5 Things That Might Surprise You About Silver
You may think you already know a lot about silver but we’d be willing to bet there’s one or two things that might surprise you. We’ve dug up and collected some of our favorite “surprising” facts about one of our favorite precious metals.
The Naming Of Things
The chemical symbol for Silver is Ag, an abbreviation of its Latin name “Argentum”, meaning “shining”. Now you’re thinking, “well, that’s all well and fine, but how did we English speakers get from the Latin ‘Argentum’ to Silver?” Our name for this fantastic element was derived from the Anglo-Saxon and ancient Germanic terms- “Seolfo” and “Silabar”, respectively. In fact, our term “sterling” is also rooted in the Germanic language. During medieval times, peoples living in what is now modern-day Germany often traded with the English across the North Sea using silver coins called “Easterlings”. Over time, this became a broadly accepted standard of currency and the name became shortened to “Sterling”. Sterling silver to this day still refers to the highest commercial grade of silver alloy.
While it is difficult to pin-point just when we humans discovered and started using silver, the knowledge is ancient and it is one of five “first metals” discovered (the other four being gold, copper, lead, and iron). Silver objects have staying power—they’ve been found in the Mediterranean area dating back several thousand years BC.
Forget An Apple A Day—Silver Every Day Helps Keep The Germs Away
Silver is actually a wonderful antimicrobial agent that can help aid in the prevention of cold, flu, and other general bacterial infections. Its positively-charged ions bind to the negatively-charged oxygen receptors in bacteria and viruses, breaking them down and in effect, suffocating them. In fact, silver has been used in medical instruments and treatments for hundreds of years.
Wearing silver jewelry on a daily basis can help boost your immune system (and keep you looking fabulous!) Many clothing designers and cloth manufacturers have begun experimenting with the use of silver in their materials for this very reason. Anecdotally, silver is also said to help reduce inflammation. Folks with arthritic conditions in their hands have benefited from specially-designed silver rings that help reduce their joint inflammation and ease movement.
Silver can also be an indicator of what might be happening with your general health. Because silver can react to the presence of other elements, it can clue you in to possible imbalances in your skin and body. Say you’ve been wearing your silver jewelry for an extended period of time. You notice that it has begun to take on a green or blue patina on its surface. A green patina indicates the presence of ammonia and could mean your liver might not be working as efficiently, while a blue patina indicates the presence of sodium and may mean you should cut some of those salty snacks from your diet. Once you take steps to bring your health back up to par, this patina can be cleaned from silver using a mild soap and warm water, or jewelry cleaner depending on the piece.
Silver has been prized for its luxurious finish and versatile applications for centuries. It’s harder than gold yet more malleable, making it desirous to metalsmiths who love hammering and shaping this beautiful metal into a variety of adornment and utilitarian objects. When fine silver comes from the earth, it won’t tarnish but it’s very soft so not as useful. We mix fine silver with other elements to form an alloy to increase its strength. The standard for Sterling Silver is 92.5% fine silver. You’ll often see 925 stamped on silver, if not the word Sterling, to indicate its quality. The other 7.5% is often a mixture of copper, platinum, zinc, and other elements. This results in a tradeoff—Sterling Silver can tarnish over time due to the copper ions interacting with the oxygen in the air. It can also aggravate some individuals’ skin if they have an allergy to copper. While there are tremendous health and beauty benefits to wearing silver jewelry, it may not be for everyone and you should always listen to what your body is telling you.
Greater Than Gold?!
Silver may stand second on the Olympic podium but it hasn’t always been second banana to gold. There have been times throughout history and cultures where silver was more valuable than gold. For instance, in Ancient Egypt, silver was hard to come by compared to gold deposits found in the Eastern Desert and Nubia. They thought that the skin of the gods was made from gold but their bones were made from silver. During medieval times, silver had not yet been discovered in many countries. This opened trade among nations and built connections between Europe, Africa, and the East. In Victorian England, a growing middle class and an increase in the newly-wealthy were hot after this highly-sought metal for adornment of themselves as well as their household items. Today, for many people in many cultures, the choice of silver is for both aesthetic and symbolic reasons. Not everyone likes the color of yellow gold and desire a luxurious alternative. The shiny flash of silver can turn heads but the wearer can also rest assured that their jewelry will last a lifetime (or several) of wear.
Imbued With Meaning
Silver seems universal and has long been associated with the divine. It can be found entwined in the beliefs and practices of a range of civilizations and religions, from the Ancient Egyptians to the Greek and Roman Empires, from Buddhism and Hinduism to Christianity. Silver has been connected with the moon and associated with intuition, self-reflection, healing, and protection. It is also felt that to give the gift of silver is a symbol of love and trust.
We hope you discovered something new and surprising about silver. If you have any questions that weren’t addressed here, please feel free to reach out. Now that you know more about the attributes and symbolism of silver, we hope you’ll find something that speaks to you among our collections.