Silver, argentum in Latin, is a noble metal characterized by a light, silver-white colour. It is a precious metal that has excellent high chemical stability.
However, silver is not only a valuable metal; its antimicrobial and antifungal properties have been known for thousands of years.
In Egypt, silver was used for the production of coins more than 3,500 years BC. About 2,500 years after that, it was known in medicine that water would remain drinkable for much longer when it was preserved in silver containers. The first written notes about the medical importance come from the work of legendary Jabir ibn Hayyan or al-Sufi from the second half of the 10th century AD. Also Avicenna (980-1037), a doctor educated in Baghdad, used silver in medicine.
Silver was already known in old Indian medicine and its plenteous use in battle against bacteria and fungi was known at the time of the Roman Empire. All the patrician houses kept foodstuff in silver vessels and silver coins were added to milk and fluids.
Bactericidal properties of silver were also used in the Middle Ages. Storage of fluids in silver vessels, drinking from silver cups or putting silver coins in milk, wine or water prolonged the shelf-life of fluids and also kept them fresh for a longer period of time. In the Middle Ages, silver protected mainly higher classes of inhabitants which only used silver vessels and cutlery for their feasting. This protected them from plague infection - so-called black death. It was already known at that time that pathogens causing illness cannot survive in the presence of silver; therefore they also stored foodstuff in silver vessels.
Even the vessels for holy water in churches were made of silver; water in them was practically sterilized.
American settlers put silver dollars in milk to slow down its spoilage. Australian colonialists hung silver forks and spoons in the vessels with water to prevent its contamination.
The 19th century, due to scientific progress, showed not only the existence of bacteria but also the ability of silver to reduce their number. Due to this a solution with a content of silver was used as an antiseptic for burns and more.
We rate silver amongst antiseptics affecting all the strains (species) of bacteria and yeasts (fungi); risk of resistance is very small here. On the contrary, silver is able to suppress even infection caused by bacteria which are resistant and the usual antibiotics do not affect them.
When not to use products with silver - in case of hypersensitivity or allergy to silver. Further, materials with silver should not be used in the place of X-ray examination, ultrasound or magnetic resonance examinations.