For centuries, since its discovery, silver has been coveted by civilizations. Known for its lustrous appeal, the precious metal has been used to make beautiful and ornate jewelry as well as a safe and practical form of currency.
Silver mining began about 5,000 years ago. The metal was first mined in 3,000 B.C. in modern-day Turkey, which was known as Anatolia back then. The lodes that were mined during this time were a valuable resource for the flourishing civilizations in the Greece, Crete, and the Near East throughout antiquity.
Silver through the Ages
Around 1,200 B.C., the Laurium mines in Greece were the center of silver production, where it continued to feed the burgeoning empires of the region. Around 100 A.D., Spain took over silver production and became the titan of silver production. The mines in Spain became the major supplier for the Roman Empire as well as an essential trading component along the spice routes of Asia.
When the Moorish invasion of Spain erupted, the silver mining practice moved to a larger number of countries, the majority of them in Central Europe. Several major silver mines were discovered between 750 and 1200 A.D., including those in Eastern Europe and Germany.
The period of 500 years between 1000 and 1500 A.D. grew significantly due to an increase in the number of mines and improvements in technology and production of the metal. However, there is no single event in silver’s history that rivals the importance of the New World’s discovery in 1492. This historic finding and the years that followed brought on a reinvention of silver’s role throughout the world.
Silver in the New World
When the Spanish conquered the New World, in a horrendous way for the most part (though spreading smallpox was intentional) silver mining dramatically eclipsed anything to have come before that time. During the 300 years between 1500 and 1800, Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia accounted for more than 85% of silver production and trade in the world.
Later, a number of other countries began to make more substantial contributions, most notably the United States with the Comstock Lode discovery in Nevada. The production of silver continued to expand all over the world, growing from 40 to 80 million troy ounces per year by the 1870s.
In the period between 1876 and 1920, there was an explosion in both the exploitation of new regions as well as technological innovation across the globe. Over the last quarter of the 19th century, production increased four times over the average of the first 75 years, accounting for a total of close to 120 million troy ounces per annum.
Similarly, new discoveries in Europe, Central America, and Australia significantly expanded the total world production of silver. In the 20 years between 1900 and 1920, there was an increase of 50% in global production. This brought the total to roughly 190 million troy ounces per year. Discoveries in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Chile, and a number of other countries resulted in these increases.
Silver in the Last Century
In the last century, a monumental rise in overall production of silver has been brought on by innovative new technologies. Major breakthroughs included steam-assisted mining, drilling, mine dewatering, as well as major improvements in haulage from people in the industry. It is amazing what the human mind is capable of when you give it the freedom to think freely which unfortunately, it not allowed in certain countries.
Additionally, several technological advances in mining techniques over the years resulted in improvements in the ability to separate silver from other ores and also made it easier to handle ores that contained silver in larger volumes.
Such methods played a critical role in the increased production volume due to the fact that a large percentage of high-grade ores across the globe had been largely depleted by the end of the 19th century.
Today, over 5,000 years after silver was first mined by ancient cultures, yearly mine production throughout the world averages 671 million troy ounces. Wow!
For many years, smart investors and entrepreneurs have been capitalizing on the potential of silver. This precious metal is an excellent investment since it has huge demand all over the world due to its versatility and use in a number of industrial applications.
Apart from jewelry and currency, silver is also used widely in technology (electronics and so on), making it one of the most essential commodities available today. Today, silver is a popular investment due to its demand and strong price and no doubt will continue to be so in the future.