This is a serious question for me, not in terms of how long it lasts, but in terms of how good or bad it is for the environment. In my craft work, I am trying to understand if silver wire is the wire I want to use for jewelry because of it's ecological ramifications. I understand that it needs to be mined like any other ore which is degrading the environment in one way or another, but my greater concern lies in the smelting process (if that is what it is actually called). I know that aluminum smelting is horrific and kills whole swaths of forests down wind. I have been handed down a piece of silver that has clearly lasted many generations. This one piece I am posting on my recipe blog, dates from the 1800's and is still used regularly in our house. I know that if I chose, I could recycle it, so in that way silver is sustainable. I will never recycle this, but I want to know what it took to make it.