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Silver is a soft metal that is a lustrous white in color. Above and beyond uses in the jewelry industry, it has properties that make it useful in other areas as well. When compared to any other metal, nothing can compete with silver's conductivity be it electrical or thermal, and reflectivity. Alongside gold, silver has been used both as a monetary currency and a creative medium throughout history. The number of uses for silver expanded when other unique properties of this precious metal were discovered. Its electrical and thermal conductivity makes it extremely useful in almost any form of electronics. It is used in traditional photographic and x-ray films. Silver even has antibacterial properties that allow it to be used for water filtration, antiseptic ointments and medical instruments. Having such a wide range of uses and possessing an alluring appearance, silver has easily cemented itself as one of the most valuable precious metals in both monetary and utilitarian respects. Not to mention silver's extensive use in almost any kind of jewelry.

Know Your Silver
When purchasing silver it is important to remember that it must be at least 90% pure in order to be marketed as "silver" in the U.S. There are a variety of silver alloys that are available depending on the intended use. Sterling Silver has a low melting point, but is harder than pure silver. Britannia silver is 95.8% pure and is used to make various tableware. Even the majority of gold alloys will have a bit of silver in them, or in the case of 9 carat gold, silver comprises 62.5% of the metal. Silversmiths work with silver at room temperature with an array of hammers and various other tools used to shape, squeeze, or stretch the metal to their creative will. That is because silver is only slightly less malleable than gold, making it very easy to work with. It is also important to remember that unlike gold, silver will react to nitric acid and sulfur. This means that the care and maintenance of silver is a little more important than the care of gold.

Though historically speaking, there were separate guilds of goldsmiths and silversmiths, the two crafts are remarkably similar. In many cases, a person would be skilled in crafting with both silver and gold and in some cases, one would start off with silver due to its availability and lower cost than gold. After they mastered their skills with silver, they could then easily transfer those skills to gold because of the similar properties of both metals. A silversmith that was skilled in their craft could ideally make any number of products including jewelry, armor, candlesticks, and other decorative endeavors. Considering that it is a skilled trade, the best artisans could easily make a name for themselves and have little trouble prospering from their work. It didn't hurt that they were working with a medium that was universally sought after and valued. Even today, the craft has changed little in how silver is worked. The simple tools of the trade have evolved little in the past thousand years.

At one time, silver coins were common around the world and were used in everyday transactions. Some nations even used silver, rather than gold, as their primary currency. At this point, though, very few, if any, countries link their printed currency to a precious metal of any kind. That's not to say that silver isn't still present as a form of currency with the most common being the silver dollar. A misnomer is the fact that a silver dollar is worth more than a single dollar. They are more of a collector's item these days, but the silver dollar is still considered a form of legal tender in the U.S. It is doubtful, though, that anyone would still use it as such, mainly because one would have to figure out the conversion between dollar and silver dollar. That is made more difficult considering that the value of silver does fluctuate a bit, but more importantly, a rare collector's silver dollar could easily be worth more than that of the silver within the coin. Silver has been an important metal in our past and it will continue to be of value for generations to come.

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