The silver in the earrings my cousin made for me was likely mined in Mexico or Nevada or Idaho. The ore was probably galena or argentite, for silver is rarely found in a pure state in nature. The ear-wires of the earrings are stamped .925. This means that the wires are sterling silver: 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent base metal alloy like copper, for strength.
It is the most lustrous of metals, with 95 percent reflectance, but this surface luster can be tarnished by exposure to sulfur, like the sulfur in the air of a smoky bar in the Keeaumoku area. Or in Kalihi, or Pearl City. Silver coins fall. The men in the bars say that as you go further west on Oahu, the women get older—closer to the gods.
The silver moon, waxing and waning, metes out the months and a woman’s cycle. The pulls of high tide and ebb tide have influences on the global sphere, and local effects, as in swamp and harbor—and in inter-personal relations. The moon is a woman, poets say. The essence of yin: cool, passive, black in some phases. Reflectively lustrous and yet secret and hidden at times, like a silvery mirror darkening to black. But the mirror that is the moon brightens once again, as if polished monthly; renewed, as if after a refreshing bath, to restore its essential virginal nature.
Silver is ductile, it can be drawn into the thinnest, finest wire. It also has amazing malleability; it can be hammered and twisted, contorted to almost any shape. Hammering makes silver harder, more rigid and unbending. Heat softens, quickens silver.
We’ve worked silver into ornaments and coinage for about 6000 years. Sulfur from the exhaust of idling cars, cigarette smoke, and vog darken this lovely white metal. However sullied silver becomes on its surface, like a moon-faced, life-hardened woman, it remains sterling at its core.
First published in Pueo Journal: Premier, 1:129. 2016.