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The precious metal silver comes from the element Argentum, the Latin word meaning bright or shining. Discovered sometime around 4000 BCE, silver ore was first mined in order to make ornamental objects.
In the 11th and 12th century, in what we now call the British Isles,
silver pennies were printed with a small star. A penny like this was
called a steorling (most
likely pronounced like "sterling") in Old English, meaning "coin with
star." These steorlings were made up of 92.5% pure silver, with an
alloy of 7.5% copper, just like sterling silver today. It was discovered
that the alloy was just as beautiful as pure silver, but stronger by
leaps and bounds.
Many recognized the advantage of a precious metal that was both
beautiful and durable: two traits that are ideal in a favorite piece of
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