The area of Anatolia (modern Turkey) is considered the first major source of mined silver, having provided the resource to craftsman throughout Asia Minor. Silver from the Anatolian region largely served as the source of silver for the Western cultures flourishing in the Near East, Crete, and Greece. Silver craftsmanship was centered largely in Asia Minor and Greek Islands, along with areas of mainland Greece dominated by the Mycenaean culture. Asia Minor provided most of the supply for the flourishing silver market.
Sterling silver may have been known first as "Easterling Silver". The term "Easterling Silver" was used to refer to the grade of silver that had originally been used as the local currency in an area of Germany, known as "The Easterling". This "Easterling" consisted of five towns in the eastern part of Germany which banded together in the 12th century under the name of the Hanseatic League. The Hanseatic League proceeded to engage in considerable commerce with England. In payment for English cattle and grain, the League used their local currency. This currency was in the form of 92.5% silver coins. England soon learned that these coins, which they referred to as "the coins of the Easterlings", were of a reliably high quality and hardness.
The Chinese were reluctant to disturb the Earth's spirits by mining and removing precious metals but used silver and gold when they were available through trade with the West. This occurred during the Tang dynasty and continuously from about 1600. The Chinese used silver for cups, bowls and dishes.
This white metal has had an illustrious history, at times being more highly valued than gold. Long used as a medium of exchange, its name is synonymous with money. Today, silver has found many new uses including photography, batteries, auto glass defogger, magnetic strips, etc. Its most outstanding feature is its luster. Silver will take a higher polish than any other metal. It has the singular drawback that it tarnishes. Metal smiths often use this feature to highlight certain design elements. Modern chemicals easily remove tarnish, but the fact remains that silver needs more care than the other precious metals.
Silver is more abundant and much less expensive than gold or platinum. This has a lot to do with its popularity. Some jewelry styles, like the Native American, rely strictly on silver. Silver is more difficult to work than gold, because it conducts heat so well. Beginners often learn soldering on this less expensive metal. When they graduate to gold, they find it easier to control the heat.