Despite the fact that the largest silver nugget ever found weighed around the same as an adult bison it is thought that all the silver in the world would be able to fit into a 55 by 55 meter (180 by 180 foot) cube. Just FYI, this cube is bigger than the gold one, which is also pretty surprising.
As well as appearing in lots of jewelry, coins, and even your grandma’s old knives and forks, silver is also extremely useful in medicine and electronics. In fact, over half of the silver demand in the world is thought to come from industrial applications.
Almost every computer, phone, and car contains at least some silver; it can also be used in silver ink, such as in Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) chips. This precious shiny metal might even be hanging round your neck as you read this. So just how much silver is there?
In 2018 it was estimated that over 1.6 million tonnes of silver had been found throughout history. All this silver would fit in a cube that measures 55 meters on each side.
However since silver is famously the runner-up in the world of shiny metals, it is a lot more readily lost or thrown away in comparison to gold, and estimates suggest that nearly 50 percent of this silver has been lost or used in industry.
According to The Silver Institute, silver began to be mined in Anatolia around 3000 BCE in what is now Turkey, then mining progressed to Greece in 1200 BCE and even provided the silver for coins in Athens. Much later on, in 100 CE, the majority of silver mining was done in Spain, where the metal was a trading item along with fragrant spices. Much later still, silver was discovered in the Americas, and production grew from around 1.1 million to 2.2 million kilograms (2.5 million to 5 million pounds) a year by the 1870s.
Nowadays the world’s largest producer of silver is Mexico, with around 5,600 tonnes produced in 2020. Globally nearly 25,000 tonnes of silver was produced in 2020, with Peru, China, Russia, and Chile being the other large contributing countries.
While a 55 by 55 meter cube might not seem like much, there is still a pretty hefty amount of silver out there. Peru is thought to have the largest silver reserves in the world, at around 93,000 million tonnes, with Australia and Poland hot on their heels. Silver is still found in mines to this day, with around 500,000 tonnes still waiting to be uncovered.