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The Demand for Silver Throughout History

Silver coins and a bar

Due to changes in medical science, technology, and aesthetic preferences, silver supply and demand has fluctuated a great deal through the centuries. Today, the demand for silver is higher than ever because it is a crucial component of widely manufactured electronics including computers, mobile phones, and solar panels.

The History of Silver 

Silver is a naturally occurring element, just like hydrogen and oxygen, but is available in relatively minimal supply. Archaeologists believe silver mining originated in the regions surrounding Asia Minor approximately 5,000 years ago. Ornaments, coins, sacred art, and jewelry made from silver have been discovered among the artifacts from ancient civilizations in the Middle East, China, South America, and beyond.  Since then, it has expanded economies and paid for the construction of several empires.

In 2007, archaeologists discovered the Beau Street Hoard at a construction site near Somerset, England. While evaluating the land where a new hotel was being built, a box of 22,000 antique silver coins was discovered. Some of the coins dated back to 32 B.C.E., suggesting people have been stockpiling this precious metal for thousands of years.

Silver in Manufactured Goods 

Household goods made from silver have always been a status symbol, although modern manipulation of steel has made it easy to imitate visually. In early Colonial America, silversmiths were an integral part of every community. While most homes used housewares made of less expensive metals, successful people in business and government would only stock their homes with trinkets, teapots, and serving pieces made of real silver. While the status symbols of today’s world, such as expensive cars and designer clothes, can depreciate over time, the silver tableware of the past could always be melted into bullion and sold, ensuring real long-term value.

Silver Supply and Demand 

Today, people still desire silver for ornamental reasons, but the primary need stems from the energy, electronics, and healthcare industries. This demand is due to the physical composition of silver, which includes highly effective conductivity and antibacterial properties. 

Much the way the oil industry boomed as demand for cars skyrocketed, our modern fascination with electronics has increased the demand for silver. Switches, keyboards, mobile phones, TVs, and solar panels all use silver as one of the key manufacturing components. In addition to electronics used for communications and entertainment, the medical sector has made significant advancements in the usage of silver as a component or coating in surgical tools to control and prevent infection.

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