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All minerals grow in a regular three-dimensional framework of atoms. Native silver (Ag) or native gold (Au) do not contain significant amounts of other chemical elements. Some minerals commonly combine with other chemical elements to form compounds. Silver commonly combines with antimony and sulphur, resulting in argentite (Ag2S) or pyrargyrite (Ag3SbS3). Silver atoms frequently lodge themselves within other mineral frameworks in minuscule amounts. For example, electrum is a mixture of silver and gold, and the lead sulphide mineral galena invariably contains trace amounts of silver.

It is not surprising that most mines that produce silver are polymetallic mines. These mines primarily produce silver as a by-product of the main commodity, often lead, zinc, copper, or gold. Poland, Mexico, Russia, Australia, Alaska, and Peru are silver producing countries.

Silver has a silver-metallic lustre, and it is a dense, soft, and physically pliable metal that conducts heat and electricity. Silver mining began thousands of years before the common era (BCE) in India, China, and Japan. The Ancient Phoenicians (present-day Lebanon) pocketed most of Spain’s silver around 800 BCE. Roman and Greek civilisations in 600 CE used silver coins as a monetary form of trade. Silver is used for ornaments, forms of currency, and household items and has been for many years.

Silver Usage

After World War II, industries started to used silver in electrical appliances, photographic film, and household items. The price of silver increased due to growth in these commodities.  In the 1960s, the silver price reached a point where it was becoming too valuable. To counteract this rise in the silver price, U.S. Treasury decided to sell off most of its stockpiled silver for $1.29 per troy ounce. Silver coin collectors descended on Washington, hoping to find rare and valuable coins for resale. By March 1964, this chaotic rush for silver came to an end because it was out of control. The U.S. Treasury sold the remaining vault silver at different intervals into the early 1970s.

Silver bullion is a bulk quantity of extremely high concentrations of pure silver, usually above 99.9% (.999). Bullion is cast into bars and sold by financial institutions and dealers. Coins also fall under the bullion umbrella. The weight and silver concentration in the bar or coin is the value of bullion. Government Mints and reputable private Mints guarantee the silver content in their bars and coins. Mints produce proof bullion coins and uncirculated bullion coins. The former is for collectors, and the latter is for investment.

Public demand for silver drives the price upwards. From 2020 to 2021, the silver price has hovered around $27.42.The silver price reached $28.55 in February 2021, the highest price in eight years.  The value of silver bullion is related to the weight of the silver and the spot silver price at that particular time of day.  However, collectors can go for appearance, historical interest, and rarity. The silver bullion market caters for both the investor and the collector by issuing artistic, rare pressings and various sized silver bars.

Anita Begay

The author Anita Begay