There’s nothing better than an infographic to get us thinking about how important minerals are to modern civilization.
The focus in this post? Silver.
A (Very) Brief History of Silver
Silver has long been valued for it’s beauty and rarity.
As a result, many ancient civilizations relied on silver both as a currency and as a material for making ornamental objects.
However, it wasn’t until the beginning of modernity that humans discovered many of silver’s more practical uses.
On the eve of World War II, electronics and certain machine parts were made from copper, much as they are today.
The war changed all of that and brought silver to the forefront. As the Allied demand for machinery and electronic equipment skyrocketed, copper supplies began to run low. In an effort to ensure that enough metals were available for the war effort, the United States government loaned silver from its currency reserves to industrial users.
Despite its value, silver couldn’t fulfill all the roles of copper. What it could do, though, is fulfill enough of them that copper was available where it was needed most.
Modern Uses of Silver
Silver is now used for many different purposes. A few of these uses include:
– Medicine: Silver’s antimicrobial properties mean that it is often used to coat medical instruments to prevent contamination.
– Electronics: Since silver is such a good conductor, its use is ubiquitous in electronics applications.
– Solar panels: Silver is an important component of modern solar panels. Some analysts believe that the demand for silver for solar panels has lead to increasing prices in recent years.
– Mirrors: most mirrors are coated with a very thin layer of silver, which gives the mirrors their reflective properties.
Silver production today
Silver is relatively common compared to gold – in 2010, 24,000 tons of silver were mined, compared to only 2,500 tons of gold.
Much of the silver mined worldwide is a byproduct of mining for gold and other valuable metals – low silver prices are discouraging companies from opening new stand-alone silver mines.
Today, silver production is led by three countries: Mexico, Peru, and China. Together, these countries produce about half of all the silver mined worldwide.
Of the three, Mexico’s reserves are the largest. Some have estimated that Mexico alone is responsible for about 1/3 of all the silver ever produced in human history.
Just how much silver has been produced throughout human history, anyways? To find out, take a look at this interesting infographic: http://demonocracy.info/infographics/world/silver/silver.html.