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As an ancient symbol of wealth and power, silver carries with it a rich legacy as it was not only used as currency or decorative displays, but was also featured widely in ancient mythologies and rituals. Even today, silver is commonly used in modern day technology. With pure silver having the highest optical reflectivity amongst all metals, it’s no wonder that humans have been drawn to the metal for millennia.
The history of silver spans back to thousands of years ago. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the first evidence of silver mining was in Turkey and Greece, and dates back to 3000 B.C. Even back then, silver was considered one of the valuable metals, and was used as currency or worn by those fortunate enough to own them as jewellery. The Athenian Empire of ancient Greece is the oldest known civilisation that crafted silver into coins, referred to as ingots. These ingots became widely accepted even outside the nation’s boundaries.
The origins of the silver standard is believed to date back to ancient Greece, where silver was the first metal used as a measure of currency. The use of the silver standard lasted for centuries from the fall of the Byzantine Empire until the 19th century, with Hong Kong and China being the last societies to cling to the practice before they shifted along with the rest of the world onto the Gold Standard in the 1930s.
Apart from its practical uses, silver has been used in spiritual practices as well. For many, silver is seen as the yin complement to gold’s yang energies. If gold is representative of the sun then silver is identified with the moon. As a highly reflective metal, many believe that silver helps to foster patience in an individual, and promotes an almost calm meditative contemplation as we are called to search deeper within. Ancient Egyptians made amulets and talismans out of the metal, believing that the reflective qualities carried the moon’s energies that can be used as protection from darkness in the metaphysical world.
Silver was not only used for metaphysical protection, but has also been used for physical healing, and is believed to provide several health benefits. Silver has been known and used as an antimicrobial agent for centuries. The Phoenicians (founded in 2500 B.C.) stored water and other liquids in silver-coated bottles to discourage contamination by microbes. In 1884 it became a common practice to administer drops of aqueous silver nitrate to the eyes of newborn babies to prevent the transmission of Neisseria gonorrhoeae from infected mothers to children during childbirth (Silvestry-Rodriguez et al., 2007). It was also discovered that out of all the metals with antimicrobial properties, silver has the most effective antibacterial action and the least toxicity to animal cells (Guggenbichler et al., 1999). The use of silver as an antibacterial agent only decreased once antibiotics were discovered.
In modern day medicine, silver is used in certain drugs, X-ray films, and even vital medical tubes such as catheters. Studies have also shown that medical dressings lined with silver help to speed up the healing process on certain wounds and ulcers, largely due to its antimicrobial effects. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4955599/
Just as the Ancient Egyptians wore silver for protection, many modern day research has also shown that wearing silver can provide certain health benefits. For example, research conducted by academics at the University of Southampton in collaboration with occupational therapy clinicians has found that wearing a particular type of silver ring can help to alleviate symptoms of arthritis. (https://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2008/06/rings-to-alleviate-arthritis-validated.page).
The long history of silver has only shown that the use of silver will continue to be shaped by our desires. As it has been used for spiritual, economic, health and decorative purposes, silver remains one of the most adaptable and versatile metals on our planet.