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Silver(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Silver is the metal of the Moon and, as such, it is favored and used a great deal in Witchcraft. The bracelet of a Wiccan High Priestess is usually made of silver, as is the crown and the buckles on the garter of a Witch Queen. Many modern Witches favor silver over gold for their rings, pendants, and other jewelry.
Silver has been considered a metal of divination; it's an excellent scrying tool if highly polished. In the Bible, Genesis 44:5 mentions a silver cup used for divination. An old superstition involved turning a silver coin when making a wish, which should be made to the Moon.
Considered very potent and also pure and impervious to magical influence, silver was ideal for magical work. Ceremonial Magicians preferred silver receptacles. The purity of the metal made it perfect to use for making bullets to kill werewolves, vampires, and their ilk.
In the opening chapters of her first vampire book, Dead until Dark (2001), author Charlaine Harris has her heroine waitress Sookie Stackhouse attracted to vampire Bill Compton. One evening after he has come to the restaurant where she works, she discovers him under attack from some people who would rob him of his blood. She has to save Bill after he has been immobilized under a chain of silver. The silver has the effect of burning the vampire’s flesh even as it drains his/her strength. Harris’s introduction of silver into her vampire mythos is a contemporary borrowing from the modern werewolf mythos.
The use of silver bullets against werewolves, popularized in the many werewolf movies, may harken back to a single incident that occurred in rural southern France in 1764. A series of murders that included several sheep herders led to rumors of a “loup-garou” or werewolf. Soldiers searching for the creature shot and wounded it, and the murders ceased for several months. Then, they began to reoccur. One of the locals who hunted the creature, Jean Chastel, used silver bullets in his weapon. His shots brought it down. The dead beast was displayed in the town before its burial. Chastel’s gun remains on display and the locals still tell the story of the Beast of Le Gevaudan. In addition, Paul Barber found two instances, one in Serbia and one in Germany, in which silver as used against werewolves was also said to be effective against vampires. More generally the use of silver is traced to Scotland, however, where it was believed that silver should be used when shooting at Scottish witches who had transformed into an animal form.
Silver is almost never mentioned in vampire literature through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries up to the 1970s. There is a connection, however slight, in that many crucifixes, popularly used to repel vampires, were made of silver. In the secularized mid-twentieth century, it appears that some began to look to the crucifix’s silver, rather than the sacredness of the symbol, as the effective element in its ability to repel vampires. Otherwise, silver was missing from Dracula and other classic vampire tales. As the werewolf was brought to the screen, beginning with The Werewolf of London in 1935, however, the major method proposed from killing a werewolf was a silver bullet. Simultaneously, the silver bullet was attaining additional fame as the weapon of choice by the Western hero, the Lone Ranger (introduced to radio in 1933, the movies in 1938, and television in 1949).
The introduction of silver into contemporary vampire lore appears to have been through the movies. In 1972, Hammer Films released Dracula 1972 A.D. By this time, Dracula had already been killed a number of times and each time by a different instrument. As the movie proceeded, the current vampire expert, Lawrence Van Helsing, noted the diversity of instruments able to destroy the vampire—the cross, the bible, the holy water, etc. As he completed his list, he suddenly injected a new agent into the discussion—silver, especially in the form of a knife with a silver blade. The film’s conclusion has Van Helsing stabbing Dracula with just such a knife. Two years later, the original Abraham van Helsing, now in China, tells his new cohorts that among the ways that a vampire can be destroyed is driving a silver shaft through the heart. In the end, most of the vampires including Dracula are killed by staking, but alas, not with silver.
Silver will reemerge as a tool to fight vampires in the stories of Blade the Vampire Slayer, one of the characters created by Marv Wolfman for Marvel comics Tomb of Dracula series. Blade had an early mentor by the name of Jamal Afari (a character created by Chris Claremont) who trained him to fight vampires. When they met, Afari was dispatching vampires with a silver cane. Blade later developed ebony throwing knives as his main weapon, but gradually added a set of silver-based products as his character was later remolded in superhero fashion. Of course, when Blade jumped to the screen (1998), he was armed with the knowledge that vampires were quite vulnerable to silver and thus stakes, swords, and knives, and even a mace-like spray of silver and garlic were viable weapons. The silver theme was also prominent throughout the two sequels.
In the 1996 movie, From Dusk to Dawn, the characters discuss using silver against vampires, but lacking any to use, discarded the idea. In Dracula 2000 (2000), Dracula manifests a seemingly irrational dislike to silver, which at the end of the movie is shown to be derived from Dracula’s true identity as Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
Relating silver to vampires was also facilitated by the development of movies/novels in which vampires and werewolves both appeared. As early as 1979, jokes would be made about the ineffectiveness of silver bullets shot into vampires, in the George Hamilton movie, Love at First Bite. In 1993, Laurell K. Hamilton introduced her vampire hunter character Anita Blake into a modern St. Louis where both vampires and werewolves are coming into the open. In Hamilton’s first novel, Guilty Pleasures, the assassin Edward showed Anita a new way to kill vampires, involving injections of silver nitrate while they sleep.
Through the 1990s, the use of silver was integral to the World of Darkness games from White Wolf, especially the Werewolf: The Apocalypse game launched in 1992. Silver nitrate bullets become a popular weapon that a vampire can use against werewolves. This theme is carried forward in the first of the Underworld (2003) movies in which the vampires are at war with werewolves and carry guns with silver nitrate bullets. The silver theme is also an element in a variety of romance novels that feature both vampires and werewolves, most notably those of Carrie Vaughn, but remains primarily an anti-werewolf substance. Almost all of these novels have been written in the first decade of the new century.
Silver does not play a role in the vampire worlds created by Anne Rice, Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), or Stephenie Meyer. Apart from these very popular vampire realms, however, it may be stated that since the mid-1990s, vampires have been increasingly viewed as vulnerable to silver, while silver has taken its place as another element in the vampire profile with which authors can play. Silver is also a popular substance for making jewelry, and since the 1990s, silver anti-vampire jewelry, especially necklaces, has enjoyed a new popularity.
Ag, a chemical element in group I of Mendeleev’s periodic system. Atomic number, 47; atomic weight, 107.868; a white, ductile metal that can be polished to a brilliant luster. Silver occurs naturally as a mixture of the two stable isotopes 107Ag and 109Ag. Of the radioisotopes, 110Ag has the most practical value (T½ = 253 days). Silver was known as early as the fourth millennium B.C. in Egypt, Persia, and China.
Distribution in nature. The average silver content in the earth’s crust (clarke) is 7 × 10-6 percent by weight. It occurs primarily in medium- and low-temperature hydrothermal deposits, in the enrichment zone of sulfide deposits, and, occasionally, in sedimentary rocks (in sandstones containing carbonaceous matter) and placer deposits. More than 50 silver minerals are known. In the biosphere silver is for the most part dispersed; in seawater the silver content is 3 × l0-8 percent. Silver is one of the scarcest elements.
Physical and chemical properties. Silver has a face-centered cubic lattice (a = 4.0772 angstroms [Å] at 20°C). The atomic radius is 1.44 Å, and the ionic radius of Ag+ is 1.13 Å. Silver has a density at 20°C of 10.5 g/cm3, a melting point of 960.8°C, a boiling point of 2212°C, and a heat of fusion of 105 kilo-joules/kg (25.1 calories/g). Of all metals, silver displays the highest electrical conductivity (6,297 siemens/m [62.97 ohm-1 • cm-1] at 25°C), highest thermal conductivity (407.79 watts/m-°K [0.974 calorie/cm-°C-sec] at 18°C), and highest reflectivity (90-99 percent for wavelengths of 5,000-100,000 Å). It has a specific heat of 234.46 joules/kg-°K (0.056 calorie/g°C) and an electrical resistivity of 15.9 nanoohm-m (1.59 μΩ-cm) at 20°C. Silver is diamagnetic, with an atomic magnetic susceptibility of - 21.56 × 106 at room temperature. Its elastic modulus is 76,480 meganewtons/m2 (7,648 kilograms-force/mm2), ultimate strength is 100 meganewtons/m2 (10 kilograms-force/mm2), and Brinell hardness is 250 meganewtons/m2 (25 kilograms-force/mm2). The electronic configuration of the outer shells of the Ag atom is 4d105s ‘.
Silver exhibits chemical properties characteristic of elements in subgroup I-B of Mendeleev’s periodic system. In compounds, Ag is usually monovalent.
Silver is located at the end of the electromotive force series. Its normal electrode potential Ag ⇄ Ag+ + e- is 0.7978 volt.
Silver does not react with O2, N2, or H2 at normal temperatures. A protective film of sparingly soluble halides and the sulfide Ag2S (gray-black crystals) is formed on the surface of silver when acted upon by free halogens and sulfur. Under the effect of the hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the atmosphere, a thin film of Ag2S is formed on the surface of silver items, thereby causing them to tarnish. The sulfide can be obtained by the action of hydrogen sulfide on soluble silver salts or on aqueous suspensions of silver salts. The solubility of Ag2S in water is 2.48 × 10-5 mole/liter (25°C). Examples of analogous compounds are the selenide Ag2Se and telluride Ag2Te.
The most stable silver oxides are Ag20 and AgO. Ag20 is formed as a thin film on the surface of silver as a result of oxygen absorption, an absorption that increases with temperature and pressure.
Ag2O is obtained by the action of KOH on a solution of AgNO3. The solubility of Ag2O in water is 0.0174 g/liter. An Ag2O suspension possesses antiseptic properties. Ag2O decomposes at 200°C. Hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and many metals reduce Ag2O to metallic Ag. Ozone oxidizes Ag2O to form AgO. At 100°C, AgO decomposes into its separate elements with an explosion. Silver dissolves in nitric acid at room temperature to yield AgNO3. Hot concentrated sulfuric acid dissolves silver to give the sulfate Ag2SO4 (the solubility of the sulfate in water is 0.79 percent by weight at 20°C). Silver does not dissolve in aqua regia because of the formation of a protective AgCl film. In the absence of oxidizing agents, HCl, HBr, and HI do not react with silver at ordinary temperatures because of the formation on the metal surface of a protective film of sparingly soluble halides. Most silver salts, with the exception of AgNO3, AgF, and AgClO4, have poor solubility. Silver forms complex compounds, most of which are soluble in water and many of which have practical uses in chemical technology and analytical chemistry. Examples are the complex ions [Ag(CN)2]-, [Ag(NH3)2]+, and [Ag(SCN)2]-.
Production. Most silver (approximately 80 percent) is extracted as a by-product from complex ores, as well as from gold and copper ores. The extraction of silver from silver and gold ores requires cyanidation—the dissolution of silver in an alkaline solution of sodium cyanide with an inlet for air:
2Ag + 4NaCN + ½O2 + H2O = 2Na[Ag(CN)2] + 2NaOH
Silver is removed from the resultant solutions of complex cyanides by reduction with zinc or aluminum:
2[Ag(CN)2]- + Zn = [Zn(CN)4]2- + 2Ag
Silver is smelted from copper ores together with blister copper and is then extracted from the anode mud formed during the electrolytic refining of copper. In processing lead-zinc ores, silver is concentrated in the lead-crude lead, from which it is extracted by adding metallic zinc. The zinc combines with silver to form the refractory compound Ag2Zn3, which, being insoluble in lead, rises to the surface of the lead melt as a foam that can be easily skimmed off. The zinc is then distilled from the silver at 1250°C. The silver extracted from copper or lead-zinc ores is alloyed (doré) and subjected to electrolytic refining.
Use. Silver is used primarily in alloy form for minting coins and manufacturing household items, laboratory ware, and din-nerware. Silver is used to coat radio components to improve electrical conductivity and corrosion resistance; silver contacts are used in the electrical-engineering industry. Silver solders are used in soldering titanium and titanium alloys. In vacuum technology, silver serves as a structural material. Metallic silver is used to manufacture electrodes for silver-zinc and silver-cadmium batteries. It serves as a catalyst in inorganic and organic synthesis, for example, in the oxidation of alcohols to aldehydes and acids and of ethylene to ethylene oxide. In the food-processing industry, silver apparatus are used for the preparation of fruit juices. Small concentrations of silver ions sterilize water. Large quantities of silver compounds (AgBr, AgCl, AgI) are used in the manufacture of motion-picture and photographic materials.
S. I. GINZBURG
Silver in art. Because of its attractive white color and workability, silver has been widely used in decorative art since ancient times. However, since pure silver is very soft, nonferrous metals—usually copper—are added when minting coins and producing various silver items. The processes involved in working silver and decorating silver articles include stamping, casting, filigree techniques, and embossing. Enamels, niello, engraving, and gilding are also used with silver articles.
A high standard of artistic silver work characterizes the decorative art of the Hellenistic world and of ancient Rome, Persia (vessels from the Sassanid era, third through seventh centuries A.D), and Medieval Europe. Silver articles produced by master craftsmen during the Renaissance and baroque periods (B. Cellini in Italy, jewelers of the Jamnitzer, Lenker, and Lambrecht families in Germany) are noted for their variety of form and striking silhouettes, as well as for the mastery displayed in ornamentation and the representation of figures through stamping and casting. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, France assumed the leading role in the crafting of silver articles (C. Ballin, F. T. Germain, R. J. Auguste). In the decorative art of the 19th and 20th centuries, ungilded silver has been favored, and casting and mechanical methods of working the silver have been the dominant processes. In Russian decorative art of the 19th and early 20th centuries, outstanding silver articles were produced by the firms of the Grachevs, P. A. Ovchinnikov, P. F. Sazikov, P. C. Fabergé, and I. P. Khlebnikov. A continuing, creative development of traditions in decorative arts and a desire to reveal more fully the ornamental qualities of silver are characteristic of Soviet silver articles, among which the works of native craftsmen deserve a special place.
G. A. MARKOVA
In the organism. Silver is always present in plants and animals. Its average content in marine plants is 0.025 mg per 100 g of dry matter; in terrestrial plants the average is 0.006 mg. Marine animals have between 0.3 and 1.1 mg, while terrestrial animals have only trace amounts (10-2-10-4 mg). Animals accumulate silver in certain endocrine glands, in the iris, and in erythrocytes; silver is excreted mainly with feces. Silver forms complexes with proteins (globulins in blood, hemoglobin) in the organism. It inhibits enzymes by blocking mercapto groups, which participate in the formation of the active sites in enzymes. In particular, it deprives the adenosine triphosphatase activity of myosine. The biological role of silver has not been sufficiently studied. Silver becomes fixed in inflammation zones upon parenteral injection; in the blood, it combines chiefly with serum globulins.
IU. I. RAETSKAIA
Preparations. Silver preparations exhibit an antibacterial, astringent, and caustic effect, which is associated with their ability to destroy enzyme systems in microorganisms and precipitate proteins. In medicine, the most commonly used preparations are silver nitrate, collargolum, and Protargol (used in the same cases as collargolum). Also included is bactericidal paper, a porous paper impregnated with silver nitrate and silver chloride, which is used for treating minor wounds, abrasions, and burns.
Economic importance. In commercial dealings, silver, together with gold, has provided a universal standard and, like gold, has acquired a special use value; that is, silver has been used as money. “Gold and silver are not by nature money, but money by nature is gold and silver” (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd. ed., vol. 13, p. 137). The commercial world chose silver as a monetary metal because of silver’s uniformity, divisibility, durability, and workability and because silver is portable (high value with low weight and volume).
Silver was originally circulated in bullion form. In countries of the ancient Middle East (Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt), as well as in Greece and Rome, silver was widely used as a monetary metal, along with gold and copper. In ancient Rome, silver coins were first minted between the fourth and third centuries B.C. The first Russian coins were minted from silver in the ninth and tenth centuries A.D.
The minting of gold coins predominated in the early Middle Ages. In the 16th century, a lack of gold supplies, coupled with the development of silver mining in Europe and the influx of silver from America (Peru and Mexico), caused silver to become the basic monetary metal of Europe. Silver monometallism and bimetallism existed in nearly every country during the initial accumulation of capital.
Since gold and silver coins were circulated according to the actual value of the content of precious metal, the relative value of the metals was established spontaneously, under the influence of market factors. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this system of parallel standards was replaced by a bimetallic system, wherein the state employed legislative means to set the ratio of the value of gold to silver. However, this system proved extremely unstable since the workings of the law of value led inevitably to a disparity between the market value and fixed value of gold and silver. The value of silver decreased sharply at the end of the 19th century because of improvements in methods for extracting silver from complex ores (in the 1870’s and 1880’s the value ratio of gold to silver was 1:15-1:16; by the early 20th century, it had fallen to 1:38–1:39). The growth of the world gold output accelerated the displacement of depreciated silver. Gold monometallism became widespread throughout the capitalist world in the last quarter of the 19th century. In most countries the displacement of silver currency by gold was completed by the beginning of the 20th century. Silver currency was retained in many Eastern countries (China, Iran, Afghanistan) until about the mid-1930’s. With the departure of these countries from silver monometallism, silver finally lost its value as a currency metal. In the industrially developed capitalist countries, silver is used only in the minting of coins of small denomination.
The increased use of silver in technology, dentistry, medicine, and jewelry manufacture after World War II coincided with a lag in silver output and created a shortage. Before the war, approximately 75 percent of the yearly silver output was used for monetary purposes. In the years 1950-65 this figure fell to an average of 50 percent and continued to decline in subsequent years, reaching 5 percent in 1971. Many countries have resorted to using copper-nickel alloys as monetary material. Although silver coins are still in circulation, many countries have prohibited the minting of new silver coins, and some have substantially reduced the coins’ silver content. For example, in the United States—according to a law on coin minting passed in 1965—approximately 90 percent of the silver previously used for the minting of coins was allocated to other purposes. The silver content in a 50-cent piece has been reduced from 90 to 40 percent; coins worth 10 and 25 cents, which previously contained 90 percent silver, are now minted without silver admixtures. New silver coins are minted to commemorate certain events (Olympic Games, jubilees, memorials).
In the early 1970’s, the principal consumers of silver were, in addition to the industry producing jewelry, table silver, and an-odized articles, the electrical-engineering, electronics, and motion-picture industries.
The silver market in the 1960’s and early 1970’s has been characterized by an increase in silver prices and by a consistent excess in demand for silver over the production of fresh metal. The deficiency has been made up largely by used metal, particularly the silver obtained from the remelting of coins.
L. M. RAITSIN
REFERENCESRemy, H. Kurs neorganicheskoi khimii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from German.)
Plaksin, I. N. Metallurgiia blagorodnykh metallov. Moscow, 1958.
Kratkaia khimicheskaia entsiklopediia, vol. 4. Moscow, 1965.
Maksimov, M. M. Ocherk o serebre. Moscow, 1974.
Postnikova-Loseva, M. M. Russkoe iuvelirnoe ikusstvo, ego tsentry i mastera. Moscow, 1974.
Link, E. M. Eine Kunst-und Kulturgeschichte des Silbers. Berlin-Frankfurt-Warsaw, 1968. [23–879–]
What does it mean when you dream about silver?
Silver is a precious metal associated with the emotions, the feminine quality, and the moon.