The physical properties of silver make it usable for a wide variety of products. In days of the Roman Empire, people knew to place a few silver coins into water cisterns to help it remain potable.
Yet, when silver was considered a “precious” metal, comparatively little research was done on new industrial applications. When the price of silver fell notably after the 1980 price peak, the rate of research increased.
Going back a few decades and beyond, major usage for physical silver was in photography and for flatware and hollowware items. Silver was even used when taking x-rays, though a high percentage of that silver consumption was recycled.
Today, digital photography has sharply cut into the usage of silver in that industry. X-rays are also mostly digital. The buying of sterling silver flatware and hollowware items has nose-dived. Still, fabrication demand for silver is growing. Why?
Silver is a powerful destroyer of bacteria, which it does physically. What that means is that, while germs can mutate to become resistant to other antibiotics, they cannot mutate to survive the sledge hammer-like destruction by silver. For example, when large buildings like hospitals have their water systems infected with germs that cause Legionnaires disease, the only thorough way to destroy it is to add a bit of silver. This will almost completely wipe out the disease-causing bodies within 24 hours.
Because only small amounts of silver are needed to benefit from its anti-bacterial properties, industrial applications are soaring. For instance, in a growing number of hospitals walls are being painted with silver-infused paints, the top surfaces of stands next to beds are also treated, and even medical chart binders are made from materials containing a tiny bit of silver.
For the military, silver socks help prevent bacterial problems in circumstances where soldiers may not be able to wash their clothes or feet on a regular basis. For Olympic athletes, especially cyclists, silver-infused clothing helps regulate body temperature as well as preventing bacterial infections from sweat.
For appropriate applications, silver is replacing lead in solders.
In the food processing industry, especially for dairy and meat processing, silver-coated work surfaces are taking over.
Silver also has superb electrical conductivity capability. In applications where only a small amount is needed, it is often cost effective to use instead of copper. Silver-coated building windows help moderate exterior cold and warm weather better than untreated windows.
But, how about the use of silver in everyday life? I personally own or use some products that might surprise you. For instance, I own a half dozen shirts, a winter cap, and most of my socks contain silver fibers. These I own both for the anti-bacterial and for body temperature-regulating capabilities. In my camping equipment is a water filter that used silver as the purification solution.
I also use two products of “Structured Silver” for health purposes. I have been using the Thank You brand of silver gel for an external antibiotic. This has worked remarkably well for me over the past couple of years. Each morning and at bedtime I drink a teaspoon of Thank You brand structured silver water to serve as an internal antibiotic. Structured silver is a technology developed by researcher Dr. Gordon Pedersen. While this is an anecdotal report, I perceive that my health has generally improved since drinking this product.
Over time, I expect many more industrial applications for silver will be developed. Even if you don’t think your own life is much affected by silver in various products today, don’t be surprised if they expand in the future.
Note that my personal experiences with silver products should not be considered evidence of their safety or efficacy. I am neither a scientist nor a medical professional. Just as I did, readers should do their own investigation before acquiring and using such items. There are also competing brands of products beyond those I own or use. I do not get any compensation for mentioning the items I personally own and use.
Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He is the owner emeritus and communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Coin Week (http://www.coinweek.com). His radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, and Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).
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