This metal possesses great interest. Its frequent mention in the Scriptures—the shekels of silver, and the talents of silver—indicates its ancient use and application as money. It is one of those metals which the alchemists of old termed " noble " metals, because they found that it could not be rusted; moreover, they could not dissolve it in any menstruum they possessed. Fire only made it brighter. Allusion is made to this fact in the Book of Job, to illustrate the triumph of a good heart over misfortune. Silver is found in all parts of the world, and England yields its share. Bishop Watson, one of our early chemical writers, says that the silver which was procured from the mines in Cardiganshire by Sir Hugh Middleton, amounting to 2,000 value per month, enabled him to construct that valuable work which we call the New River, for the purpose of supplying a portion of London with water. The bishop also mentions that a mint was established at Aberystwith for coining silver. In the English mines this metal is found mixed with lead, from which it is separated by a very simple process invented by Mr. Pattison, of Newcastle. The mixed metal is melted in an iron pot, and is then al. lowed to cool. The silver " sets" before the lead, and is then separated by simply straining it through a colander. Silver can be beaten out into leaves so thin that one grain of it can be made to cover a surface of more than fifty square inches. Wire also can be drawn from it finer than a human hair. In these respects it has a nearer resemblance to gold than any other metal. With the mechanical qualities of silver most readers are pretty well acquainted; but as very little is known of its chemical qualities, it may be well to mention them. Silver has, as it were, a determination to exist in no other form than in the metallic state in which we generally see it; and although the chemist may dissolve it, and overcome its " nobility," yet it is so prone to assume its natural state, that even daylight will restore it to its pristine beauty. It is here that chemistry shows its great power in adapting a peculiar property of a material to some use in the arts and manufactures. So we see that silver is the main instrument in the photographic art. Silver is dissolved, some salt is added, you look at it, and the result is that your shadow is their indelibly printed. The poets may well liken soft-flowing rivers to " silver thre ads covering the green velvet of the earth ;" but such types are prosy when we compare them with the painting after life produced by a sunbeam on a fabric imbued with silver. Again, how carefully the good housewife marks her linen! She well knows how it is thus preserved for her own use, but perhaps is not aware of the fact that the indelible ink is nothing more than the solution of a five-cent piece, for which she willingly pays ten cents. Sometimes a little fungus takes up its abode on the human skin; it grows very fast, but does not cause much pain; nevertheless, it is so insidious that if not carefully watched it would destroy life. The doctor comes, he rubs it over with a little caustic, and health is restored. If you ask what this caustic is called, the answer is " nitrate of silver." SEPTIMUS PIESSE.
This article was originally published with the title "Silver and its Uses"