Silver is a malleable metal, slightly harder than gold, with a white metallic lustre that can be buffed to a high degree of polish. Of all the metals, silver has the highest electrical conductivity making it ideal for electric circuits and wires in high fidelity equipment. It has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals. However due to cost, copper, the next highest ion conductivity is usually used in more common electrical and electronic equipment.
Types of Silver
Silver has been around for hundreds of years and has been valued as a precious metal for coins as well as artefacts, ornaments and jewelery. It has also been traditionally used by the well heeled for high valued tableware more often known as silverware. Of course it has, and still is being used as currency coins and in silver rounds and bars for investment and value storage reasons.
A silver standard refers to the millesimal (millesimal = a thousandth part or part in one thousand) fineness for the silver or silver alloy used in manufacturing of silver objects.
Fine silver is the best silver of all. It has a millesimal fineness of 999. It is also called pure silver and will have 99.9 percent silver. There is no such thing as pure 100 percent silver as there are always trace amounts of impurities which are virtually impossible to guarantee are removabed. Fine silver is used to make to make bullion bars for international trading and silver investment. It is also used for some silver coins, particularly of the proof quality currency coins and silver rounds. In some areas, such as silverware for example, fine silver is usually considered to be too soft for general use and so sterling silver is used instead. (see sterling silver below).
Britannia silver, on the other hand, has a millesimal fineness of 958. This silver alloy is 95.84% pure silver and 4.16 per cent copper or other metals. The Britannia standard was originally developed in Britain in the late 1600s to prevent sterling silver coins from being melted to make silver plate. In Britain it was mandatory until 1720, at which point the sterling silver standard was restored again. The Britannia Silver then became an optional standard when the sterling silver standard was restored. It thereafter became an optional silver standard
Mexican silver has a millesimal fineness of 950. The Mexican silver alloy is 95% pure silver and 5 per cent copper or other metals. From 1930 to 1945, Mexican silver had a millesimal fineness of 980.
The French standard has a millesimal fineness of 950. The French 1st alloy is 95 % silver and 5 per cent copper or other metals.
The Russian standard for silver is based on the zolotnik . This word comes from the word which actually means gold. This originated as the weight of a gold coin circulating around the late 11th century in Kievan Russia. A zolotnik originally represented a 1/96th of a pound , then later, 1/72nd of a pound. In the metric system, one zolotnik is equal to 4,266 grams and 96 zolotniks equal one Russian pound.
If you convert the Russian marks to sterling values, we see the following comparisons in silver purity degree:
84 zol. = 875/1000Sterling Silver
88 zol. = 916,6/1000
91 zol. = 947,9/1000
Sterling silver is popular in the U.K and has been used in England for several hundred years. Sterling silver is more ideal for tableware and some jewelery for the durability afforded to it by the other metals with which it is mixed. Sterling silver is used predominantly for tableware, commonly called silver ware and is that which burglars traditionally make off with in English crime novels. Fine silver is generally considered too soft for producing large functional objects such as silver trays, soup tureens etc, So an alloy is made to strengthen the silver. Sterling silver has a millesimal fineness of 925. This alloy is 92.5 % pure silver and 7.5 per cent other metals, usually copper.
Coin silver fineness can vary depending on the mint or manufacturer and the reason for the strike or production.
The term 'coin silver' derives from the fact that it was originally made from melting down silver coins. There are some differences between the coin silver standard and the coin silver alloy, as actually used in making silver objects.
The coin silver standard in the United States was 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper, as dictated by US FTC guidelines. In silver smithing, however, coins that originate from other nations can vary from 750 to 900 millesimal fineness. Some examples are given below.
Buying silver coins is a popular method of physically holding silver. Canadian Silver Maple Leaf. US Silver eagle are just two very popular silver coins sought after by collectors, numismatics and silver investors.
Interestingly, the Islamic dirham silver coin is pure silver with a specific weight equivalent to 3.0 grams.
The silver bullion coins of the Royal Mint issued since 1998, known as "Britannias" for their reverse image, are minted in Britannia standard silver. The recent production of silver coins from the US, Australia and the U.K, to mention a few, can have varying degrees of silver fineness these days depending on the purpose of the coin.
And there is also the very popular junk silver coins available as sterling silver coins. These were minted until 1919 in the U.K, Australia (1945) and the USA.
Other Silver of Lesser Fineness
Some other countries produce silver of a lesser fineness. Scandinavian silver, for example, has a millesimal fineness of 830 with the silver alloy usually containing 83 percent pure silver and 17 percent copper or other metals.
German silver has a millesimal fineness even less of 800. It is one of several silver standards used in Germany, and has been in use since 1884. This silver alloy is only 80 percent pure silver and 20 percent copper or other metals. Egyptian silver is very much the same as German silver.
A relatively new way of buying silver is the silver account method. Here are all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of buying fine silver. One can buy any quantity from the very tiny just a gram or two right up to the larger bars. There are no shipping costs to be concerned with and security and insurance are taken care of by the custodian. There is usually a storage fee to pay and the premium is not as high as buying many other forms of silver. basically one opens an account at say, goldmoney.com for example and then funds the account. Silver is then allocated to your account. The actual silver is held in storage in bank vaults and audited regularly by an independent auditor as well as insured buy Lloyds of London. The silver here is pure fine silver of .999 and a very simple and convenient way of holding pure silver.
You can also take delivery of your silver in the form of 1000 gram gold bullion bars from goldmoney. the cost is nominal and shipping and transport will vary depending on what country you want delivery too. Another advantage with a gold account of this type.
Buy Fine Silver
So there are many ways of buying fine silver available and each have their advantages. Obviously the finer the silver the better value it has from an investment and stored value point of view. But with the shortage of silver these days due to lesser production, higher production costs and bigger demand, to buy any silver is a good idea.