silver (Ag) is a precious metallic element that, in its natural state, appears white and bright. Besides being used for making jewelry and coins, the chemical and mechanical properties of inorganic compounds and alloys allow silver's application in various sectors of the economy.
Despite the use of the metal by a growing number of industries, the global market for silver is extremely modest when compared to other metal commodities. With industrial input status labelling it as a nonprecious metal, the price of silver has been undervalued for decades. The last major outbreak of interest in this commodity was recorded in 1979 when the Hunt brothers were allied to a group of Arab investors and bought 200 million ounces of silver, equivalent to half the global supply of the time. During that year, the price of metal ounce in the United States jumped from five to fifty-four US dollars. This bubble burst in 1980, causing losses of up to 50% in one day.
Silver or argent (the Platta Vulgar Latin, Argentum) is a chemical element with symbol Ag and atomic number equal to 47 (47 protons and 47 electrons). At room temperature, silver is solid.
The origin of the word silver is Indo-European, "arhhg" which means bright and would be the equivalent in Sanskrit "air-jun", which also means bright. It is estimated to have been discovered shortly after copper and gold. The majority of the silver is produced as a byproduct of mining for lead and copper. Among the metals, it is the most conductive.
Silver has been used for millennia in the making of ornaments and utensils, as well as in trade as the basis for many monetary systems. The chemical symbol Ag comes from the Latin word Argentum (compare with άργυρος Greek word, Argyros), the Indo-European root * Arg, meaning "white" or "bright." Mentioned in the book of Genesis, silver has been separated from lead since at least the fourth millennium BC using surface mining.
The stability of the Roman monetary system was based on a large amount of supplies of silver bars the Romans miners produced on an unparalleled scale, before the new world of discovery. Reaching a peak production of 200 tons per year, an estimated reserve of 10,000t of silver circulated in the Roman economy by the second century, numbers five to ten times greater than the combined amount of silver available during the European Middle Ages.
Silver is used:
- In jewelery as a precious metal;
- As coinage materials;
- In electronics due to its excellent electrical conductivity, the highest of all the elements;
- In photography as silver salts are photosensitive;
- Used in the manufacture of musical instruments, mainly wind;
- In membranes or conductive coils for tweeter speakers;
- Radiology, where one of the components of the radiographic film is a silver salt, usually bromide;
- In the manufacture of mirrors.
The main commodity futures are traded on the New York Commodity Exchange (COMEX) and the Tokyo Commodity Exchange (TOCOM). The price of internationally traded futures is expressed in dollars per troy ounce (oz troy), which equals approximately 10.31 grams.