The uses of Silver

native silver

Silver was one of the earliest metals used to make coins. The Romans used silver in this way as early as 269 BC (more than 2000 years ago). Mexico is the only country today that uses silver in its circulating coinage. In Australia, the 1966 fifty cent piece was the last coin in general use to contain silver. It contained 80% silver and 20% copper.

Because silver is such a good conductor of electricity, it is used in many electrical applications, including switches, contacts and fuses. Silver is used in household switch contacts because it does not corrode - corrosion can cause overheating, leading to fire. Although silver tarnishes easily, the tarnish does not prevent the electricity from being conducted. Almost all electrical appliances use silver contacts and switches. Microwaves, dishwashers, TVs, telephones, toys and computers all contain silver. A typical washing machine contains 16 silver contacts!

Silver is an excellent conductor of heat, so one of its uses is in the rear-window defrosters of cars. The tiny silver/ceramic lines conduct heat onto the glass, clearing frost, ice and condensation.

silver tableware

Silver's attractiveness and the ease with which it can be worked make it a popular material for use in jewellery. Sterling silver is an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Sterling silver is tougher than pure silver, so it can be used to make cutlery, serving trays and other ornaments and decorative tableware. It is also used to make high quality musical instruments such as flutes.

silver cutlery

Because silver is so reflective - in fact it is the best reflector known- it is used in mirrors and in coatings for glass or other metals. Metals can be coated with silver by a process called electroplating.

Silver has a variety of uses in the health industry. For example, silver sulfadiazine is a very powerful compound used to treat burns, and silver is sometimes used in tooth fillings and as a biocide. The use of silver in the health industry is increasing, particularly as a biocide.

One of the largest uses of silver was in photographic paper and film. Approximately 5000 colour photos can be taken using one ounce of silver. In 1813, Joseph Nicephore Niepce became the first person to create a photographic image using silver nitrate. However, since the inception of digital photography, the use of silver in photography has declined, and its use as a biocide is now the main use.

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