San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide
[Silver. Collection of the San Diego Natural History Museum.]


The origin of the word "silver" is unknown, but is probably Anglo-Saxon.

Description and Occurrence

Silver generally forms as wires, dendrites (branching, tree-like masses), or compact masses. It may form as a cube or octahedron, but this is a rare occurrence. Untarnished silver appears silver-white. Tarnish may change its color to yellow, brown, lead-gray, or black. Silver is a native metal, which means it can be found in an uncombined metallic form.

Silver is very soft, malleable, and can be easily shaped. It conducts heat and electricity. Silver is used in mirrors, coins, photography, chemistry, electronics, and jewelry.

The world's largest producer of silver is the Guanajuato mine in Mexico. Silver has been extracted from this mine since the 1500s. Other significant sources of silver are in North America and Russia.

Field Notes: Silver has a distinctive silver-white color. It's dense, but soft and malleable.

Physical Properties

Color Streak Transparency Luster Hardness Cleavage Fracture Specific gravity Crystal form
silver-white, tarnishes to yellow, brown, lead-gray, black white or lead-gray translucent to opaque metallic 2.5 to 3 none hackly, ductile 10 to 11 isometric

Photo: Silver. Collection of the San Diego Natural History Museum
Photo credit: Linda West

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