Silver’s history is long. The first evidence of silver mining dates back to 3000 B.C., in Turkey and Greece, according to the RSC. Ancient people even figured out how to refine silver. They heated the silver ore and blew air over it, a process called Cupellation. The silver does not react to the air but the base metals such as lead and copper oxidize and separate from the precious metal.

Silver forms in star explosions called supernovae, as does gold. A study published in September 2012 in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics found that smaller stars that explode produce silver, while larger stars produce gold.

Silver really exploded on Earth, however, when Europeans landed on the New World in 1492, Spanish conquerors discovered that South America was home to rich veins of silver and silver ore and they mined that wealth enthusiastically; according to the Silver Institute, an industry trade group, 85 percent of the silver produced worldwide came from Bolivia, Peru and Mexico between 1500 and 1800.

Silver played a big role in making early photography possible. Silver nitrate (silver combined with nitrogen and oxygen molecules) was used on photographic plates in the first, clunky cameras, according to the RSC because it reacts to light by turning black enabling photographers to capture an instant of light. Even with the rise of digital cameras, silver remains part of the traditional photographic process.

Silver consumption in India has increased multi-fold in the past one decade, going by a report on the precious metal released recently by the Silver Institute. According to the World Silver Survey 2018, around 601 tonnes were used in the country in 2008 for jewellery making and rose to 2,058 tonnes in 2017. In the same period, the use of the metal in silverware rose from 481 tonnes to 1,212 tonnes.

As a result, India’s share of silver demand for jewellery and silverware in world market also increased from 14.7 per cent in 2008 to 39.2 per cent in 2017. During the decade, India imported nearly 45,000 tonnes of the metal. The trend for gold demand in jewellery and as an investment is quite different, having fallen in both categories in the country.

Most of the demand increase took place during the past five years. Going by the import figures, average annual import of silver between 2008 and 2012 was 3,080 tonnes and rose to 5,800 tonnes between 2013 and 2017. Increase in industrial use of silver was significant during the period.

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