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Silver (Ag)



Hardness: 2.5-3
Density: 9.6-12
Chemical symbol: Ag
Crystalline system: Cubic
Color: Silver-white, sometimes yellowish or blackish. Metallic luster.



Quick identification:


Pure gold has a different color to silver whereas yellowish gold may look similar. To distinguish the two, scraping of surface (yellowish) layer will help. Pure platinum is much harder than silver.


Detailed identification:


Essentially, laymen with no experience without any special equipment are not able to distinguish silver from some common metal alloys. Silver polish is quite specific and after years of practice you can recognize it. It is only possible to be 100% certain by using one of the technical methods for identifying silver. The most commonly used methods are as follows:


a) A non-destructive test with a touchstone

b) Other non-destructive testing with special equipment (mostly TEST X or X-ray fluorescence spectrometry) 

c) Chemical analysis (mainly a destructive test)


How to determine the authenticity of a silver object without equipment:

(quick identification – may not be reliable)


a) Try to find a hallmark on the object. Beware: Mark 925 is not the hallmark sign. 925 indicates the purity of silver – the so-called purity mark (925/100 or 92.5%). Anyone can emboss the 925 mark on a piece of jewelry. The hallmark is usually smaller than 925 mark and is added by a national supervisory authority or the manufacturer (according to country). The hallmark is generally a graphic motif (a goat or a rabbit, etc.) Of course, hallmarks can be faked, but the presence of a hallmark increases the likelihood of the piece of jewelry's authenticity.


b) Try to find the trademark of the manufacturer. This only applies for particular countries. Some countries use this instead of a hallmark.


c) If the jewelry contains all three: a hallmark + a trademark + a purity mark (925), it is quite likely to be genuine.


d) Try to make a deeper scratch (e.g. with a needle) on a less visible place on the item. If the color of another metal shines through from the scratch (especially a yellowish color), it is likely the item is not genuine and that it is only silver-plated. This is not applicable if the silver jewelry is coated with a rhodium layer. Rhodium has almost a steel polish and the silver underneath typically has a silver glitter.



Things you may not know about silver:

1. Silver kills bacteria by chemically influencing their cell membranes. Bacteria are unable to develop resistance to silver. As a result, silver ions are used in many products to kill bacteria (e.g. ions in socks or clothes to remove odor.)


2. In the Middle Ages (before the invention of refrigeration), sprinkling food with silver powder was used as a way of storing it (especially meat). Naturally, only the rich could afford this. Silver powder destroyed the bacteria and the meat did not go bad. However, frequent consumption of meat preserved in this way caused the condition argyria, which causes a pale or blue-white shade of skin that is sensitive to light. It is possible that this condition partly gave rise to the myth about vampires being from the upper class, pale, affected by light and silver, etc.


3. The English word "silver" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word "seolfor."


4. In ancient Egypt, silver was considered to be more precious than gold.


5. In fifteen languages in the world, the words for "silver" and "money" are the same.


6. The expression "born with silver spoon in their mouth" is more related to health than wealth – in many countries it is believed that a baby fed with a silver spoon will be healthier.


7. Silver is the best conductor of heat. This feature means it is often used in various kinds of industrial products.


8. Silver is most often mined as a by-product of mining lead, zinc or copper.


9. Argentina was named after the Latin name for silver – "argentum."


10. Silver is used in dental alloys (e.g. amalgam).


11. Most US coins and cents were made of 90% silver until 1964.


12. Silver is mentioned in the Bible, in the first book of Moses - Genesis.


13. Silver is extremely malleable. It is possible to slice silver into layers with a thickness of 0.0006mm.


14. Silver is extremely extensile. A silver wire with a length of 48 km can be made out of one troy ounce of silver (31.1g).


15. The 25th wedding anniversary is known as the "silver wedding."


16. In ancient China, children wore silver chains as a protection against evil spirits.


17. In India, a thin layer of silver, known as "varak," is sometimes used as food decoration.


18. Silver oxide is used during experiments to induce artificial rain.


19. Most mirrors have a reflecting layer made of aluminum but for the highest quality mirrors, silver is used.


20. According to the myth, werewolves can be killed by silver bullets.


21. The largest silver producers in the world are Russia, Mexico, USA, Canada, Peru and Australia.

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