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atomic number of silver, symbol Ag, liquid mercury, transition elements, sodium cyanide

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Silver, symbol Ag, white, lustrous metallic element that conducts heat and electricity better than any other metal. Silver is one of the transition elements of the periodic table. The atomic number of silver is 47.

Silver has been known and valued as an ornamental and coinage metal since ancient times. Silver mines in Asia Minor were probably worked before 2500 bc. The alchemists called the metal Luna or Diana after the goddess of the moon and ascribed to it the symbol of a crescent moon. The elementís name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for the metal.


Silver is usually recovered from silver ores by roasting the ore in a furnace to convert the sulfides to sulfates and then chemically precipitating metallic silver. Several metallurgical processes are used to extract silver from ores of other metals. In the amalgamation process, liquid mercury, which forms an amalgam with the silver, is added to the crushed ore. After the amalgam is washed out of the ore the mercury is removed by distillation, leaving metallic silver. In lixiviation methods the silver is dissolved in a solution of a salt, usually sodium cyanide, after which metallic silver is precipitated by bringing the solution in contact with metallic zinc or aluminum. The impure silver obtained in the metallurgical processes is usually refined by electrolytic methods or by cupellation, a process that involves removing impurities by vaporization or absorption.


Lewin, Seymour Z., M.S., Ph.D.

Professor of Chemistry, New York University.

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