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Why has silver become such an indispensable metal in our modern world?

Ross Beaty, Michael DiRienzo, Philip Klapwijk, Phillips Baker, Doug Dobbs, David Morgan, Eric Sprott
January 6, 2006
Video Transcript

Ross Beaty: Silver is really a digital metal. Very few people understand that silver is used in virtually every digital product from cameras, digital cameras, to computers, all chips have silver in them. Silver is the most conductive metal. So it's used in all things electrical and electronic. That whole industry sector is almost new, but it's growing like mad. So there's a huge driver of silver. In fact, the biggest driver of silver, right now, is in electronics and electrical applications, incredible growth, double-digit growth.

Michael Dirienzo: It is in health care, it is in band aids, it is in textiles, it is in your automobile, it is in your computer, your plasma display television screen, it's in your cellphone, it's everywhere, and that's the case we like to make. Silver is ubiquitous; it is all around us.

Philip Klapwijk: Electronics has clearly been the most exciting growth area for silver use, because that's really where the ounces have been most significantly added. You're seeing silver incorporated in a wide range of devices anything from keypads, to screens, to mobile phone shielding. The significant uses for silver, which have been developed in recent years, and as the number of those devices increases, as production of these devices increases, so does the silver usage increase significantly.

Ross Beaty: It's used in water purification. It's used in air purification in hospitals; huge new applications in the health field for silver. That's a neat application very unique for silver, because it kills bacteria but it's perfectly harmless to mammals, such as people. Silver has enormous prospects in super conductivity, a brand new way of conducting large amounts of electricity in very small spaces. So Detroit today, is powered by super conductors, which goes through the conduits in downtown Detroit, and that is an industry that has potential to just explode. Those super conducting wires are sheathed in silver. Why silver, because it's unique again what it does to the super conductor technology is unique to silver. So it's used in large amounts in that industry, which is a growing industry.

Phillips S. Baker, Jr.: You've got new uses that are just very, very exciting. The use of silver in preserving wood, for a long time, we used other methods of preserving wood that we found to be environmentally unsafe. Silver is not only an indispensable metal, but it is also the green metal.

Michael Dirienzo: Solar panels on houses have grown dramatically, not just here in the United States, but in China and in Europe in particular, but it's not just solar panels. The electric vehicles that you see coming out of Detroit, and from Europe, and Japan these days, all contain a significant amount of silver.

Ross Beaty: Silver right now has just the strongest wind behind it. Silver is a little different than other metals for two reasons. Firstly on the demand side, silver is both a precious metal like gold and it's also an industrial metal like zinc, and copper, and nickel. It's a precious metal. It follows the price of gold, usually. It tends to be a haven kind of currency. It's used as money in much of the world's history. So it's a true precious metal and it will rise and fall with global concerns. It tends to be inversely correlated for example with the U.S. dollar, right now. So it will tend to follow gold and all the forces that are in the gold market right now are very strong.

Lots of strength behind gold and thus, silver is a precious metal, plenty of strength behind silver, as a precious metal, as money. Happily, unlike gold, silver is also a very, very, very important industrial metal. I look around this room. It’s used in a thousand different places. It's used in televisions, cameras, cellphones, batteries, computers, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of different applications, which are vital ingredients of our industrial life. Forty-five percent of silver use is industrial. So as the world expands, as industrial production grows that stimulates demand for silver.

Doug Dobbs: Their finding many, many new uses for silver, that are as readily recycled. So you have battery use, you have as an anti-bacterial agent where it's really consumed. It's being used in electronics and microelectronics, that don't readily get recycled they just get thrown away; they become consumer goods with telephones, flat-screen TVs, and solar panels. So you see the industrial fabrication demand now, makes up more than half the demand for silver. So when you combine that with the idea that you're seeing significantly greater growth in investment demand, the supply becomes even a little bit more precarious.

David Morgan: You look back over a decade or so, what you find was industrial demand is around 35% of the total silver market. Today, the industrial demand is around 45% of the silver demand. What that means is, that it's the fastest growing segment, and it's the most important segment, from the stand point of most of the applications that industrial man are not retrievable economically to get the silver back out.

Eric Sprott: I mean, God forbid, that the economy really speeds up here, right? Because the demand for silver will go crazy on the industrial side, particularly the new uses that it has. You know, whether it's bio-medical things, solar panels, all the myriad of uses that it has now and Industrial use was very strong last year, I think, it was up like 18%. I don't even count it as being up this year in the way I look at silver. If it's just steady, I'm fine, because the investment demand will take care of things. God forbid, that industrial demand goes up, while investment demand stays strong; there won't be enough silver.

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