Before the discovery of antibiotics, surgeons used to stitch wounds with thread woven with silver as they believed it helped to prevent infection.
Meanwhile, bandages were laced with silver in the First World War, as it was thought to help save lives. And they were right. As shown in more than a thousand medical studies, silver has powerful antiseptic and wound-healing properties. So just what are the health secrets of this precious metal?
'Research has shown that silver is a powerful antimicrobial agent that is non-irritating and non-toxic,' says Valerie Edwards Jones, professor of microbiology at Manchester Metropolitan University. 'Recent studies have shown that silver can kill up to 650 species of pathogenic microbes.
'The metal consists of thousands of tiny silver ions,' she says. 'These prevent bacteria, viruses and fungi from spreading by entering the cell and deactivating proteins. The microbes cannot reproduce and die, so the spread of infection is prevented.'
There has been a resurgence of medical interest in silver, according to Prof Edwards Jones, because it effectively kills antibiotic resistant bacteria such as MRSA.