As promised we’ll be touching upon some of the uses that precious metals commodities have that contribute to their value. Silvers intrinsic value is certainly an interesting example of a metal that has a multitude of industrial applications, and it explains it’s strong correlation to these industries. In future posts we’ll touch upon the applications of platinum, palladium, rhodium, and gold.
Let’s dive into the scientific world of silver and its purpose in the modern era!
Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall
It’s no secret that silver was traditionally used in mirrors due to its reflective properties. However, issues with tarnishing have led to the widespread use of aluminum instead.
This doesn’t take away from the fact that silver is the most reflective of all metals on the periodic table. But what kind of applications does this have?
One of the biggest and most important uses for silver’s high reflectivity is it’s application in telescopes. While aluminum coated mirrors are being used because of silver’s high reactivity, scientist’s are still pondering ways to use silver instead.
In fact this is believed to be the last dramatic way to increase the effectiveness of how we perceive the universe around us.
When an element maintains a property that is more efficient than all the other known elements on earth, it stands to reason it will continue to find uses.
Often when we think of modern medicine, we imagine doctors in lab coats, using fine-tuned and precise drugs to conduct their healing.
Although, there are certain substances that maintain their use to this day. In fact, the use of silver-containing dressings has been empirically proven to reduce the time required to heal.
This is especially true of wounds involving venous leg ulcers. This is because silver has a strong antimicrobial effect especially towards gram-negative bacteria (bacteria with a thinner cellular wall).
Silver’s anti-microbial properties are so useful they are often used to disinfect water in developing countries (I would make note that it’s only effect on pathogens is on bacteria, and isn’t useful for a sole disinfecting material).
Hospitals also use silver and copper to help disinfect their water from common hospital infections. Conjugation of silver with pharmaceuticals was shown to increase its efficacy against pathogens - specifically amoeba.
Silver nitrate is also used to cauterize warts. In developing countries with access to digital x-rays, silver is still used to perform these assessments.
The medical applications of silver are certainly widespread and are continuing to be investigated. Naturopathic agents such as colloidal silver should not be use, as they have no proven medicinal application.
Along with being the most reflective of all of the metals, silver also shows the highest conductivity of them. Obviously this conductivity translates to a myriad of applications in electronics.
Silver continues to have strong electric properties even when it becomes tarnished, making it’s high reactivity of less concern. For instance printer circuit boards are made with silver paint in order to help facilitate conductivity.
Everytime that you pick up an electronic device, there’s a strong chance that there is silver contained therein. To compile a list of silver’s use in electronics would require several blog posts in and of themselves.
Not All That Glitters Is Gold
Silver has always had a strong relationship to being perceived as valuable. Sterling silver jewelry is still used to this day, and it continues to be made in many parts of the world due to its popularity.
While it doesn't have the same perception of value as gold, there’s still no doubt that silver jewelry has a market.
Generally silver does have a much higher reactivity than platinum group metals and gold, and thus many of these items tend to be silver-based alloys (sterling silver is 92.5% silver + an additional metal usually copper).
However, this helps to create a cost-effective approach to purchasing items that would otherwise be out of reach for many individuals.
Yes, believe it or not, silver is used in the weaving of some brand-name clothes. Namely, Lululemon. Why on earth would they use a precious metal in the crafting of these clothes?
To reduce smell, among other reasons. Because of silver’s inhibitory impact on bacterial growth, the proliferation of microbes consuming sweat is reduced.
That means your clothes are less likely to stink after an intense exercise period. I’ve also had it mentioned to me that it assists in the longevity of elasticity in leggings, but I haven’t come across any verifiable sources.
And there you have it, this is my argument for the intrinsic value of one of the shiny metals. However, this can sometimes work to the detriment of silver. When these industries are hit by economic turmoil silver can simultaneously experience a reduction in value. Gold doesn’t seem to have as strong of a relationship with any industry because so much of its value is placed in a widespread agreement of worth. Keep an eye out for more posts touching on the intrinsic value of precious metals!
In compliance with the Federal Trade Commission, none of the information presented in this article constitutes financial advice or should be taken as such. Precious Metals Professor does not recommend financial positioning or investment strategies, and does not take responsibility for any gains or losses made.