We explain what silver is, its history and the properties it presents. Also, what are its characteristics and what is it for?

Silver exploitation currently reaches 23,800 metric tons per year.

What is silver?

the silver is a chemical element with symbol Ag (from Latin argentum: “white” or “brilliant”), classified as a transition metal and considered a precious metal, like gold and platinum. In addition, it is essential in many human industries, such as electronics, photography, and jewelry, and is also a powerful catalyst for many chemical reactions.

Silver is found in the periodic table under the symbol Ag. It belongs to group 11, also made up of copper (Cu), gold (Au) and roentgenium (Rg). Its atomic number is 47 and is part of the transition metals.

Its use in the manufacture of coins and expensive jewelry throughout history has associated its name with economic value. For this reason, currently in many variants of Spanish used as a synonym for money: “to have money”, “to owe money”, etc.

The exploitation of silver today reaches 23,800 metric tons per year, and its largest exporters are Mexico and Peru (with 1/3 of world production). The largest reserves in the world are found in Peru, Poland, Chile and Australia.

See also: Zinc

Chemical properties of silver

Silver is a noble and heavy metal, easily dissolved in oxidizing acids.
  • Does not react with most alkaline solutions and organic acids.
  • Reacts with sulfur and hydrogen sulfide.
  • Virtually does not rust.
  • The silver(I) cation (Ag+) is reduced by ferrous sulfate (FeSO4) in a neutral medium and by manganese (II) (Mn2+) in an alkaline medium.
  • The Ag cation+ it also reacts with many anions to form colored chemical compounds.
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common silver consists of two stable isotopes: Ag-107 and Ag-109, the former more abundant than the latter. However, there are less stable radioactive isotopes that later decay into isotopes of cadmium or palladium.

The silver has about 28 unstable isotopes (radioisotopes or radioactive isotopes) with half-lives of 41.29 days (Ag-105); 7.45 days (Ag-111) and 3.13 hours (Ag-112), the rest of the isotopes have a shorter half-life.

Mechanical properties of silver

It is possible to use silver to form alloys.

the silver is ductile, malleable and shiny. It is hardly harder than gold, making it ideal for goldsmithing and the manufacture of pieces of various shapes and sizes.

Although its natural state is solid, it is possible to melt it at 962.78 ºC. For that also it is metallurgically usableespecially to form alloys.

Physical properties of silver

It’s about a white metal, susceptible to polishing. Of all known metals, it is the one with the highest thermal and electrical conductivity. Its boiling point is 2162.5 ºC. Its appearance, logically, is silver, and its white color is due to the fact that it reflects almost all the colors of the spectrum.

uses of silver

electronic silver uses
In electronics, silver is used in integrated circuits.

70% of the exploited silver is used for industrial purposes (the remaining 30% for goldsmithing and other monetary purposes), such as:

  • The manufacture of white weapons: swords, spears or arrowheads.
  • The traditional photographic industry, due to its sensitivity to light, especially iodide and phosphate.
  • The medical industry, for external application as silver nitrate (used to remove warts).
  • The electrical industry, in its purest form, for the manufacture of contacts for electrical generators.
  • The electronics industry, for example, for drivers and for the manufacture of integrated circuits, electronic pushbuttons and computer keyboards.
  • Alloys for welding, electrical contacts and electrical batteries (silver-zinc and silver-cadmium).
  • Alloys for dental purposes (in disuse) and catalyst for reactions in the production of formaldehyde.
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abundance of silver

world silver reserves were estimated at about 530,000 metric tons in 2011. It is estimated that 23% of them are in Peruvian territory and 16% in Polish territory.

It is rarely found in its pure state. (native silver). It is common to find it as part of minerals such as argentite (combined with sulfur, AgtwoS), proustite (combined with arsenic, Ag3AsS3), pyrargyrite (combined with antimony, Ag3SbS3) and horny silver (combined with chlorine, AgCl).

silver alloys

Silver is used in electricity, photography, and the manufacture of explosives.

the silver It is a metal that is easy to alloy with other metals., except with nickel, iron or cobalt. One of its most common cases is in the form of amalgam, that is, the mixture with mercury, which was formerly used in dental treatments.

Also its alloy with copper is very usualin which it forms a much harder compound if the latter is in up to 5% content (the so-called sterling silver). Many other compounds (iodides, bromides, fulminates, and nitrates) are in common use in electricity, photography, and the manufacture of explosives.

Effects on living beings

Silver is not a toxic metal, but many of its salts can be poisonous and carcinogenic. In various presentations it has a germicidal effect, usable since ancient times to make remedies and disinfectants.

although today experiments in the manufacture of antibiotics with silverit is known that certain compounds such as silver nitrate (AgNO3) are lethal in concentrations equal to or greater than 2 grams.

In this sense, money must be handled properly, since it contact with skin or mucous membranes can cause irritation and serious damage to the cornea if it comes into contact with the eyes. In addition, it easily accumulates in body tissues and, above certain concentrations, it can cause kidney, eye, lung or liver failure.

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history of silver

silver - coins
Formerly silver was used as a material for coins.

Man has known silver since very early times. It is mentioned in the Bibleand evidence of its separation from lead has been found in Asia Minor, dating to 4000 years BC.

Its particular properties fascinated the men of antiquity, who attributed unique properties to it and they linked it to the moon (as well as Gold in the Sun).

It was also considered different from the base metals. In fact, one of the tasks of medieval alchemy was to turn the latter into silver or gold.

Latinos knew her as argentum. Mercury was baptized for her. hydrargyrum“liquid silver”, which is seen today in its chemical symbol: Hg. It was used to make weapons and also as material for coins.

The great silver reserves of Peru, the largest in the world, were discovered and exploited by the Spanish conquerors during the colonial era of the continent. From there arose the name of the Río de la Plata, where they embarked on their transit to Europe.

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  • “Silver” on Wikipedia.
  • “Silver – Ag” at Lenntech.
  • “Silver” in Periodic Table.
  • “Silver” (video) in Aula24horas.
  • “They discover the origin of all the gold and silver on Earth” in ABC Ciencia.
  • “Silver (element)”in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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