Silver might not always get the glory and attention that gold does, but it remains one of the most useful precious metals in the world. Solar technology, electronics, soldering and brazing, engine bearings, medicine, cars, water purification, jewelry, tableware, and your precious metals portfolio—silver can be found practically everywhere.
In 2018, global demand for silver demand increased for the first time since 2015, rising 4 percent to 1.03 billion ounces, according to The Silver Institute. Some of that stepped-up demand came as a result of heightened interest in silver bars and silver bullion coins as wealth-building assets.
What follows is our rundown of 10 golden opportunities for silver.
Silver Is Used For…
Motor vehicles depend on silver as much as they depend on fuel.
More than 36 million ounces of silver are used each year in auto manufacturing, according to The Silver Institute. For example, the institute says, every electrical connection in a modern car is activated with silver-coated contacts. Starting the engine, adjusting power seats, opening power windows, and closing a power trunk are all accomplished using a silver membrane switch.
Silver also contributes to automotive safety. Silver-ceramic lines fired into the back windows (and front windshields of newer vehicles) generate heat to melt ice and keep the glass fog-free, the institute says.
Furthermore, silver frequently is used in high-performance spark plugs, and antifreeze is produced from ethylene oxide, a compound made using silver during the chemical process.
2. Solar Technology
Solar cells, also known as photovoltaic (PV) cells, convert sunlight into electricity. Silver plays a part in making that conversion happen.
How is silver used in solar cells? Silver powder is turned into a paste that’s loaded onto a silicon wafer, according to The Silver Institute. When light strikes the silicon, electrons are set free and the silver—the world’s best conductor—carries the electricity for immediate use or stores it in batteries for later use. Commercial solar panels use about 20 grams of silver per unit, notes Mining.com.
We mentioned the solar industry in our long-term outlook on the price of silver and evaluation of silver price factors back in 2017. It's a common use for silver that's not going away!
In April 2019, researchers from Kent Business School published a paper where they state that increased demand for solar panels causes silver prices to spike.
Silver shows up in almost every electronic device, according to The Silver Institute. As the institute explains, if something has an on-off switch, there’s probably some silver inside. The superb electric conductivity of this white metal means it’s ideal for TV screens, switches, printed circuit boards, and a whole host of other electronic products.
4. Soldering and Brazing
Silver is a soldier when it comes to soldering and brazing.
When metal pieces like pipes, faucets, ducts, and electrical wires are joined, the process is known as soldering or brazing, depending on how much heat is applied. Without silver, the institute explains, none of those connections would be as sturdy, leakproof, or electrically conductive as the original materials.
Soldering refers to joining metal pieces at temperatures below 600 degrees Celsius (around 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit), while brazing refers to joining metal pieces at temperatures above 600 degrees Celsius.
5. Engine Bearings
The next time you board an airplane or helicopter, give some thanks to silver. Jet engines and helicopter engines rely on this metal to keep running.
Since they operate for long periods at high temperatures, jet and helicopter engines require stronger ball bearings than other types of machinery, according to The Silver Institute.
Silver electroplating fortifies these engines. It also decreases friction between bearings and their housings, enabling safe engine shutdowns if something were to go awry.
Believe it or not, silver helps fight germs, just like pills and shots. It’s actually a longtime go-to antibiotic.
For decades, doctors put several drops of silver nitrate into newborns’ eyes to prevent infection, according to The Silver Institute. During World War I, battlefield wounds were wrapped in silver foil, and silver sutures closed deep wounds.
More recently, bandages and ointments have included silver to ward off bacteria, the institute says. And healthcare facilities are battling antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” with silver-embedded equipment and supplies like surgical tools, needles, stethoscopes, furniture, and linens. Silver coatings are also applied to medical devices like catheters and breathing tubes to combat germs.
7. Water Purification
You’ll find silver in many of the millions of water purifiers sold each year. The institute says silver prevents bacteria and algae from building up in the filters of purifiers so that they can do their job—getting rid of bacteria, chlorine, lead, particulates (particles of dirt, rust, sand, and sediment), odor, and a group of chemicals called trihalomethanes.
In tandem with oxygen, silver acts as a powerful sanitizer. Silver ions are added to water purification systems in community water supplies, pools, hospitals, and spas as a disinfectant, according to the institute.
Chances are, you or someone you know wears jewelry made of sterling silver, which is a mix of 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper.
For centuries, creators of jewelry have turned to sterling silver when crafting pieces like bracelets, earrings, and necklaces, according to The Silver Institute. Why? Because sterling silver is incredibly durable. Also, sterling silver jewelry costs less than gold jewelry does.
Silverware adds a touch of class to any table. Aside from forks, knives, and spoons, you’ll find silver in bowls and other household items. In large part because of its long-lasting nature, silver has been the “gold standard” for tableware since the 14th century, according to The Silver Institute.
10. Precious Metals Portfolio
While gold has a tendency to hog the spotlight, silver bars and silver coins remain popular among precious metals buyers. In fact, The Silver Institute predicts demand for silver as a wealth-building asset would jump 5 percent in 2019.
The institute notes that silver “has been prized for centuries as … [a] storehouse of wealth and used as a medium of exchange in much the way that gold has been used. However, because of its lower value, silver is more available to a greater number of people who choose to keep physical silver instead of paper currency.”
With so many amazing uses for silver, how long do you think the world’s silver supply can last? As demand for silver continues to grow, this often-underappreciated precious metal could be a sterling addition to your portfolio. Call U.S. Money Reserve at 1-844-307-1589 to learn more.