The best thermal electrical conductor of all metals, silver is widely used in electronics and several other industries, such as jewellery.

Silver (Ag)

While silver has a long history in jewellery and coinage, today its number one use is in electronics. It is the best thermal electrical conductor of all metals. From cell phones to solar panels, new innovations continue to emerge that require silver. Silver can be found all around the world, with Mexico being the top producer and Peru holding the largest reserves. Silver is mostly extracted from lead-zinc, copper, gold, and copper-nickel ores as a by-product from mining these other metals. Silver has very high price volatility, with complex market dynamics.

Silver is most strongly associated with pollution impacts. These are frequently reported in various countries in South America and often provoke low-level conflicts between silver mining companies and the local communities. Silver is also associated with governance risks, often revolving around mineral smuggling in association with gold.

Main Uses and Attributes

Silver is corrosion-resistant and the best thermal electrical conductor of all the metals. It is therefore ideal for electrical applications. Its antimicrobial, non-toxic qualities make it useful in medicine and consumer products. For example, silver nanoparticles are used in clothing to prevent bacteria from digesting sweat and forming unpleasant odours. Silver threads are woven into the fingertips of gloves so that they can be used with touchscreen phones.1

Silver is used to make mirrors, as it is the best reflector of visible light (although it does tarnish with time).2 Silver bromide and iodide were important for the development of photography, due to their sensitivity to light. Even with the rise of digital photography, silver salts are still important in producing high-quality images and protecting against illegal copying.3

Silver can be ground into flakes, converted into a salt, alloyed with other metals, flattened into printable sheets, drawn into wires, suspended as a colloid, or used as a catalyst.4 While its long history in jewellery and coinage seem to sustain its status as a symbol of wealth, its unique qualities ensure its continued use in industrial sectors.

Today, the number one use of silver in industry is in electronics, due to its thermal and electrical conductivity. For example, small quantities of silver are used as contacts in electrical switches. Automobiles are full of contacts that control electronic features, and so are a variety of consumer appliances.

Main Uses

  • Batteries
  • Currency
  • Electronics
  • Jewellery
  • Metal Alloys
  • Printed Circuit Boards

Key Industries

  • Automotive
  • Electronics and Communications
  • Financial Services
  • Jewellery

Key Countries

Top Producer Mexico
Top Reserves Peru

Supply Chain Risk

TDi assesses Silver for key risks affecting the security of supply, and for its association with artisanal and small-scale mining.

Overall Supply Chain Resilience Risk
Strength of Association with ASM
Very Low Moderate Very High

Country Governance Risks

Silver's association with countries experiencing:

Violence and Conflict
Weak Rule of Law
Poor Human Rights
Poor Environmental Governance
Very Low Moderate Very High

Association with ESG issues

TDi Sustainability's data rates Silver's association with the following issues as high or very high:

Very Low Moderate Very High

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