Silver is a chemical element with the symbol Ag (Latin: argentum). A soft white lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity for a metal, and occurs as a free metal, and in minerals such as argentite and chlorargyrite. Most silver is produced as a by-product of copper, gold, lead, and zinc mining.
Silver has been known since antiquity. It has long been valued as a precious metal and used in currency, ornaments and jewelry, as well as utensils (hence the term silverware). Today, it is also used in photographic film, electrical contacts, and mirrors. Elemental silver is also used to catalyze chemical reactions.
Silver is a very ductile and malleable (slightly harder than gold) univalent coinage metal with a brilliant white metallic luster that can take a high degree of polish. It has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals, even higher than copper, but its greater cost and tarnishability has prevented it from being widely used in place of copper for electrical purposes, though it was used in the electromagnets used for enriching uranium during World War II (mainly because of the wartime shortage of copper).
Silver has certain antimicrobial activity. In the past, dilute solutions of silver nitrate were used as disinfectants, though this has been supplanted by other treatments. In alternative medicine, there has been increasing interest in the use of colloidal silver as remedies for a wide range of ailments, though these claims are disputed. The consumption of large amounts of silver can lead to a darkening of the skin known as argyria.
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