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Basically the title. What would happen if, in the world I'm writing, people have thus far found considerably more gold deposits than silver?

Specifically, I'm wondering how this might affect their importance in technological development (society is currently in the early industrial, sort of flintlock-pistol era) and what they might be used for.

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  • $\begingroup$ Other than the obvious part about how silver becomes the money. It might have interesting effects on electronics in the future. thoughtco.com/the-most-conductive-element-606683 $\endgroup$ – Trevor Aug 9 '18 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ @TrevorD: Silver actually was "the money". In real history, gold was too expensive to be used as money on a large scale. If the quantities were reversed, then usual money would be gold, and high-value coins would be silver. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 9 '18 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Interesting I didn't know that. Was that the case during the timeline asked in the question? $\endgroup$ – Trevor Aug 9 '18 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ @TrevorD: It was always the case. Everyday money was silver from the antiquity to the end of the use of precious metals as money. Gold coins circulated in parallel with silver coins, but they were of much higher value; it was perfectly possible for a man to live his entire life in relative comfort without ever handling a gold coin. For example, around 1850 in the United Kingdom the smallest gold coin was a half sovereign (about 4 grams); it would pay a female servant (80% of the servants were female) for one full month. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 9 '18 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP: And of course copper (and other metals, e.g. the US "nickel") were used for smaller denominations, so people on the bottom of the economic pyramid would mostly see that. IMHO, the most obvious change is that people (or their servants) would no longer have to spend time polishing their silver tableware, since it would be made of non-tarnishing gold... $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Aug 10 '18 at 4:23
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The impact would be minor and aesthetic

  • You'd have more goldware (plates & utinsils) than you would silverware, thus silverware would be prized more.
  • You'd have more gold jewelry and less silver, thus silver jewelry would be prized more.
  • You'd have more gold coins and less silver, thus silver coins would be prized more.

Perhaps the only industrial use would be more gold storage containers

The fact that gold reacts to almost nothing (which isn't true for silver) made it useful to, for example, Egyptian Pharaohs who wanted to stay in the same container for a very long time. You would see more gold containers for storage, both large and small. However, even if your gold and silver quantities are reversed, there still isn't a lot of gold or silver to be had during the manual mining period, so you'd see some few more, but not a lot.

Over all you'd see little to no impact due to this change. The real impact would come after the industrial revolution where silver was used in many industries (for example, photogrpahy) and suddenly is very expensive and less common.

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  • $\begingroup$ "thus silverware would be prized more"? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 9 '18 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ I see... I'm actually going to add on to the question. $\endgroup$ – doplin Aug 9 '18 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ I figured it was a simple typo... :) $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 9 '18 at 16:41
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Medicine, mirror making and photography would be adversely affected, as all of these industries have faced revolutions thanks to the relative availability of silver.

On the plus side, metal containers would become much more durable against the ravages of time by including the unreactive gold in its 'stainless steel', and once electricity comes around, we have a relatively cheap, very conductive metal to make life easier.

Interesting question, well-asked.

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Brass, copper, and steel might become common currency, with something on the order of the British shilling, might also become more common. Like a coin worth a pound of sterling silver. There are still countries whose banking uses the silver as a standard, instead of gold, and even something like a Krugerrand might make a better substitute, if you use it like the sterling coins.

Since gold is heavier, it can be used in varying sizes to represent varying weights of silver, or even copper, instead. Copper pennies and brass pennies might also be considered, and electrum might be used in some cases.

The United States even had a steel penny during WWII, because certain substances became scarce (like copper).

Give that some thought. If Gold is in different quantity, then Tungsten might be used, with copper and brass supporting it, and gold minting dropped altogether.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, Timothy Mark Merritt! If you have a moment, please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox (both of which require 5 rep to post on) useful. Here is a meta post on the culture and style of Worldbuilding.SE, just to help you understand our scope and methods, and how we do things here. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Gryphon - Reinstate Monica Aug 9 '18 at 17:01
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In addition to current answers silver normally requires much more complex extraction techniques than gold since it more readily bonds with other chemicals. if silver is less common it stands to reason that these techniques & their valuble byproducts will also be less common. This combined with the extreme usefulness of silver nitrate in chemistry as a test for halogen ions and in tollens reagent, would mean that your world is somewhat behind in chemistry.

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