The metal silver, ductile and malleable, surpasses gold in hardness. Its properties, facilitating work, combined with its color and brilliance, have captivated humanity, making it one of the most coveted metals.
Approximately 70% of the world’s production is dedicated to coinage, a significant portion is employed in goldsmithing, while a small percentage finds use in photography and chemistry.
The term "silver" originates from the Indo-European "Arg", meaning "shiny", or from the Sanskrit "Ar-jun", carrying the same meaning. This etymology underscores the millennium-long fascination with the characteristic luster of this precious metal.
The beginnings of silver ore extraction date back to around 3000 B.C. in Anatolia (Turkey), supplying the Near East, Crete, and Greece in antiquity.
Around 1200 B.C., Laurium in Greece became the major production center for silver, providing for the principal Mediterranean civilizations.
Around 100 A.D., Spain took over as the primary supplier to the Roman Empire.
The Moorish conquest of Spain led to a shift in silver supply for Europe, with the opening of small mines across the continent, particularly in Germany and Eastern Europe, especially between 750 and 1200. This geographical realignment marks a dynamic era in the history of silver extraction in Europe.
The major event that revitalized the use of silver worldwide was the discovery of the Americas in 1492. Between 1500 and 1800, global silver production exploded, with Bolivia, Peru, and Mexico alone accounting for 85% of this production.
This production boom continued to grow with new mine discoveries in regions such as the United States, Australia, Chile, Japan, and others. Simultaneously, silver found new applications in emerging technologies, contributing to its ongoing significance in the global economy and technological development.
Silver, much like gold, played a crucial role as currency in most global civilizations until the adoption of the gold standard system in the late 19th century. The Libyans were among the first to use silver as currency around 700 B.C., marking the beginning of its use in financial transactions.
While silver is no longer the standard for currencies, some countries continue to mint silver coins, often for commemorative purposes or as investments and protection against monetary devaluations.
The second predominant use of silver lies in the realms of jewelry and silversmithing. It is widely employed as a base material or in the form of silver-plating, adding a touch of elegance and brilliance to jewelry and precious objects.
Due to its exceptional electrical conductivity properties, silver occupies a prominent place in the fields of electronics and electricity. Its superiority as a conductor, even when oxidized, makes it a preferred choice over copper.
The silver industry continues to heavily utilize silver in the realm of analog photography, especially in radiography, although other sectors have gradually adopted digital technologies.
Silver also plays a crucial role in the manufacturing of musical instruments and speakers, contributing its distinctive sound qualities.
Beyond these areas, silver is employed in diverse applications, including the production of solar panels, water filtration (where it prevents the accumulation of bacteria and algae, disinfects water, and reduces the need for chlorine), the manufacturing of tableware, mirrors, disinfectants, dental amalgams, and even clothing (for its antibacterial and odor-resistant properties). Its versatility makes it an indispensable element in many industries.
Mines: the main producer is Mexico (where we dwell) with 20% of the world production. Then you will find Peru, China, Australia, Chili, Poland, Russia, Bolivia, the USA, and Argentina…
The use of silver dates back millennia, establishing its presence in various civilizations for the creation of ornaments, utensils, medical practices, trade, and the establishment of monetary systems. However, silver has often been relegated to a secondary position behind gold, the latter being rarer and captivating due to its color and brilliance resembling that of the sun.
The early association of gold with the sun naturally led to considering silver as its counterpart, linked to the moon. It is thus frequently symbolized by a crescent moon. This association between silver and the moon has infused the metal with feminine symbolism, evoking qualities such as gentleness, purity, transparency, soul, coldness, and fertility. Silver has thus been adopted as the symbol of numerous goddesses associated with the moon, embodying qualities related to these attributes. Some examples of these goddesses will be mentioned in the text to illustrate this rich symbolism.
In Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands, slag dating back to 3000 B.C. has been discovered, indicating early knowledge of separating silver from lead.
The Egyptians held silver in high regard, just after gold, which remained the solar symbol and the most precious commodity in their culture.
In their mythology, gods possessed bones made of silver, while their flesh was made of gold.
Silver was particularly associated with the goddess of the moon, Isis.
In ancient Greece, silver was used to combat infections. Hippocrates, the "father of medicine," mentioned it in the treatment of wounds and the control of infectious diseases and ulcers.
Herodotus reported that the Persian king carried boiled water in silver flasks to prevent diseases.
In Greek mythology, silver was as precious as gold and was specifically linked to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, who used silver weapons, including a bow and silver-tipped arrows or spears.
The Roman economy was closely tied to silver, making it the civilization that most exploited it in history until the discovery of the Americas. It is estimated that in the 2nd century, around 200 tons of silver were mined annually, with a circulating stock of 10,000 tons, which is 5 to 10 times more than the cumulative silver available in medieval Europe and the caliphate. Most of this silver came from the mines of Laurion in Greece.
Silver also holds a significant place in Celtic mythology. An important mention concerns the king of the Tuatha Dé Danann (the people of the goddess Dana), Nuada. After losing his right arm in the first Battle of Mag Tuireadh, he was removed from the throne due to his disabilities. The god of medicine, Diancecht, allowed him to regain power by crafting a silver arm for him.
In antiquity, silver is mentioned in the Book of Genesis and has always been associated with religious objects since the early days of humanity. A reference in the New Testament mentions that Judas received 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus to the Roman soldiers.
Although Islam generally prohibits jewelry for men, an exception is made for a silver ring worn on the little finger of each hand. Prophet Muhammad himself wore a signet ring made of silver, as gold was completely forbidden for men.
Silver holds a unique place in the Jewish community, carrying notable significance in Jewish law. Frequently mentioned, the value of Babylonian silver currency serves as a constant reference, defining the weight and standard value. This measure influences the wages of members of the religious tribunal and is integrated into various aspects of Jewish legislation.
The symbolic value of silver also manifests in Jewish traditions, as seen in the law stipulating that on the first anniversary of the family’s firstborn, the priest will receive five silver coins. Often, these coins are presented to the child as a special gift, highlighting the role of silver in rituals and family celebrations.
Furthermore, since the Middle Ages, silver salts have been used to color and tint stained glass windows, bringing shades of yellow and orange. This artistic use reflects the versatility of silver in cultural and artistic expressions throughout the centuries.
Silver, renowned for its germicidal and bactericidal properties, has inspired various traditions and practices throughout history. Silver utensils emerged from early times, offering a hygienic and prestigious alternative. The expression "born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth" has its roots in this practice, evolving over time to become a symbol of wealth.
Pioneers in the American West, aware of the protective properties of silver, would place silver coins in their canteens to preserve their water from contaminants.
In Chile, silver held a special significance as a symbol of the moon goddess, Auchimalgen. This association with the moon accentuates the ancestral connection between silver and lunar deities, even in a land far from the old continent.
In popular beliefs, silver has often been regarded as protection against various monsters, including vampires, witches, and werewolves. This belief has contributed to shaping the perception of silver as a talisman of safety in many cultures.
/!\ Please note that all healing properties presented for gemstones are gathered from various sources. This information is provided as a service and is not intended to treat medical conditions. It is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for serious medical issues and not to rely solely on gemstones as a treatment.