Silver is a more active metal than gold .
Although its abundance in the earth’s crust is about fifteen times that of gold, but it occurs much less frequently in a native state. It is not surprising that in antiquity silver was valued higher than gold. In ancient Egypt, for instance, the ratio between the costs of these metals was 2.5:1. Gold was used mainly for coins and jewelry; silver had other uses: for example, for making water vessels.
In the 4th century B.C the army of Alexander the Great conquered Persia and Phoenicia and invaded India. Here the Greek army was struck by an out break of a mysterious gastrointestinal disease and the men demanded to be sent home. Interestingly, the Greek military commanders fell victim to the disease far less frequently than their men, although they shared all the burdens of camp life with the soldiers. More than two thousand years had passed before scientists found an explanation of it. The soldiers drank from tin cups and their superiors from silver ones. It was proved that silver dissolves in water forming a colloid solution that kills pathogenic bacteria. And although the solubility of silver in in water in low, it is quite enough for disinfection.
Silver mines have known from time immemorial. The largest deposits of silver were in Greece, Spain, and Germany. After the discovery of America silver deposits were also found in Peru and Mexico. Lead minerals are often observed as constituents in silver ores.
Old process of Silver Extraction :
An old process of extracting silver from such ores is described as follows:-
Silver ore was ground, washed with water, and dried. Then it was fused together with flux and the alloy thus obtained was heated with charcoal. The resulting alloy of silver and lead was calcinated. On heating in air silver is practically unoxidized whereas lead transforms into oxide almost completely. The melting point of lead oxide is 896oC and that of silver, 960oC. Thus, practically pure silver was obtained.
At present more perfect processes of purifying silver are used.
Silver like gold was used in coins but the cost of silver compared to that of gold was gradually decreasing. In 1874 the cost of one pound of gold was equal to that of 15.5 pounds of silver but after the discovery of silver deposits in Australia this ratio fell to 1:46. In England bimetallism, i.e. the use of gold and silver jointly as a monetary standard, was discontinued in 1816. Later other countries followed this example.
Russian words “rubl”’ (rouble) and “kopeika” (kopeck) owe their origin to silver. Rouble came into being in Kievan Russia in the 13th century –a silver bar weighing about 200 grams. It is believed that in the process of manufacturing roubles a long silver bar was cast and then hacked into parts (“rubit” is the Russian for “to hack”). The word “kopeika” appeared somewhat later (in 1534) when coins with an image of a horseman holding a speak (“kop’ e” in Russian) were first minted.
The name “silver” seems to stem from the Assyrian “serpu” or Gothic “silbur” the Latin argentum originates most likely from the Sanscrit arganta, which means “light, white”.