For thousands of years silver has held man’s fascination. During ancient times, man found silver deposits abundant on the ground or just under the surface. Artifacts from these civilizations include jewelry, religious relics, and food containers made from the durable, pliable metal. Merchants from Mesopotamia utilized it as money as early as 700 BC. For many it meets the criteria for a medium of exchange in that it is durable, divisible, convenient, has utilitarian value, and cannot be created by fiat or in other words by government decree.
What Makes Silver a Monetary Metal?
However, unlike its companion precious metal—gold—silver is most commonly used today as an industrial commodity or raw material. Industrial demand for silver has grown steadily for the past three decades due to silver’s many unique attributes, including its strength, malleability, and ductility…its exceptional electrical and thermal conductivity…its sensitivity to and high reflectance of light…and its ability to tolerate extreme ranges in temperature.
Silver’s Long Association With Money
In 1792, silver assumed a key role in the United States monetary system when Congress based the currency on the silver dollar, and its fixed relationship to gold. Silver was used for the nation’s coinage until its use was discontinued in 1965. The dawn of the 20th century marked an major economic function for silver, that of an industrial raw material.
Silver’s Other Notable Qualities
In addition to its industrial uses and qualities, silver is also used in numerous health care products because of the unique antibacterial characteristics that it possesses. Silver is used by hospitals to prevent bacterial infections in burn victims. Wound dressings and other wound care products incorporate a layer of fabric containing silver for prevention of secondary infections. In a world that is showing increasing concern about the spreading of disease and potential pandemics, silver is increasingly being used for its antibacterial qualities.
As a Commodity, Silver is Rare and Becoming Rarer
It is estimated that more than 95% of all the silver ever mined throughout history has already been consumed by industrial use. That silver is gone forever, unrecoverable at any price. In 1900, there were approximately 12 billion ounces of silver in the world. Today, that figure has fallen to about 300 million ounces of above-ground, refined silver.
Silver’s Bright Future in Uncertain Times
Some of the world’s leading financial analysts believe that silver is one of the world’s most important commodities, with unparalleled opportunity for the future. Silver’s unique properties, which make it ideal and essential for global industry, create a situation where there is simply no substitute. In addition, silver prices at times have been extremely volatile, making silver an attractive acquisition and trading vehicle.
One look at world headlines is enough to make one aware of increasing and ever-present geopolitical instability. This, combined with an evolving global economic situation, can be seen as bullish for the silver market. Silver’s historic role as a store of value, and its increasing demand in an environment where growing industrial use exceeds available new supplies, further suggest a bullish trend for this versatile metal.
The world demand for silver in industrial, medical and acquisition now exceeds annual silver production, and has every year since 1990. Above ground reserves are low and are reported to be shrinking. For these reasons, many feel silver bullion represents an outstanding buying opportunity.
Countries where Silver Calls Home
Even though silver is relatively scarce, it is the most abundant and least expensive of the precious metals. The biggest silver producing countries are Mexico, Peru, the United States, Australia and Chile. Sources of silver include; silver mined directly, silver mined as a by-product of gold, copper, lead and zinc mining, and silver extracted from recycled materials. Today, silver bullion stocks make up a notable part of the silver supply.
Pure .999 fine silver bullion is available in a number of forms: Numerous brands of .999 fine silver have been produced over the years, including bars from the Royal Canadian Mint, Johnson-Matthey and Engelhard. 10 ounce silver bars are produced either by an extrusion process, machine milling or by a free pour method. All types are guaranteed to weigh 10 troy ounces. Larger 100 ounce silver bars are also convenient for stacking and storage in a safety deposit box or a home safe.