The earliest forms of silver artefacts in the form of jewellery date back to the third millenium B.C. Domestic objects are not known in any quantity before those made by Mycenean craftsmen during the second millenium B.C. and later. It was not until the 16th century, with the discovery of vast quantities of silver in South America combined with the prosperity of the Elizabeth period, that English domestic silver flourished.
Unfortunately, much of the silver artefacts of this period was melted down by King Charles I and during the Civil War, under the austere Oliver Cromwell. Though quite a lot went towards the cost of war and taxes, as much was melted down and made into what was considered more fashionable domestic ware.
Like gold, silver was used as coinage to offset national debts.
About this time, much of English silver was produced and developed through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It was after the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, who was a great patron of the arts, that silver once again flourished. By 1830, silver tended to be machine-made and lost much of its allure as no machine could replace the soft hammer marks of a hand-raised piece – the hallmark of the best silver creations.
Today, Mexico produces most of the world’s silver – some 40 million troy ounces a year. America, Canada, Peru, Russia, Australia and Japan produce the rest of the world’s supply. In ancient times, it was mined in Eastern Asia from where Egypt got its silver.
The measurement of the troy ounce comes from Troyes in Eastern France.