Silver is one of the first metals to have been used by humans. It may have been the first metal smelted from ore. The art of silver working dates back to the ancient Byzantine, Phoenician and Egyptian empires, where silver was forged into domestic utensils, jewelry, buttons, weapons, horse trappings, boxes, and other articles.
Unfortunately, silver's high utility meant that items were often melted down and re-forged into new items. Consequently, much ancient and early European silverwork has been lost forever. The silver tradition was carried over to colonial America, where it co-existed with the centuries-old hand-hammered craft traditions of the North and South American natives.
The mines in Mexico and Peru are still the highest-producing ones in the world, and the methods of silver jewelry making among native peoples remains largely unchanged today. The niche of silver making in Western society has been a bit more dynamic. Silver's value as a jewelry and utensil metal made it an early target for ambitious miners, and the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada in 1859 created a silver rush that rivaled the Gold Rush.
In recent years, silver has lost much of its value as a reserve metal and a traded commodity. However, its low price often means it acts as a leading metal in jewelry fashion - allowing silver craftsmen freedom to experiment with new and innovative designs, which are later duplicated in more expensive gold and platinum, once the "style" is safely established.
Today, sterling silver jewelry is popular with young and old people alike. Sterling silver is gorgeous to admire, it is a great investment, and it is relatively inexpensive.