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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/279

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275
SILVER

From 400 to 500 tons of the metal is at present being consumed by the world in manufactures and the arts. Such parts as are used in photography and by the chemist may be regarded as lost, and it amounts to as much as 50 tons per year. The balance becomes table ware, jewelry and ornaments. About 5,000 tons goes into coinage. Fifty per cent, of this is minted in Asia, approximately twenty-five per cent, in Europe, fifteen per cent, in Mexico and South America and the balance in the United States. All this, except the coinage of India,. Mexico and Japan, is bought by the various governments at the commodity value of the metal, and after taking the stamp of the mint goes out to the public on the basis of the old ratio of 16 to 1 as compared with gold. The difference is absorbed as profit, under the name of seignorage. This profit to the treasuries of the civilized nations is now amounting to something more than $10,000,000 per annum, and is somewhat of the nature of a fraud on the people, though with the existing conventions in the matter of money and coinage it is not easy to say how the fraud can be avoided.

Considered wholly by itself, and from the standpoint of its purely physical properties, silver is yet a precious metal. Its pure white color and soft luster can not be approached in aluminum, tin, nickel or any other metal, and though it tarnishes quickly, and has not the resistant qualities of gold to the action of acids and of sulphur, yet no metal we at present know of can take its place for small coinage, or for ordinary table ware and decorative purposes. Aside from these uses it is the best conductor of electricity of all known substances, and there may be a special future for it in the wonderful-development of that new servant of man. Perhaps as the science of wireless telegraphy and telephony advances silver may come to be employed in the reproduction of sound waves when great distances must be bridged, or extreme delicacy of enunciation is desired. Yet copper approaches it so closely in electric sensitiveness, and is so much more abundant, and consequently cheaper, that we are not likely to do much of our talking in the future over silver wires.

The world's crop of silver during the } r ear 1907 amounted to about 0,400 tons, and came from the following parts of the globe in about the quantities given:

Tons Tons
Mexico 2,300 Europe 760
United States 1,900 Australasia 440
South America 420 Japan 120
Canada 400 China and Malaysia 15
Central America 30 Africa 10
6,400