with metals such as gold and copper, and in minerals, such as chlorargyrite and argentite.
However, silver is more commonly produced during the process of refining of other metals, such as copper, lead, zinc and gold. The top-3 silver-producing countries are Mexico, Chile and Peru.
What is silver used for?
Silver holds its value not only as a precious metal, but also due to its multitude of uses. It is a soft metal that is malleable and an excellent conductor of electrical and thermal energy, making it a valuable industrial metal.
Jewellery is another key use of the precious metal. A popular choice, silver is used in jewellery production. Its malleability allows it to be shaped into various forms, often bolstered in alloyed form by other metals such as copper – 92.5% silver, 7.5%copper.
The use of silver in art was once its number use, however the decline of film photography has reduced it significantly.
Silver is used in the processing and development of photographic film.
Similar to its uses in photography, silver has various medical uses, such as the development of x-rays. Other medical uses for the precious metal include as an antibacterial – such as silver foil to heal wounds, colloidal silver to treat infections and in eye drops – alongside its growing adoption in nanotechnology.
The multipurpose metal also finds its place for use in solar panels, water filtration, car engines, mirrors, glass and chemical production.
Where is silver traded?
Investors can buy silver in its physical forms – coins, bullions and medallions – from banks, government mints or purchase silver-backed securities on an exchange. Silver is typically traded through future contracts on exchanges such as, the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), COMEX and eCBOT in the USA, NCDEX and MCX in India, DGCX in the UAE and TOCOM in. The size of each future contract representative of 5000oz of the precious metal.
Despite holding a lower value than gold, silver can offer excellent opportunities for investors. The market is strongly driven by supply and demand, and its ties to the US dollar can create volatility for the commodity.
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