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                           Mineral of the Month--September

                              Native Silver



                                               Native Silver

                                              By Ken Casey

Chemistry & Science
Mining Stories
Members' Gallery
Article Contributors
Photo & Graphics Credits
Suggested Reading
Invitation to Members
Past Minerals of the Month
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Prized by the ancients and modern people alike...


...native silver is recognized by many!

(Top, left):Native Silver Crystals
Photo by and courtesy of IC Minerals  2006

(Top, right): Silver ore
Photo by and courtesy of Stan Celestian 2006


     This month, we are scoping out a native mineral favorite: Silver.

     Many of us are familiar with the everyday uses of this precious metal, such as jewelry,
silverware, and coinage.  There are few lesser known, yet important ways that silver is
woven into our lives, sometimes without us even knowing it.

     We shall explore some of these novel silver incarnations, in addition to some science,
and a lot of pictures.  Let's go!



     Welcome to another Mineral-of-the-Month installment! 

     This month, we are featuring Native Silver.  This noble metal is a favorite of pure element
collectors and conneseurs.  Many of us may have admired or even own some obvious silver
items, such as, rings, flatware, and old money.  But, how many of us use silver differently? 

     We will explore one of these mysterious uses, along with some chemistry, and perhaps
a mining story, if there's time.  Enjoy!


Chemistry & Science

     Silver is one of the world's most well-known metals.  It's ore and its native state as element
speaks to purity in nature's chemical simplicity.  Though silver oxides to black when exposed
to air, even the novice could guess it's identity, if asked by an experienced rockhound, teacher,
or scientist.

     From the Latin "argentum", we get the familiar Periodic Table symbol "Ag".  From the
Anglo-Saxon "seolfor" we derive today's pronunciation of "silver".

     Compounded, it may be used in specialty batteries (Silver, Zinc, Cadmium), and as Silver
Iodide (AgI) as a catalyst for rain in clouding seeding.  Silver nitrate (AgNO3) is the active
silver employed in photographic paper and films. (Jefferson Lab)

     Known for about five milennia in nature from Argentite (Ag2S) and "horn silver" (AgCl), it
occurs with metal sulfides and ores of gold, copper, and lead.

     To grow your own silver crystals in your home lab, you need three ingredients: copper wire,
silver nitrate, and mercury.  (As these chemicals are known poisons, I would suggest this
experiment for the experienced adult hobbyist, who uses all of the appropriate safety tools,
and procedures.) 

     If you want to see a virtual process, go to How To Grow Silver Crystals

     We will concentrate on the simple chemistry of silver's embodiement in a product called
Precious Metal Clay (PMC).  Also, our photos will show us raw specimens from the field of
native silver and silver ores.

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Dzezkasghan, Kazakhastan
Photo by and Courstesy of Isaias Casanova
White Pine Mine, White Pine, Michigan
Photo by and Courstesy of Isaias Casanova


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Copper with Silver,
White Pine Mine, Ontonagon County, Michigan
Photo by and Courstesy of Isaias Casanova
Copper on Silver,
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Photo by and Courstesy of Isaias Casanova


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Silver, Elongated arborescent form
Photo by and Courtesy of Stan Celestian


Native Wire Silver, Mexico
Photo by and Courtesy of Stan Celestian


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Native Silver Wire Form
Photo by and Courtesy of Stan Celestian


Silver Ore
Courtesy of
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Silver Nugget
Courtesy of


     The main use for Silver is coinage, followed by jewelry and silverware in the experience
of the average person.  Industrial uses include high-capacity batteries and silver emulsion
photo chemicals
, as manufactured by Kodak.

     Our focus here will be the reclaimed product Precious Metal Clay (PMC).  It is colloidal
silver particles recovered from the recycle of photograph films, chemicals, and products.  
This relatively new concept towards reusing silver was developed by Japanese scientists at
the Mitsubishi Materials Special Products Division in the 1990s.  (Society of American Silversmiths)

     Today, the jeweler or craftsperson can model pieces similar to those they had to formerly
cast using the lost wax method.  Fine detail can be captured, rendering one with a fine work,
suitable for sale or enjoyment.  Yes, when completed, your project will be solid fine silver!

     How does it work?   Well, let's start with the basics.  PMC is made from fine silver particles,
water, and an organic binder.  When fired either with a torch, or in a kiln, the water and binder
burn off, leaving us with solid silver.  They clay volume does shrink a bit, due to the release of
the other ingredients, so one must size their work accordingly.  (There are guidelines for working
this fantastic formulation, so I will add some links for you below.)

pmc+157.jpg (6469 bytes)      I have not yet made opportunity to use this product.  Numerous
television and craft shows have featured projects utilizing this novel
clay.  Among them are: Jewelry Making with Jackie Guerra on the
DIY Network.    

     I have made jewelry from it's sister product Polymer Art Clay with good results.  My projects include faux lapidary stones, such as agates, lapis, and turquoise.  Some observe that working with clay can be therapeutic, both for the hand muscles and the psyche.  To kids, it is mostly about having fun.  (The firing step of PMC should not be performed by children, as it is a safety hazard.  This step should be performed by a responsible adult or craftsperson.)

     Good crafting and crystal growing to you.  May your own labs and work benches be filled
with the safely-produced works or your hands, tools, and imaginations!



The PMC Guild

Society of American Silversmiths: Precious Metal Clay

Metal Clay: Sandia PMC Guild Metal Clay Jewelry


Silver Mineral Data

Mining Silver in Colorado


Mining Stories

     I'll just touch upon the story of a 15-year man, named Sam Sherwin.  He went out west
in 1885 frontier times to seek his fortune in silver.  I won't spoil the tale for you.  So, just
go to Mining Silver in Colorado to read more.

     Other rip-roarin' tales abound, at least for the history of 19th century United States.  I'm
sure that many miners, collectors, and prospectors around the world have their own unique
experiences.  Those are stories for another article.

World Museum of Mining and Hell Roarin' Gulch



Members' Gallery

Here is where DMS Members can add their Silver photos to share with us.


Until Next Time

     We hope you have enjoyed our all too short visit to Native Silver.  Please join us next month,
for another article, and we shall journey together!
     Until then, stay safe, and happy collecting. hardhat2a.gif (5709 bytes)



Article Contributors

Photo & Graphics Credits

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the generous contributions of our fellow Silver
enthusiasts, collectors, authors, curators, professionals, and club members who made this
work possible. 

Isaias Casanova, IC Minerals

Stan Celestian, Glendale Community College


2006  All contributions to this article are covered under the copyright protection of this article
and by separate and several copyright protection(s), and are to be used for the sole purposes of
enjoying this scholarly article.  They are used gratefully with express written permission of the
authors, save for generally-accepted scholarly quotes, short in nature, deemed legal to reference
with the appropriate citation and credit.
  Reproduction of this article must be obtained by express
written permission of the author, Kenneth B. Casey, for his contributions, authoring, photos, and
graphics.  Use of all other credited materials requires permission of each contributor separately

Links and general contact information are included in the credits above, and throughout this article.
The advice offered herein are only suggestions; it is the reader's charge to use the information
contained herein responsibly.  DMS is not responsible for misuse or accidents caused from this
article. All opinions, theories, proofs, and views expressed within this article, and in others on this
website, do not necessarily reflect the views of the Delaware Mineralogical Society. 

Suggested Reading

Mountains of Silver: The Story of Colorado's Red Mountain Mining District by P. David Smith

Silver and Gold Mining Camps of the Old West: A State by State American Encyclopedia
by Sandy Nestor


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   About the Author:  Ken is current webmaster of the Delaware Mineralogical Society.  He has a diploma in Jewelry Repair, Fabrication & Stonesetting from the Bowman Technical School, Lancaster, PA, and worked as jeweler.  He has also studied geology at the University of Delaware.  And, he is currently a member of the Delaware Mineralogical Society and the Franklin-Ogdensburg Mineralogical Society.  E-mail:

Invitation to Members


Want to see your name in print?  Want to co-author, contribute, or author a whole Mineral of the Month article?  Well, this the forum for you!

And Members, if you have pictures, or a story you would like to share, please feel free to offer.  We'd like to post them for our mutual enjoyment.   Of course, you get full photo and author credit, and a chance to reach other collectors, hobbyists, and scientists.  We only ask that you check your facts, give credit where it is due, keep it wholesome for our Junior Members watching, and keep on topic regarding rockhounding.

You don't even have to be experienced in making a webpage.  We can work together to publish your story.  A handwritten short story with a Polaroid will do.  If you do fancier, a text document with a digital photo will suit, as well.   Sharing is the groundwork from which we can get your story out there.

Our club's webpages can reach any person surfing the net in the world, and even on the International Space Station, if they have a mind to view our website!

We are hoping for a possible tie-in to other informative programs upon which our fellow members might want to collaborate.  Contact any officer or board member with your suggestions.

Our next MOTM will be a surprise.  For 2005-6, we are waiting for your suggestions.  What mineral do you want to know more about?

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Most of the Mineral of the Month selections have come from most recent club fieldtrips and March Show Themes, and from inspriring world locales. thus far.  If you have a suggestion for a future Mineral of the Month, please e-mail me at:, or tell me at our next meeting.



Past Minerals of the Month
August 2006 Mineral of the Month: Kryptonite
July 2006 Mineral of the Month: Azurite
June 2006 Mineral of the Month: Pyromorphite
May 2006 Mineral of the Month: Tsavorite by Karissa Hendershot
April 2006 Mineral of the Month: Variscite
March 2006 Mineral of the Month: Petrified Wood, Part II
February 2006 Mineral of the Month: Petrified Wood, Part I
January 2006 Mineral of the Month: Strontianite by Karissa Hendershot
December Mineral of the Month: Clinozoisite
November Mineral of the Month: Bismuth
October Mineral of the Month: Wulfenite by Karissa Hendershot
September Mineral of the Month: Turquoise
August Mineral of the Month: Peridot
July Mineral of the Month: Ruby
June Mineral of the Month: Antarctic Fluorite
May Mineral of the Month: Dolomite, Part 2
April Mineral of the Month: Dolomite, Part 1
March Mineral of the Month: Calcite
February Mineral of the Month: Agate
January Mineral of the Month: Fluorite
December Mineral of the Month: Pyrite
November Mineral of the Month: Stilbite  
October Mineral of the Month: Celestite   

This page last updated:  February 19, 2011 10:14:50 AM




Next Meeting

April Program, Monday, April 8, 2013:

"Destruction of the Fossil Exposures in the Chesapeake Bay Area" presented by Dr. Lauck Ward

General Club Meeting:
April 8, 2013

We are meeting at
Greenbank Mill

Special Meetings:

*Show Committee Meeting, April or May, 2013

*New Home/Lapidary Committee, 2013

*Board Meeting,  April, 2013

Next Field Trips


Past Fieldtrips

Next Show
DMS March Show
March 1-2, 2014 at DelTech Stanton


Our 2013 Show Theme was:
"All That Glitters is as Good as Gold!"

March Show 2013 Report






Fossil Forum

"Dinny, the Dino"

"Belemnites are coming"


MOTM June also commemorates our 50th Show!

It's shiny, yellow, and is a symbol of 50 Years!Can you guess?


Collecting Adventure Stories:

"Sunny Brook Crick Goethite" by Joe Dunleavy