Posted May 25th 2016

Silver is a metallic element with atomic number 47 and the symbol Ag, which comes from the Latin argentum – meaning ‘grey’ or ‘shining’. It is considered a precious metal and is far more abundant than gold. Silver is also a transition metal and has the highest electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity and reflectivity of any metal. It occurs naturally in its pure form as well as an alloy with gold and other metals, and in minerals such as argentine.

Silver is ductile and malleable. It has a white metal lustre that can be polished to a brilliant finish, making it highly popular for use in jewellery making. It is also cheaper and therefore far more economical than other precious metals such as gold or platinum. It is also the most electrically conductive of all metals, including copper. The reason it is not used widely for electrical purposes is due to the higher cost than other materials. Despite this, it is used often in radio-frequency engineering, where silver plating is used to improve electrical conductivity of parts and wires.

The most well-known uses of silver are in currency, jewellery and decorative items. It was used as a form of currency from approximately 700 BC, in the form of electrum, and after that in its pure form although in the 20th century most countries moved away from this in favour of a flat currency system. Interestingly, the name ‘pound sterling’ comes from the fact that originally the name represented one pound Tower weight of sterling silver. Silver coins are still minted in some countries, usually as a commemorative or collectible item.

Silver jewellery and silverware are usually made from sterling silver, an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Sterling silver is harder than pure silver, making it more durable for everyday use, and has a lower melting point. It is often plated with a very thin coat of .999 fine silver to give the item a brilliant, shiny finish, in a process known as flashing. It can also be plated with rhodium and gold, depending on the desired finish.

Other lesser known uses of silver include water purification, air conditioning, dentistry, photography and electronics.

The principal sources of silver are the ores of copper, copper-nickel and lead. These are mainly found in Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, China, Australia, Chile, Poland and Serbia. Today the price of silver is far less than gold. In the past silver has been much more expensive with prices during the 15th century estimated to have been equivalent to approximately US$1,200 per ounce. With the discovery of more silver deposits throughout the world, however, the price of silver has gradually diminished to reflect its current value today.



Posted May 18th 2016

The term ‘transition metals’ is generally used to describe any element in the d-block of the periodic table, which includes groups 3 to 12. A transition metal is an element whose atom has a partially filled d sub shell, or which can give rise to cations with an incomplete d sub shell. Some of the more well-known transitional metals include titanium, iron, manganese, nickel, copper, cobalt, silver, mercury and gold. Three of the most noteworthy elements are iron, cobalt and nickel as they are only elements known to produce a magnetic field.

There are several properties identified in the transition elements that are not found in other elements, as a result of their partially filled d shell. These include the formation of compounds whose colour is due to d-d electronic transitions, the formation of compounds in many oxidation states and the formation of many paramagnetic compounds due to the presence of unpaired d electrons. Transition metals are generally hard and dense, and less reactive than any of the alkali metals.

Some of the main shared properties of transition metals can be identified as the below:

· They form coloured compounds
· They are good conductors of heat and electricity
· They can be bent into shape easily
· They are less reactive than alkali metals
· They have high melting points
· They are usually hard and tough with high densities.

There are exceptions to this and not all transition metals will possess these properties though. Transition metals have a wide variety of uses, with some of the main ones listed below:

· Iron – iron is often made into steel, which is stronger and more easily shaped than iron on its own. It is widely used in construction materials, tools, vehicles and as a catalyst in the manufacture of ammonia.
· Titanium – often used in fighter aircrafts, artificial hips and pipes in nuclear power stations.
· Copper – because it is such a good conductor of electricity, copper is often used in electricity cables. It is easily bent and does not react with water so it is also often used to make water pipes.
· Nickel – nickel is mainly used in Stainless Steel.



Posted May 5th 2016

Metal can be used for many things but one thing it has always been popular as is a material used to sculpt. Below we take a look at some of the most famous metals sculptures worldwide and their significance.

The Angel of the North, Gateshead

Located near Gateshead in Tyne and Wear, the Angel of the North spread its wings in 1998. Designed by Sir Antony Gormley, the angel stands 20 metres tall with wings measuring 54 metres across. It is sculpted from weather-resistant steel in Hartlepool and took 5 hours to be transported from the site of construction to its destination. It also contains a tiny amount of copper that allows for a patina on the surface that mellows with age. Not only the largest sculpture in Britain, it is believed to be the largest angel sculpture in the world, and is one of the regions most famous artworks.

The Hollywood Sign, LA

Sitting high above the Hollywood Hills in LA, the famous Hollywood Sign rests on Mount Lee in the Santa Monica mountains. The 45 foot tall white letters stretch out for 350 feet and have become one of the most famous landmarks of the area, frequently appearing in popular culture. The sign was first erected in 1923 made from a combination of wood and sheet metal. It originally spelled out Hollywoodland and was covered in 4,000 light bulbs which would flash on and off intermittently. The original sign was only intended to last a year and a half, however, after the rise of American cinema it became an internationally recognized symbol and was left standing. Not surprisingly, the sign deteriorated rapidly and in 1978 it was fully restored with replacement letters made of steel and supporting steel columns.

The Statue of Liberty, New York

Perhaps one of the most recognisable statues of all time, the Statue of Liberty is a colossal structure in New York harbor made of a mix of copper, wrought iron and steel. A gift from the people of France to the United States, the statue is a symbol of freedom and democracy. She stands at a total height of 305 feet and 6 inches, when measure from base to the tip of her torch and weighs 225 tonnes. Although not originally included in the design of the statue, during her restoration in 1986 the torch was carefully covered with thin sheets of 24 carat gold. Here light green tinge is the result of the copper used for her skin, which is less than an inch thick.

The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid was designed by Edvard Eriksen and is a bronze statue that depicts a mermaid sitting on a rock at the waterside in Copenhagen. Based on the fairytale by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, the statue is a popular tourist attraction and an iconic symbol of the city. Although she has been vandalized several times since her unveiling in 1913, the statue is always lovingly restored. According to legend the statue that sits in the water at Copenhagen is not the original, rather the original is kept in a secret place by the Eriksen heirs.