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Silver Uses in the 21st Century
For those of us in the jewelry industry, mention the word silver and visions of earrings and rings dance in our heads. If asked to come up with other uses for silver, we might stretch our minds and throw out suggestions of the silverware found on the table at Thanksgiving Dinner, or as a backing for old-fashioned mirrors. These would be accurate portrayals, but they might elicit a snide remark from someone more familiar with the myriad uses for this magical metal.

Though the jewelry industry does consume a fair amount of silver (247.5 million ounces in 2004, according to the Silver Institute), it is actually a distant second to the industrial sector which used 367.1 million ounces in the same period. Silver has several properties beyond its brilliance and workability, that make it popular for a wide variety of uses. For example, silver is heavily used in photography as the active ingredient in film. Further, it is also used in both medical and industrial X-Ray films (heavy industry uses X-ray imaging to check the integrity of welds, solders and structural elements).

While on the topic of soldering, silver is used all over the world as a major component in solders. This is especially true with plumbing solders. Because silver is also a bactericide, it not only serves to seal the pipes in most homes in the US (without the use of lead), but also helps keep the water flowing through the pipes free from harmful bacteria. And with regard to pure water, about half off all the water purifiers sold use silver in conjunction with carbon in filters to kill any small nasties that might otherwise make it through the tap and into your gut!

With regard to guts and to the human body in general, silver has many uses in the medical world. Its bactericidal qualities have been known for centuries. Silver sulfadiazine is used in hospitals all over North America as a germ killer on burn patients. Siilver is also used in one brand of polyurethane catheters for prevention of infection (too much information?).

In fact, you would not be reading this article were it not for silver. The tech industry uses silver in the solders on that printed circuit board in your computer. Your circuit board also uses silver in the connections of paths for electronic circuitry. Daily life relies on silver: the light switches in your house, your TV and microwave (your washing machine, if average, has 16 silver switches in it), your mobile phone, the pump in your swimming pool or jacuzzi, and even those lines that defog the back window of your car (fired silver-ceramic). There is no escaping this vital metal.

By now you probably get the picture, but just to really make sure, here are some other ways that our life here on Earth (and beyond) has come to rely on silver and its unique properties.

Silver is:
--A catalyst used in chemical reactions like the production of plastics.
--Heavily used in the minting of commemorative coins for investment purposes.
--A main ingredient in billions of watch batteries around the world.
--Used in the "silver paste" found in over 90% of all photo-voltaic (solar electric) cells.
--Applied to double-paned windows as a thin film for increased energy efficiency.
--Used as an industrial coating for ball bearings in everything from electric motors to jet engines.

(This article written by Mike McGinnis and published originally on indiasilver.com. We allow republication provided the piece is copied in its entirety with links and attribution.)

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