The Latin word for silver is argentum. Silver has been known since ancient times. It is mentioned in Genesis. Slag dumps in Asia Minor and on islands in the Aegean Sea indicate that man learned to separate silver from lead as early as 3000 B.C.
Silver occurs natively and in ores such as argentite (Ag2S) and horn silver (AgCl); lead, lead-zinc, copper, gold, and copper-nickel ores are principal sources. Mexico, Canada, Peru, and the U.S. are the principal silver producers in the western hemisphere.
Sterling silver is used for jewelry, silverware, etc. where appearance is paramount. This alloy contains 92.5% silver, the remainder being copper or some other metal. Silver is of the utmost importance in photography, about 30% of the U.S. industrial consumption going into this application. It is used for dental alloys. Silver is used in making solder and brazing alloys, electrical contacts, and high capacity silver-zinc and silver-cadmium batteries. Silver paints are used for making printed circuits. It is used in mirror production and may be deposited on glass or metals by chemical deposition, electrode position, or by evaporation. When freshly deposited, it is the best reflector of visible light known, but is rapidly tarnished and loses much of its reflectance. It is a poor reflector of ultraviolet. Silver fulminate, a powerful explosive, is sometimes formed during the silvering process. Silver iodide is used in seeding clouds to produce rain. Silver chloride has interesting optical properties as it can be made transparent; it also is a cement for glass. Silver nitrate, or lunar caustic, the most important silver compound, is used extensively in photography. Silver for centuries has been used traditionally for coinage by many countries of the world. In recent times, however, consumption of silver has greatly exceeded the output.