Silver is a somewhat rare and expensive coinage metal, although neither as rare nor expensive as gold. Unlike gold, it has a brilliant white luster. Silver is very ductile and malleable, only slightly less so than gold, and a little harder and less dense. Silver is resistant to tarnishing in pure air and water, but exposure to ozone, sulphur, hydrogen sulphide and other compounds will cause tarnishing. In chemist terms, the tarnish is an accumulation of silver sulphide. Silver has a wide variety of industrial applications. Among other things, silver compounds form the basis of conventional photography and x-ray technologies.
As a coinage metal, silver can exhibit a wondrous satiny luster and hold the tiniest of coin details. Proof coins made from silver are a true delight to the eye, though such coins can be difficult to photograph.
Silver coins can be finished in a number of ways. Because it is such a beautiful coinage metal, a proof coin of silver is often held up as among the finest example of the minters art, with backgrounds holding a highly mirrored finish and raised sections often appearing as a lustrous white satin.
Another beautiful option is to gold select. In this technique, a selected portion of the coin receives gold plating, resulting in a two tone effect, with gold contrasting with the silver.
An antique finish can also be applied, resulting in a distinctive aged appearance to the coin. Enameling can also be done.
As a precious metal, silver is traded in bullion form, and bullion coins are a trading commodity subject to the market price of silver. As a raw material, it comes to the mint in a variety of forms: as bars and rounds of silver bullion, as silver ingots, or as billets. Bullion or ingots must be melted down and formed into billets, a cylindrical form of silver of slightly over 400 Troy ounces. Care is required when melting silver because of a tendency of the metal to absorb oxygen when molten, a significant problem if the material is destined to be unblemished coins. Silver can also arrive at the mint as billets already formed. The billets are then extruded into a strip that is ready for blanking.
Firehouse Coins is a part of Northwest Territorial Mint, one of the Country’s largest and most respected minters of fine custom coins and medallions.
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