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Silver has been known and used for thousands of years and it is
considered as one of the three precious metals along with gold and
platinum. Pure silver is very soft metal with its lustrous white color.
Although it is harder than gold and much more plentiful, but still too soft in
its natural state and required to be mixed with a harder metal for the use in
jewelry manufacturing. It ranks second in ductility and malleability to gold. It
is normally stable in pure air and water but tarnishes when exposed to
ozone, hydrogen sulfide or sulfur.
Silver is the brightest reflector of any metal (except for liquid mercury) and
can be polished to a high sheen that even platinum can't achieve. It has
also the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals, even
higher than copper. Most silver is produced as a by-product of copper,
gold, lead, and zinc mining. Commercial grade fine silver is at least 99.9%
pure silver and purities greater than 99.999% are available. Mexico is the
world's largest silver producer which contributed 15% of the annual
production of the world. Canada, Peru, Australia and the United States are
the other major countries, which are producing silver.