In the early days of human civilization, it was discovered that silver helped keep things like water, milk, and vinegar pure for long periods of time. Since there was no refrigeration at the time, silver vessels were often used to preserve various foods and drinks during travel. One of the primary reasons why many ancient civilizations used silver eating utensils was due to the fact that silver prevented the growth of disease-causing pathogens. Silver's preservative and antimicrobial uses can be traced as far back as during the ancient Greek and Roman empires.
Western Civilization Re-Discovers Silver
It wasn't until the late 1800s that western science began to rediscover the ancient truths about silver. One of the early documented uses of silver as a bactericide was in 1884 by a German obstetrician named Carl Crede. Pioneers of the American West would often put a silver dollar into a jar or container of milk to help keep it fresh without refrigeration. They would also drop silver and copper coins in their barrels of water. The Swiss botanist von Nageli recorded one of the amazing discoveries of the 19th Century in 1869. Von Nageli coined the term "oliodynamic" to describe the microbioidal properties of Silver metal at minute concentrations. Silver is unique in its action against micro-organisms.
As scientific understanding progressed, silver compounds and colloids were developed and became widely used. In fact, by 1940, there were roughly four dozen different silver compound products on the market.