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Silver: a versatile precious metal with a rich history

Silver, a shiny and versatile precious metal, has a long and distinguished history. Formerly used mainly for the production of silver coins, it has played a central role in the economy and culture of many civilizations. Today, silver is not only popular for coins and jewelry, but is also indispensable in numerous other applications.

History and economic significance of silver

Silver as a means of payment

In earlier times, silver was particularly important for the production of silver coins, which were used as a means of payment. Until 1871, silver coins, also known as thalers, were the predominant means of payment in Germany. This currency was backed by silver reserves. After that, the so-called silver standard was replaced by the gold standard. The reason for using silver as a means of payment was its low reactivity and high stability of value. These properties made it an ideal material for coins that were to remain in circulation for a long time.

The transition to the gold standard

With the introduction of the gold standard, silver lost its importance as a means of payment. The gold standard was based on backing the currency with gold reserves, which led to a more stable and internationally recognized currency basis. From then on, silver coins were mainly minted as commemorative and special coins and lost their role as a general means of payment. More about the historical silver standard.

Silver in jewelry making

Significance and use

Alongside gold and precious stones, silver plays an important role in the manufacture of jewelry. Silver is very popular because of its shiny appearance, malleability and durability. It can be easily alloyed with other metals, allowing different properties and colors to be achieved.

Silver worked into engagement ring

Example of processed silver in an Engagement ringtogether with Palladium. The stone is a 0.25 carat diamond Diamond.

Popular silver alloys

Silver can be alloyed with many metals, including gold, copper and palladium. The most common silver alloys are 800, 835, 925 and 935 silver. 925 silver, also known as sterling silver, which is named after the British currency pound sterling, is particularly well known. This alloy is the most important and is often used for jewelry, bodyware and cutlery. More about silver alloys.

Sterling silver in jewelry making

Sterling silver, consisting of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals (mostly copper), offers an excellent combination of beauty and durability. It is often used for high quality jewelry, bodywork and cutlery. For the production of wedding rings using the mokume gane technique, 925 sterling silver is generally used as it offers a beautiful contrast to other precious metals.

Silver worked into a piece of jewelry

Example of processed Sterling silver in a piece of jewelry, or Necklace with zodiac sign. The stones are Diamonds.

Silver in other applications

Silverware and cutlery

Silver has been used for exquisite cutlery and silverware for centuries. This tradition has its origins in the appreciation for the shiny metal, which is not only aesthetically pleasing but also antibacterial. Silver cutlery and tableware are often family treasures that are passed down from generation to generation.

Ecclesiastical utensils

Silver also plays an important role in the manufacture of ecclesiastical utensils. From chalices to candlesticks, silver is used for its symbolic purity and noble appearance. These objects are often ornately decorated and represent masterpieces of craftsmanship.

Silver alloys and their properties

Silver can be alloyed with many metals to achieve different properties and colors. Here are some of the most common alloys:

  • 800 silver: Consists of 80% pure silver and 20% other metals. This alloy is often used for cutlery and decorative items.
  • 835 silver: Contains 83.5% pure silver and 16.5% other metals. This alloy is mainly used in some European countries for jewelry and cutlery.
  • 925 silver (sterling silver): Consists of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper. It is the most widely used silver alloy and is used for jewelry, bodywork and cutlery.
  • 935 silver: This alloy contains 93.5% pure silver and 6.5% other metals. It offers an even higher purity and is used for special applications and high-quality jewelry. Further information on silver alloys.

Nickel silver: A misunderstanding

Nickel silver, also known as nickel silver, is not a true silver alloy, but a base metal alloy of copper, nickel and zinc. Despite its name and its silver-like appearance, it does not contain any real silver. Nickel silver is often used for cheaper cutlery and decorative items.

Silver in the mokume gane technique

925 sterling silver is often used to make wedding rings using the mokume gane technique. This technique, which originated in Japan, creates unique patterns that are reminiscent of wood grain. Silver offers the most beautiful contrast in combination with other precious metals such as palladium, especially in the white shades. The combination of silver and palladium in mokume gane wedding rings, such as the Iroko wedding rings, demonstrates the extraordinary beauty and craftsmanship of this technique.

Care and maintenance of silver jewelry

Silver requires regular care to maintain its shine and beauty. Here are some tips on how to care for silver jewelry:

  1. Cleaning: silver should be cleaned regularly to prevent tarnishing and discoloration. Use a mild soap solution and a soft cloth or special silver cleaning cloths. Avoid abrasive cleaning agents that could scratch the silver. Instructions for cleaning jewelry.

  2. Storage: Store silver jewelry separately from other pieces of jewelry to avoid scratching. It is best to use a soft jewelry box or a jewelry bag.

  3. Avoid chemicals: Avoid contact with harsh chemicals, perfumes and hairsprays, as these can tarnish the silver. Take off your jewelry when you do housework or go swimming.

  4. Professional maintenance: Have your silver jewelry checked and polished regularly by a professional to remove scratches and maintain its shine. Specialist stores for jewelry care.

All in all...

Silver is a versatile and precious metal with a rich history and numerous applications. From minting coins and making jewelry to exquisite silverware and ecclesiastical utensils, silver has a wide range of uses. With the right care and maintenance techniques, the beauty and shine of silver jewelry and objects can be preserved for many years. Whether used as jewelry, in the mokume gane technique or as a valuable heirloom, silver remains a timeless and treasured precious metal.

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