The term "silver" has been around for about 800 years, and it was derived from the Old English word "seolfor," which was the name for the important metal. By contrast, the chemical symbol for silver, Ag, comes from the Latin word for silver "argentum." The Latin term likely originated from the Greek term "argos," which refers to shiny or white objects.
Silver has been an important metal for thousands of years. Thought to have been discovered after gold and copper, silver mines have been found in Turkey and Greece that date back to the year 3,000 B.C. Silver does occur in its pure form in the natural world, but it is more abundant as ores, which contain other chemicals in addition to the silver. Ancient Central American and South American cultures also mined and used silver. Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Greece, Turkey and Germany have rich deposits of the metal.
Ancient people mined silver ore and engaged in crude refining processes. After they melted down the silver ore, warm air drafts were blown over it. The chemicals in the air would bind with the non-silver components, leaving only pure silver behind.
Scientists classify silver as a transition metal, while geologists classify it as a precious metal. Precious metals are relatively rare in the Earth’s crust.