The three types of products that consumers find labeled as “colloidal silver” can be categorized as follows:
1. Ionic Silver
2. Silver Protein
3. True Colloidal Silver
1. Ionic Silver Solutions
The vast majority of products labeled and sold as colloidal silver fall into this category due to the low degree of manufacturing complexity and resulting low cost of production. The silver content in these products consists of both silver ions and silver particles. Typically,
90% of the silver content is in the form of ionic silver and the remaining
10% of the silver content is in the form of silver particles.
The silver ions are produced by electrolysis and may be described as “dissolved silver”. Products produced by electrolysis are frequently described as “electro colloids”. Because the majority of the silver content in these products is dissolved silver rather than metallic silver particles, it would be more technically accurate to describe these products as silver solutions.
It is confusing because ads for these products frequently claim that silver ions are small silver particles. Or, they describe the product as consisting of ionic silver particles. Silver ions are not the same as silver particles – and the two terms are not interchangeable. Ionic silver is also referred to as monatomic silver and silver hydrosol by some producers who choose not to describe their products using the scientifically correct terminology. These are marketing terms used to hide the truth that what is being sold is an ionic silver solution!
How To Tell If A Product Is Mostly Ionic Silver
Silver solutions are typically clear like water or have a slight yellow tint. These products are clear because silver that is dissolved in water looks just like sugar or salt that is dissolved in water; it has no visible appearance. The producers of ionic silver solutions will suggest that colloidal silver should look like clear water, but this is incorrect!
Companies that sell ionic silver claim that their product is “true colloidal silver” in an attempt to confuse the buyer. Do not be fooled. If the product is clear, then it is ionic silver, not a true silver colloid! Colloidal particles, when present in sufficient concentration, absorb visible light causing the colloid to exhibit an “apparent color”. The apparent color is the complement of the absorbed wavelength. Silver ions do not absorb visible light and therefore appear as clear colorless liquids.
Many producers of ionic silver recommend that the product be stored only in glass containers. Some specify only amber or cobalt glass bottles because their products are photosensitive and deteriorate when exposed to light. True colloids do not have these issues.
How To Test for Ionic Silver
To figure out whether a solution is ionic silver, you only need add chloride ions. Common table salt, which is sodium chloride, will do. If silver ions are present the chloride ions will combine with the silver ions and create a white, cloudy appearance. To form a cloud that is visible requires that a sufficient concentration of silver ions be present, typically about 10 ppm or above. Simply place 1-2 ounces of ionic silver in a clear glass. Add a few grains of table salt. Observe whether, as the salt dissolves, a white cloud of silver chloride forms in the solution. If so, eventually, the entire solution will turn cloudy. If more salt is added, the white silver chloride will become denser until all the silver ions have combined with the available chlorine ions. If no silver ions are present then no white cloud will form.
Here’s the rub: Some products will not make a white cloud of silver chloride when table salt is added because they contain no silver at all, or very little silver. Believe it or not, lab analysis has shown that some “silver” products actually contain no silver!
The difference between silver ions and silver particles boils down to the fact that silver ions combine with chloride ions to form silver chloride and silver particles do not.
“Colloidal silver” generators sold to home hobbyists all produce ionic silver solutions. Because ionic silver products contain a low percentage of their silver content in the form of particles, they all have a fairly low particle surface area relative to the total silver content. Ionic silver is not without merit. Ionic silver is a strong anti-microbial and serves well in situations where chloride is not present. When chloride is present (inside the human body), only the silver particle content will survive to produce benefit.
Ionic silver products, when taken according to the manufacturers recommended dosage, will not cause argyria, a condition that causes the skin to turn blue-gray.
TechnoBabble, Misleading Language and Bogus Science
The term “colloidal” means particles, not ions. But producers of ionic silver products will try to convince the buyer that their product is a silver colloid. The common thread in most advertisements selling ionic silver products (labeled as colloidal silver) is to claim that ions are silver particles, or they try to blur the distinction by using the terms interchangeably. Another common trick is to display images made from a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) that they claim shows the small particles found in their products. These images do not show the silver particles in their products. Another ploy is the use of techno-babble, wherein make-believe technical sounding terms are used to impress the non-technical reader.
Techno-babble attempts to draw the reader’s attention away from the real science and focus on nonsensical but important sounding terms and ideas. In a related approach, advertising or labels will include scientific-sounding explanations that use terms from other fields of science that are not applicable to the chemistry of solutions and colloids. For example, in the field of nuclear science, a particle is considered to be any atomic object whose weight is greater or equal to the weight of an electron. Attempting to define a silver ion as a particle by using this definition is the essence of what is commonly referred to as bogus science.
2. Silver Protein (a/k/a Mild Silver Protein)
Silver protein products are the second most prevalent type of so-called colloidal silver products on the market. These products consist of a combination of metallic silver particles and a protein binder, and can easily be produced by simply adding water to silver protein powder sold by various chemical companies.
Most products claiming to be high concentrations of colloidal silver (typically in the range of 30 to 20,000 ppm) are in fact silver protein colloids. While some of these products are labeled asSilver Protein or Mild Silver Protein, many such products are simply labeled as colloidal silver and the word protein does not appear anywhere on the label or in the product advertising literature.
Silver protein products generally have very large silver particles, so large that they would not remain suspended as colloidal particles without protein additives. Protein additives help to keep the large particles from settling. While various protein binders may be used, the protein most commonly used is gelatin, which is made by boiling the skin, tendons, and ligaments of animals. For large metallic silver particles to remain suspended in water, they need additional buoyancy to keep from sinking. Gelatin molecules will encapsulate each particle of silver and add enough buoyancy so that it does not sink to the bottom. The presence of gelatin creates a risk of bacteria and is one of the dangers of taking this product.
Of the three types of colloidal silver, silver protein products have the lowest particle surface area for a given silver concentration, making the silver inaccessible for safe human absorption and less effective for human use. Particle surface area, as we will cover later, is the single most important determinant of colloidal silver effectiveness.
Testing For Silver Protein
- Makes foam: When shaken, a silver protein product produces foam above the liquid that will persist for minutes after being shaken. This is probably the single most reliable indicator. Even when the product label identifies the product simply as colloidal silver and never mentions the word protein, this indicator will signal the presence of a protein binder. Shake the bottle and look for foaming. When the foam persists, protein is present.
- Concentration: Silver protein products tend to have very high concentration values, typically in the range of 30 to 20,000 ppm. Concentration is expressed in parts per million (ppm) and is numerically the same as milligrams of silver per liter of water (mg/L).
- Color: The color ranges from light amber to almost black with an increasing concentration of silver.
- Due to the high concentration of large silver particles, silver protein products are known to cause argyria, a condition that causes the skin to turn blue-gray.
- Adding protein to colloidal silver is also potentially unsafe because of bacteria, according to Professor Ronald Gibbs who discussed this fact in his booklet ” Silver Colloids”. He found “mild silver protein” products that had live bacteria growing on the protein. This can happen when protein is mixed with colloidal silver because the protein molecules are large and encapsulate the silver particles, which prevent the silver from reaching the bacteria to kill it. Normally, it would be impossible for bacteria to live in colloidal silver, but it is common in products containing protein. For this reason, Professor Gibbs recommended that silver protein products should be avoided.
3. True Colloidal Silver
True colloidal silver products are the least prevalent type of colloidal silver on the market due to high degree of manufacturing complexity and the resulting high cost of production.
In true colloidal silver, the majority of the silver content is in the form of silver particles! True colloids will typically contain more than 50% particles (often 50 – 80%), while the balance (20% to 49%) will be silver ions. When referring to colloidal silver, the word colloid means silver particles.
The two critical factors to look for in determining true colloids are:
1. The percentage of silver particles
2. The particle surface area.
Of all the types of silver marketed as colloidal, true colloidal silver products have the highest particle surface area. High particle surface area is achieved by a high percentage of silver particles combined with very small sized particles. Of the three types of silver on the market, true silver colloids have the highest particle surface area relative to the total silver content. The ratio of particle surface area to total silver content indicates how efficiently the colloid is able to produce particle surface area which determines effectiveness. Higher conversion efficiencies are more desirable.
The nanometer-sized particles in true silver colloids remain in colloidal suspension without requiring protein or other additives. It is the mutual repulsion of the particles created by the zeta potential charge that keeps the particles uniformly distributed in the colloid.
Determining True Silver Colloids
Because of the high concentration of silver particles, true silver colloids are never clear like water. True colloidal silver with a sufficient concentration of particles does not look like water because silver particles — even very small particles — block light from passing through, making the liquid appear darker.
Due to the very low concentration of ionic silver and small particle size, true silver colloids do not cause argyria, a condition that causes the skin to turn blue-gray.
This is why we only recommend a Silver product (here) with the highest particle surface of any known colloidal silver skin product!