A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it possesses the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal. The metal occurs naturally in its pure, free form (native silver), as an alloy with gold and other metals, and in minerals such as argentite and chlorargyrite. Most silver is produced as a byproduct of copper, gold, lead, and zinc refining.
Silver has long been valued as a precious metal, used in currency coins, to make ornaments, jewelry, high-value tableware and utensils (hence the term silverware) and as an investment in the forms of coins and bullion. Silver metal is used industrially in electrical contacts and conductors, in mirrors and in catalysis of chemical reactions. Its compounds are used in photographic film and dilute silver nitrate solutions and other silver compounds are used as disinfectants and microbiocides (oligodynamic effect).