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C.), contained fine silver items which were actually produced in Crete, by the ancient Minoans. Greek Athenians began producing silver from the Laurium mines, and would supply much of the ancient Mediterranean world with its silver for almost 1,000 years.

When the price of silver finally did fall due to more readily available supplies, for at least another thousand years (through at least the 19th dynasty, about 1,200 B. This ancient source was eventually supplemented around 800 B. (and then eventually supplanted) by the massive silver mines found in Spain by the Phoenicians and their colony (and ultimate successors) the Carthaginians (operated in part by Hannibal’s family).

The oldest silver artifacts found by archaeologists date from ancient Sumeria about 4,000 B. At many points in the ancient world, it was actually more costly than gold, particularly in ancient Egypt.

Silver is found in native form (i.e., in nuggets), as an alloy with gold (electrum), and in ores containing sulfur, arsenic, antimony or chlorine.

Rings of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) have more intricate devices cast into the bezel and band, and frequently contain a representation of the cross of Constantine or a Byzantine cross.

Attribution of ancient Roman rings is mostly accurate to within 150 years, one way or the other.

Silver coinage played a significant role in the ancient world.

Several royal mummies attributable to about 1,000 B. In fact, it was not until the Middle Ages that Spain’s silver mines (and her forests) were finally exhausted.

Silver alloyed with gold in the form of “electrum” was coined to produce money around 700 B. Actual silver coins were first produced in Lydia about 610 B. The Athenians were well aware of the significance of the mining operations to the prosperity of their city, as every citizen had shares in the mines.

Enough silver was mined and refined at Laurium to finance the expansion of Athens as a trading and naval power.

Even then the process was not perfect, as ancient silver does contain trace elements, typically lead, gold, bismuth and other metals, and as much as a third of the silver was left behind in the slag. The ancient Egyptians believed that the skin of their gods was composed of gold, and their bones were thought to be of silver.

However measuring the concentrations of the “impurities” in ancient silver can help the forensic jewelry historian in determining the authenticity of classical items. the Babylonians were one of the major refiners of silver. When silver was introduced into Egypt, it probably was more valuable than gold (silver was rarer and more valuable than gold in many Mesoamerican cultures as well).

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