Silver has been known as a precious metal since ancient times, when people in ancient Egypt used the metal in jewelry and ceremonial ornamentation. The Egyptians were trading for silver and acquiring it as tribute, possibly as far back as 5,000 BC. Tombs have been discovered as far back as 2,900 BC .
The bright color and workable properties of silver have surely contributed to the wide use of the metal, and the rarity of it has placed it second only to gold in terms of value since ancient times (although we now have metals that we value more greatly than even gold.) Silver jewelry was worked with gemstones or glass, and was often work in cultures like Greece or Rome to ward off the “evil eye”. Other cultures, such as the Egyptians, wore the jewelry as ornamentation. It was prominently included in burials as well as being worn for ceremonial purposes.
Ancient silver jewelry was worked in several ways, the most common being the hammering of the metal into the correct form, or the casting and pouring of the silver to create the jewelry. This made for somewhat crude jewelry when compared to the standards of today. Another method of jewelry creation involved the use of filigree techniques.
Filigree is the art of wrapping or twisting wire into an intricate design with soldering holding the pieces together properly. These pieces often featured a frame created out of stouter wire, which helped to hold the piece together against the strains of wear. This practice was common in many places throughout Europe and the Middle East, but was not a common practice in Egypt.
Silver continued steadily as a popular metal from which to create jewelry, even up to present day. The metal is mined all over the world, with silver rushes prevalent throughout history wherever a new vein of the metal was found. These rushes brought miners to locations all over the western United States especially, with towns springing up over night and vanishing as soon as the mines ran dry.
Silver has been used often in conjunction with stones in jewelry pieces, and is especially common in modern Native American jewelry from tribes such as the Navajo, who earn a great deal of their income in making jewelry and other crafts for us to enjoy. Today, silver jewelry is so common that it is sold cheaply and is not even locked up in stores. The jewelry is worked with anything from glass to diamonds, and continues as an extremely popular substitute for gold in jewelry.