10 Common Uses of Silver in Everyday Items

Unveiling the Surprising Ways Silver Touches Your Daily Life

Jane Pardo | Updated December 30, 2023

Like gold, silver is a highly valuable metal with amazing uses across industries worldwide.

This shiny metal is the best conductor of electricity and heat, and its malleability makes it easy to reshape without breaking.

Plus, it’s an excellent bullion investment to diversify your precious metals portfolio if you want a low-cost gold alternative.

Let’s explore the common uses of silver in today’s modern world.

Top 10 uses of silver

Here are important silver demand facts to start with:

General silver usesGlobal demand and production
Industrial applications (electronics, solar panels, cars, etc.)Nearly 50% of the global silver demand is for industrial applications.
JewelryAround 17.3% of the global silver demand in 2021 stemmed from the jewelry industry. That’s 181.4 million ounces of silver!
Investment (coins and bars)Roughly 18% of the total global silver demand is for investment purposes.
Global total productionAbout 25,000 metric tons of silver were mined in 2020, with Mexico being the largest silver producer.
Global silver consumptionAlmost 38,000 tons of silver were used worldwide in 2022.

Source: Statista, USGS

1. Electrical and electronic products

silver in electronics

Whether you’re scrolling on your laptop, heating up mac and cheese in the microwave, or watching TV, chances are most of your electronics contain a little bit of silver.

Silver in electronic components

Silver boasts numerous benefits, including the best electrical conductivity of all metals, making it a stellar choice for manufacturing electronic components such as printed circuit boards, TV screens, microwave ovens, and many more.

Silver is the perfect metal for coating electrical contacts. Almost everything around you contains traces of silver, from mobile phones and computers to appliances and electrical switches!

Silver coating on nonmetal surfaces

In recent years, silver has been used to coat nonmetal surfaces to create an electrical pathway without needing wires.

Example: Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) chips are tiny computer chips used for identifying and communicating with items. They have replaced barcodes in many supermarket items and supply chain inventories due to their paper-thin antennas coated with sprayed-on silver.

Silver in 5G technology

Silver consumption also soared in recent years because of the installation of 5G telecommunications infrastructures, which require various electronic components with silver for seamless, dependable performance.

2. Cars

electric car

Silver-coated contacts activate every electrical action in modern vehicles. When you start your car’s engine, open the power windows, and adjust your power seat, all these activities involve a silver membrane switch.

  • In fact, an electric car battery contains around 25 to 50 grams of silver, whereas hybrid vehicles have around 18 to 34 grams of silver.
  • A car with a light internal combustion engine contains roughly 15 to 28 grams of silver.

Looking forward: The race to decarbonize transportation with more efficient electric cars means a surging demand for silver in the automotive industry, and there’s no slowing down!

3. Precious metal investment

silver bars

Like gold, silver is an ever-trusted hedge against inflation and an excellent wealth-building asset.

Silver coins for collectors

Silver coins have monetary value and some also have a numismatic value, making them perfect for those collecting silver. Buy unique coins in excellent condition with a low mintage to increase your collection’s value.

Silver rounds as affordable alternatives

Silver rounds are great if you want lower price points, although they don’t hold a monetary or numismatic value. They are also perfect for your silver coin survivalist stash.

Silver bars for bulk buyers

Silver bars often have lower premiums due to their cheaper production costs, making them a smart choice for bulk buyers looking to get larger volumes of bulk silver bullion at a better value

Tip: When investing in silver, be sure to choose a reputable and trustworthy precious metal dealer to avoid getting fake or damaged items.

4. Jewelry

silver necklace

With its stunning luster and durability, silver has been a favorite in crafting necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and various jewelry for centuries.

You probably own a silver accessory or two, as silver jewelry is beautiful, long-lasting, and much more affordable than gold.

  • Silver jewelry typically comes in the form of sterling silver, which consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% base metal like copper or nickel.
  • Shop high-quality sterling silver to enjoy wearing your shimmering accessories for many years. A tiny 925 hallmark generally indicates genuine sterling silver.

5. Photography

girl holding a camera

Did you know that silver has been used in traditional photography for decades owing to its light sensitivity?

Even with the popularity of digital photography, silver still plays a valuable role in creating high-quality photographic images and preventing illegal copying.

  • Light-sensitive silver halides, silver iodide, silver bromide, and silver chloride are essential in making photographic films and photographic papers.
  • Silver-based films and silver in X-rays are very common across the globe.

Even your digital cameras contain tiny amounts of silver!

6. Silverware

silver fork and knife utensils

Silverware is one of the most common silver uses in everyday life, as it adds timeless beauty, elegance, and style to any table setting.

  • This precious metal has excellent corrosion and oxidization resistance.
  • It’s also less chemically reactive than other metals, which means no unpleasant taste when food comes in contact with silver cutlery.

Gold is, in fact, less reactive but very expensive. Historically, only wealthy monarchs could afford gold cutlery. Throughout centuries until today, silver has been the perfect choice for crafting beautiful and durable tableware designed for regular, long-lasting use.

Silverware can still tarnish, but a little polish can bring back its lovely shine.

7. Solar panels

solar panels on a roof

The demand for silver in solar photovoltaic cells (PV) surged in recent years as more and more countries transition to renewable energy sources.

Silver boasts the best thermal and electrical conductivity, making it a stellar material for solar panels. It’s unmatched when it comes to energy output for every solar panel.

  • PV cells use silver as conductive ink to convert sunlight into electricity.
  • Solar cells contain silver paste that allows electrons to go into storage or consumption as needed.

Looking forward: The worldwide use of silver for solar panels is around 100 million ounces per year! With solar power installations becoming a global trend, experts forecast that the demand for silver will continue to soar in the coming years.

8. Silver brazing alloy

silver brazing alloy wires

Silver is an essential component of soldering or brazing, a process that involves joining together metal pieces like electrical wires, pipes, and faucets. It helps create smooth, electrically conductive, corrosion-resistant, and leakproof joints.

Silver brazing alloys are present everywhere, from your air conditioning unit and refrigerator to your car and lamps. They are critical in the automotive, electronics, and aerospace industries due to their excellent heat and corrosion resistance.

Additionally, silver-tin solders are outstanding alternatives to harmful lead-based solders for bonding copper pipes in homes.

Silver continues to be a much-preferred substitution for traditional tin-lead solders containing hazardous substances like lead and mercury.

9. Medical uses

doctors operating on patient with a breathing tube

Historically, people stored wine, water, and vinegar in silver vessels to maintain freshness. Battlefield wounds during wars were covered with silver foil and closed with silver sutures.

Silver-coated medical devices

  • Today, adding silver coatings to medical devices, like catheters and breathing tubes, helps combat infections thanks to the antibacterial properties of silver.
  • Additionally, applying silver to artificial bones and scaffolds for bone healing helps prevent infections.

Silver-embedded medical equipment

Because silver ions can penetrate bacterial walls and destroy bacteria, many health facilities now use silver-embedded equipment, including surgical tools and stethoscopes, to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Silver has also been added to ointments and bandages to help the body heal faster.

Colloidal silver

Colloidal silver products containing tiny amounts of silver floating in liquid are typically marketed as a dietary supplement for mouth intake or topical treatment to apply on the skin. However, there’s no proven research to back up manufacturers’ health claims.

10. Mirrors

large telescope

Silver is a lustrous transition material with the highest reflectivity of all metals, making it an exceptional material for mirror metal plating.

  • It reflects 95% light and forms a smooth mirror coating.
  • Plus, it’s a low-density material with a lower weight than other white-colored metals.
  • Silver also doesn’t react with dry oxygen or moist air, so it’s the best non-corrosive material for crafting good-quality mirrors that last many years.

Silver coatings are widely used in optical mirror applications, particularly large telescopes for astronomy purposes and the aerospace industry. Not only are they highly reflective, but they also resist tarnishing and increase adhesion.

Example: The Kepler Mission, a NASA mission to explore planetary systems, used silver-coated optical mirrors to observe the brightness of stars and accurately identify planetary movement.

Final thoughts

With numerous applications ranging from industrial to technological, silver continues to be a much sought-after precious metal worldwide.

As the world continues to innovate and embrace sustainable solutions, we expect silver demand to grow, further solidifying its status as a valuable and versatile metal in the modern world.

Want to know about the modern uses of gold? Explore the top 10 uses of gold next to learn what drives gold demand!

Written by Jane Pardo

Jane Pardo

Jane Pardo is our senior gold & silver expert. Jane lends insight into precious metals investing, collecting, testing, and maintenance.