Introduction to Silver
It’s been said, there are over 10,000 uses of silver in industrial applications.
A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it exhibits the highest electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, and reflectivity of any metal. The metal is found in the Earth's crust. Most silver is produced as a by-product of copper, gold, lead, and zinc refining.
Silver has long been valued as a precious metal. Silver metal is used in many bullion coins, sometimes alongside gold: while it is more abundant than gold, it is much less abundant as a native metal.
Silver is used in numerous applications other than currency, such as solar panels, water filtration, jewellery, ornaments, high-value tableware and utensils (hence the term silverware), and as an investment medium (coins and bullion). Silver is used industrially in electrical contacts and conductors, in specialized mirrors, window coatings, and in catalysis of chemical reactions. Silver compounds are used in photographic film and X-rays. Dilute silver nitrate solutions and other silver compounds are used as disinfectants and microbiocides, added to bandages and wound-dressings, catheters, and other medical instruments.
Uses of Silver in Everyday Life
Where is Silver Found?
Silver is the 68th most abundant element in the Earth's crust and 65th in cosmic abundance. It is found in small quantities in many locations on Earth. Large amounts of the metal have been mined in both North and South America, which together produce over half the world total. Its mostly important ores are sulfides, of which argentite (silver sulfide, Ag2S) is the most common. Silver often occurs as a minor constituent in the ores of copper, lead, and zinc. Refinement of these metals yields large quantities of silver (and some gold). Silver is found in minute quantities in seawater
Primary Silver Deposits are Rare
Silver mining is a tough business geologically and economically. Primary silver deposits, those with enough silver to generate over half their revenues when mined, are quite rare. Most of the world’s silver ore formed alongside base metals or gold, and their value usually well outweighs silver’s.
Production from primary silver mines accounted for just 30% of the global mine supply. Well over 2/3rds of the 886.7m ounces of silver mined in 2015 was simply a by-product from base-metals and gold mining! And as rare as silver-heavy deposits supporting primary silver mines are, primary silver miners are even rarer.
Global silver mine production declined by 0.6 percent in 2016 to a total of 885.8 Moz. A large proportion of the drop was attributable to the lead/zinc and gold sectors, where production dipped by a combined 15.9 Moz. On a regional basis, Mexico registered the largest drop in production last year, followed by Australia and Argentina, yet those losses were partially offset by gains in Central and South America and Asia. Even so, Mexico was again the world’s largest silver producing country, followed by Peru, China, Chile and Russia.
Primary silver mine production grew by 1 percent to realize 30 percent of total silver mine output last year. Lead/zinc mines contributed 35 percent of 2016 by-product output, followed by copper mines at 23 percent and gold mining at 12 percent.
When people think of uses for silver the first thing that comes to mind is jewelry, followed by coins, but the largest single component of physical silver demand actually is industrial applications.
About 55 percent of all silver consumed is for industrial use including electronics, medicine, water purification, solar cells, chemical catalysts, and others.The remaining demand is taken up by jewelry, coins and silverware.
In 2016, total worldwide demand for silver totaled 1,027.8 million ounces, which was down about 11% from extremely high levels the previous year due to a decline in retail investment.
Silver and Alternative Energy
Silver paste is used in 90 % of all crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, which are the most common type of solar cell. These cells are currently being tested for large and small-scale electricity production around the world. In Europe, photovoltaic cells are commonly used to power private homes and small businesses. South Korea and Europe are constructing photovoltaic electric power plants to provide significant sources of electricity for their nation’s power grid.
Over 100 million ounces of silver are projected to be used in this application by 2015.
How is Silver Mined?
Silver-bearing ores are mined by open-pit or underground methods and then are crushed and ground. Since virtually all the ores are sulfides, they are amenable to flotation separation, by which a 30- to 40-fold concentration of mineral values is usually achieved.
Silver as Store of Value
A store of value is any form of wealth that maintains its value without depreciating. Commodities such as gold/silver and other forms of metal are good stores of valueMany economies throughout history have used gold, silver and other metals as currencies because of their ability to store value, their relative ease of transport and the ease of forming them into different denominations. The United States was on a gold standard, in which dollars were redeemable for a specific weight of gold, until 197.
So what is the Gold-to-Silver Ratio?
The gold-to-silver ratio is the amount of silver it takes to purchase one ounce of gold.
What Does the Gold to Silver Ratio Mean?
Investors who trade gold bullion, silver bullion and other precious metals scrutinize the gold-to-silver ratio as a signal for the right time to buy or sell a particular metal.
When the ratio is high, the general consensus is that silver is favored. This is because; relative to the ratio, silver is somewhat cheap.
Historically, What Did the Gold-to-Silver Ratio Look Like?
Since 1687 – as far back as the records reach – the gold-to-silver ratio vacillated between roughly 14 and 100. Around 1900, the ratio steadied, remaining relatively flat. Indeed, prior to 1900, the gold-to-silver ratio hovered around 16. This was likely because many countries were using gold- and silver-backed currencies. For instance, France and the United States (among others) assigned statutory limits on what the ratio could be. Also, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there’s 17.5 times more silver in the Earth’s crust than gold, which could provide another explanation for the pre-1900 gold-to-silver ratio average.Throughout the twentieth century though, the gold-to-silver ratio has averaged about 47-50 and has fluctuated wildly at times