Like Gold, most people dismiss silver mostly because their is a stigma among the mainstream that label those who embrace this metal as having some type of fetish. This comes out of sheer ignorance - as silver is the metal of the future. Silver plays two roles, of which both are of great importance. To avoid the much talked about inflationary hedge aspect, I will write just a few sentences for those unaware of this charateristic.
Silver as a store of value - Like Gold, Silver is seen to be a store of value and for good reason. It too has been been used as a worldwide currency for well over 5,000 years. This is because it has always been chosen by the people as an ideal medium of exchange. (Gold for larger purchases and Silver for smaller denomination transactions). This was due the physical charatersitics of these metals i.e durability , inability to replicate , a adequate level of scarcity, etc. So as we embark into the era a unprecendented inflation, silver will be right next to gold as the ideal protectors of REAL WEALTH.
Before I get to the imporant development and the biggest catalyst for silver going forward, it is also worth mentionining silver lenses have proved superior in fighting off harmful rays in addition to conducting light transmission in such a way that people don't need to change glasses when moving from outdoors to indoors or vice versa. This is a rather new trend but is being used more and more, currently just under 15% of total production. One last note before i get into the really exciting applications, is silvers use as a component in solar panels ( which I believe is bogus, but the green movement will have solar at the forefront).
Silver is starting to become a neccessity in water purification, much for the same reason mentioned above (the ability to fight off bacteria). Silver is replacing harsh chemicals i.e Bromine, Cholorine which are inferior for obvious reasons. Although the previously mentioned chemicals will continue to be used, the shift has slowly begun favoring silver, especially in building new water supply systems. Silver destroyies legionnaires disease, which is cause via a buildup of bacteria in the piping of these systems. Not to mention the superiority it will have in personal water filters which currently used charcoal among other things.
Now for what I believe will be the an enormous catalyst for Silver. I am referring to the new Silver-Oxide batteries (which have been developed and tested already) and will soon hit the market, most likely in Q4 09'.
Duracell has already developed basic everyday batteries while companies such as intel capital have developed thoese batteries used in laptops. Anyone who uses the computer hours a day have likely noticed the vast shortcoming in the currently used lithium-ion batteries. For example, they tend not to hold a charge as the life of the battery increases which even in my personal expirience has led to the complete death of the battery. The Silver- Oxide batteries, however, do not share these charateristics and last 40% longer. They are also recyclable, which should draw attention of the green fanatics out there.
Imagine the implications of this fact, as they are incredibly telling for the future prices ( more on the supply later). One just needds to imagine the widespread use it will have, especially as those society's in emerging countries begin to use battery intensive electronics such as laptops or just your everyday cheap and simple electronics.
The Supply Side: Instead of going into an in depth analysis, I will instead just briefly summarize the results of a U.S geological survey concerninig silver. Well first off, no one knows how much silver is below ground! But there is a huge deficit when they measured the amount that would be feasible to sell at $15/oz. When I say huge, I mean a quantity that will prove unsustainable for the immediate future. Of course this does not take into account the stockpiles above ground, but that has been dwindling as silver mining has been neglible the last 1.5 years. Now don't get confused with me saying we are running out of silver or something absurd like that. The previously mentioned survey determined there was ample amounts of silver but one big problem. This silver lie so far down in the earth, that even conservative estimates are projecting a selling price of $30/oz for this to be feasible. ( This is not a well hidden fact, as it is very to easy to find numerous surveys like this from a number of credible sources). I have also seen estimates nearly double that of the conservative projections.
Conclusion: Silver should not only be looked as an inflationary hedge rather through fundamental supply and demand measures. The non-inflationist can merely look at this as a bonus and focus on the fundamentals, which is something you can't do with gold. As for The Silver Miners, I think they are possible the best way to play this, should you believe in the silver story (barring futures).