Silver is a brilliant grey-white metal that is soft and malleable. The mining of silver began some 5000 years ago, with the first mine being in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). The principal sources of silver are the ores of silver, silver-nickel, lead, and lead-zinc obtained from Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, China, Australia, Chile, Poland, and Serbia. Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico have been mining silver since 1546, and are still major world producers. Just over half of the mined silver comes from Mexico, Peru, China, and Australia, the four largest producing countries. Primary mines produce about one-third of the world silver, while around two-thirds come as a by-product of gold, copper, lead, and zinc mining. The top three silver-producing mines are Cannington (Australia), Fresnillo (Mexico), and San Cristobal (Bolivia). In Central Asia, Tajikistan is known to have some of the largest silver deposits in the world.

Silver has innumerable applications in art, science, industry and beyond. At the highest level, though, demand for silver breaks down into three important categories: silver in industry, investment, and silver jewellery and décor. Together, these three areas represent more than 95% of the annual silver demand. With unique properties, including its strength, malleability, and ductility; its electrical and thermal conductivity; its sensitivity to and high reflectance of light; and the ability to endure extreme temperature; it is an element without substitution.

Commercial-grade fine silver is at least 99.9% pure, and purities greater than 99.999% are available.