‘What’s Hot’ Precious Metals : An in Depth Look at Silver
Unlike gold, the price of silver swings between its perceived role as a store of value and its role as an industrial metal. For this reason, price fluctuations in the silver market are more volatile than gold. So, while silver will trade roughly in line with gold as an item to be hoarded, the industrial supply/demand equation for the metal exerts an equally strong influence on its price. That equation has always fluctuated with new innovations, including:
1. Silver's once predominant role in the photography industry—silver-based photographic film—which has been eclipsed by the advent of the digital camera.
2. The rise of a vast middle class in the emerging market economies of the East, which created an explosive demand for electrical appliances, medical products, and other industrial items that require silver inputs. From bearings to electrical connections, silver's properties made it a desired commodity.
3. Silver's use in batteries, superconductor applications, and microcircuit markets.
It's unclear whether, or to what extent, these developments will affect overall non-investment demand for silver. One fact remains: Silver's price is affected by its applications and is not just used in fashion or as a store of value.
Brief History Silver
From Ancient Times silver has been used for jewelry and for eating and drinking vessels. People have been mining silver since at least 3,000 BC.
Silver was also used for coins. From about 400 BC silver coins were used in Greece. The Romans had a silver coin called a denarius. From the 8th century AD the Anglo-Saxons in what is now England made silver pennies. A pound weight of silver was melted to make 240 pennies. There were 240 pennies in a pound until 1971. However in the 8th century a penny was a large sum of money (4 or 5 pence would buy a sheep).
In 845 the Vikings raided Paris. The French king paid them 7,000 pounds of silver to leave. In the early 16th century silver was discovered near the city of Joachimsthal in what is now the Czech Republic. Silver coins were made, which were called Joachimsthalers. Later they were called thalers and our word dollar is derived from that. Both the Aztecs and the Incas made jewelry from silver - until they were conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century. The Spanish looted the New World of precious metals. The Spanish used forced labor to mine silver in Bolivia. Many of the Indians who were forced to work in mines died there. During the 16th century 7.4 million kilograms of silver were shipped to Spain.
Once when a child was christened it was traditional for the godparents to give a silver spoon as a gift (if they could afford it!). However a child born in a rich family did not have to wait. He or she had it all from the start. They were 'born with a silver spoon in their mouth'. In 1743 a man named Thomas Bolsover discovered a way of plating copper with silver. This silver plate was, of course, cheaper than silver and was very popular for things like candlesticks and teapots. Silver was found in Nevada, USA in 1858. As a result there was a silver rush. In 1859 Henry Comstock discovered silver in California.
The most accurate test, it will require you to buy an acid that is meant for testing silver. The acid itself is usually a mixture of nitric acid and muriatic acid. So be careful with the acid solution and make sure to wear gloves and eye protection. Some people try to save money by using vinegar instead of acid but vinegar won't give you accurate results. For this test, you just put a drop of acid on your silver item. If the acid turns the wrong color then it's fake. If it turns the correct color then the silver is real. You will need to closely follow the instructions that came with your acid solution.
You could also take a silver item and rub it against a testing stone. You would then put the acid on the stone. This works best for silver chains. This test is not recommended for coins because you will damage the coin's surface. If your item is silver-plated then you will need to file through the surface of your item in order to get to its core. In addition
The Ice Cube Test
Silver is a good thermal conductor. So if you put an ice cube on top of your silver item, then the ice cube will start to melt quickly. An ice cube placed on silver will melt quicker than on iron and a little quicker than on copper. The easiest way to conduct this test is to place a real silver coin and a potentially fake silver coin side by side. Put an ice cube on each coin and then check to see how quickly each ice cube melts.
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