When and How Was Silver Discovered?

Silver first entered society as a type of money exchanged for goods and services. The precious metal was first mined around 3000 BCE in an effort to support the growth of early civilizations. The Greeks used silver to pay for lumber to construct their naval force around 1200 BCE and the Romans adopted a type of silver currency as well. Because silver was scarce in China, Spaniards used silver currency to trade with the Chinese on the Silk Road. This widespread use of silver continues to this day.

A History of Silver

The question of when silver was discovered dates back thousands of years. Anatolian metalworkers mined silver nearly 3,000 years ago in modern-day Turkey. Through imports and exchange across international trade routes, silver gained popularity as a medium of exchange. It wasn’t until the Spanish discovered silver in Mexico and Peru in the 1500s that the true silver craze took hold. For a period of roughly 300 years, the Spanish controlled over three quarters of the globe’s silver production. 

Silver mines have since appeared around the world, from the Comstock Lode in Nevada to pockets in Chile, Japan, and Africa. Regardless of who discovered silver, the shiny metal continues to grow in demand for its many uses..

The Value of Silver

In working with silver, ancient civilizations discovered some of the precious metal’s unique characteristics, among them antibacterial properties. In a time before modern medicine, the antimicrobial nature of silver gave it value as an element associated with good health. The metal is also scarce, very beautiful (some may even say, sterling), malleable, and durable enough to hold its shape.

Silver continues to hold its value in modern society. The metal is less expensive than gold is and contains various properties that are perfect for manufacturing and other applications. New mining technology continues to provide humanity with the opportunity to reclaim and recycle silver in ways not previously available.

Uses of Silver

Silver can be used in several different ways, from medical applications to jewelry and tableware. Airplane manufacturers coat jet engine ball bearings in silver to decrease drag. Dentists may use a silver alloy for fillings. Additional uses of silver include solar panels, conductors, water filtration, and more. 

Many different types of electronics incorporate silver into their designs. Silver acts as an excellent conductor of electricity and thermal energy. It’s also one of the most reflective metals on the planet. Due to the versatility of this element, it’s often most valuable within technological and manufacturing industries. In many cases, silver’s value comes from its industrial applications rather than its relative scarcity.


Silver gained popularity as a type of currency early on in human civilization. This precious metal continues to enjoy widespread use throughout the world in industries such as medicine, technology, and photography. Purchasing from a trusted source, however, can be tricky. 

Before making any decisions about purchasing gold or silver, be sure to contact our representatives at Nationwide. We’re standing by, ready to answer any questions you may have about physical gold and silver ownership and help you understand your options.