Silver was considered a mystical element in folklore, and thus its properties become reality in fiction. The metal can do many things, from channel magic, to stopping evil (including warding off or harming vampires and werewolves), making magic mirrors, to turning water into a Healing Potion.
The myth of silver's mystical properties goes deep into human history. As a noble metal akin to gold, this is often attributed to something along the lines of silver's Incorruptible Pure Pureness. In fact, it's because of something people noticed a very long time ago: if you put water in a silver pitcher, it takes a lot longer for it to get unhealthily scummy. Silver has antimicrobial properties that make it quite useful in medicine. In ancient and medieval alchemy silver was also the metal with an affinity corresponding to the moon, so many of the mystical properties of the moon also became associated with the metal (which would certainly explain its usefulness against werewolves). Unlike in post-Medieval works, many pre-Christian pagan mythologies also associated it with the Sun, and many solar deities are described with silver objects (like Saule's silver thread, Apollo's silver bow and arrows or Amaterasu's silver mirror). Though ancient alchemists couldn't know it, silver does have a unique property among the elements — it exists in a naturally excited form — i.e. it has a single electron that exists in a higher energy level, leaving a gap in the shell immediately "below" it.
This trope is the reason vampires traditionally have no reflections and don't show up on film. Old-timey mirrors used silver backing to achieve reflection, and black and white film used silver nitrates to capture the image (plus some old camera models included mirrors in the light capture mechanism); since vampires are unholy, their light is not picked up by divine silver. Of course, silver nitrates were phased out of film even before film itself was made obsolete by digital cameras, and modern mirrors are usually backed by much cheaper aluminium, but the associated between vampirism and lack of image reproduction still lingers.
A Winter Royal Lady might prefer silver due to it fitting in with that trope's color scheme.
- In Rave Master Musica the Silver Claimer (people who can manipulate alchemically altered silver in combat) at one point mentions that, traditionally, silver can harm demonic creatures such as Oni (and he curb-stomps a whole gang of them alone). Both he and the other Silver Claimer Reina can unite their powers to cast an ultra-powerful magical attack based on silver.
- Highly implied to be the case in 3×3 Eyes: the taoist Steve Long usually fights monsters with Sutra cards, but he also has a revolver loaded with silver bullets, implying that demons and monsters can be harmed by silver.
- Openly mocked a few times in The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor once Naruto and Xanna come to Earth. Multiple times, someone trying to assassinate one or both of them will bring either a silver blade or a gun with Silver Bullets. Naruto's rather amused that assassins keep thinking silver has some magic powers that make them more effective, especially since he's not a demon or vampire, but a god.
- Taken to extremes in the Blade Trilogy, where a minor scratch from any sharp silver object causes vampires to immediately crumble into dust.
- In Dracula Untold, pure silver is one of the weaknesses of vampires, and it appears that light glints off of them in such a way that it also makes it hard for the vampires to see. Sultan Mehmet takes advantage of this by personally fighting Dracula in a room covered in silver coins.
- Discussed in From Dusk Till Dawn: Sex Machine says that silver can be used to kill vampires, only for Scott to counter that's werewolves; and then Sex Machine counters right back that silver bullets are used on werewolves, but silver in general supposedly can work on vampires. Kate settles it by asking if anyone even has any silver. No? "Then who cares?"
- In the LARP "The Realms", Silver is a weapon enhancement which is noted in the rulebook to have enhanced effects against certain types of beings.
- In the Magic: The Gathering novels, silver is the only material that can travel back in time without nasty side effects, hence why Karn the silver golem was made. Silver also channels Blue and White mana, and in Innistrad it has the stereotypical effects against vampires and werewolves.
- In The Silver Chair, the eponymous item is used to brainwash a prince.
- And in The Magician's Nephew, the apples of immortality are silvery in color.
- The rat god, in Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly, can only be sealed away with pictures using silver in them. When the god uses his mind tricks to get a master painter sent away, the people trying to stop it remember that the silver in film could do the same thing (as this took place in Hollywood during The Roaring '20s).
- In The Dresden Files, silver is pretty useful all around but ancestral silver is even better, i.e. it is the only thing that can kill the uber-werewolves loup garou. Harry has inherited a silver amulet from his late mom and it saves his butt at least once.
- In Harry Potter, goblin-wrought silver is nigh-invulnerable, and can absorb the properties of what it pierces in order to make itself stronger. It's unclear how the goblins make it this way, or whether it's truly silver or simply called so because the same colour. There are many other objects in the series which are made of silver (the Pensieve) or have the appearance of silver (unicorn blood). Finally, several spells, most notably the Patronus, take a silver colouration.
- Brandon Sanderson has this a couple times
- Inverted in Mistborn, where silver is one of the few metals which doesn't have special powers. Word of God is that Sanderson originally wanted to use silver in place of tin (which grants Super Senses), but then he found out the pewter does not in fact contain silver, and had to change it to maintain Magic A Is Magic A (since silver would have been paired with pewter, which grants Super Speed, Super Strength, and Super Toughness, and every pair consists of a metal and its alloy). It is worth noting however that while silver itself has no allomantic properties it does still have a use in Allomancy - It is used to turn gold into its alloy, electrum. While gold's allomantic properties are seen as largely useless, Electrum is incredibly useful as it nullifies the massive advantage than an enemy Allomancer gains from burning the Godmetal Atium. So useful in fact that the Lord Ruler kept electrum completely secret as an allomantic metal.
- In "Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell", silver is the only thing that can harm the shades or reverse their Touch of Death.
- John the Wanderer from Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John stories carries a guitar with silver strings. This is because silver is the only substance in the world Satan fears, and as a consequence, it's proof against all beings of evil and darkness.
- Some of the Fighting Fantasy books make silver weapons the only ones capable of harming ghosts.
- Garrett, P.I.: taken Up to Eleven. Silver is the fuel of sorcerers' magic and thus an extremely important natural resource. The superpowers of the world fight wars over the control of the areas where silver is mined.
- In Murderess, this is obviously a recurrent theme in everything Moonfolk-related, given their deep reliance on the moon and moonlight.
- Spirits in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, being made of air and fire, are weak to the earth and other metals, silver being the most painful for them.
- Like in The Bartimaeus Trilogy (and being written by the same author, ghosts in Lockwood & Co. are weak to silver.
- In A Wolf In The Soul, Greg's inability to gargle silver water helps Dr. Belew figure out that he's a werewolf.
- Thursday Next's one-time nemesis, Acheron Hades, is Immune to Bullets, possibly Nigh Invulnerable, and is probably but not directly referred to as a demon. However, Thursday finds out Acheron is vulnerable to silver when she stabs him with a pair of silver scissors.
- In Fritz Leiber's short story Ill met in Lankhmar, the sorcerous villain Hristomilo is defeated by means of a siver dagger (granted: a dagger in the eye will defeat even a non-sorcerer).
- In the Shattered Twilight 'verse, the demon-hunting Purgatori are equipped with "silvered" maces.
- In The Golgotha Series, silver is stated to carry a trace remnant of divine energy, making it a potent weapon against supernatural beings. While this property makes it very useful against the monsters which threaten Golgotha, the Mt. Argent silver mine shows how this can also lead to some problems: to use the silver, you have to dig it out of the ground, at which point you may discover too late that it was already being used to imprison a Sealed Evil in a Can and you just popped the lid...
- In The Nekropolis Archives, silver is highly effective against a variety of types of Darkfolk which are otherwise difficult to harm, including vampires, werewolves, demons. It is also used as a spell component, though its efficacy as a weapon means that it is treated as a controlled substance.
- Silvered weapons, mostly blades, feature in Anno Dracula as one of the few guaranteed ways to harm a vampire. (Jack the Ripper is originally known as "Silver Knife", after the weapon he uses to kill his vampiric victims.)
- In the "The Silver Codex II Reflections Edition" one of the characters tells how magic is divided by color with Silver Magic being the type that priest and priestess use in their religions for blessings and exorcisms.
- In It, silver is one of a handful of things that prove harmful against the titular being, but mostly because the Losers believe it should after watching a bunch of werewolf and vampire movies. Ben sacrifices one of his late father's vintage silver dollars to make a pair of mean slingshot pellets, and years later upon returning to face It again he regrets giving the rest of the old coins away because the new Susan B. Anthony dollars are made of copper and nickel, robbing them of their symbolic power.
- Conan the Barbarian stated that the only weapons effective against demons are silver and fire. He later used a huge candelabra made of silver to smash a demon and make it fall in a fire.
- In The Witcher verse, witchers typically carry a silver sword to deal with monsters. Do note that these silver swords are not made of pure silver but are either made from steel and silver-plated, or made from one of a multitude of silver-based alloys, in order to make the swords manageable.
- In Moonlight it's mentioned that the reason vampires couldn't be photographed is because of the silver used in producing the negative, the silver reflecting the photographee's soul. (Which is also why they don't cast reflections in mirrors.) But modern digital photography and video don't use silver, making vamps easy to capture images of.
- In True Blood vampires are weakened by contact with silver. It hurts too, and will leave burn marks on unprotected skin. Has been shown applied as chains, handcuffs, "pepper" spray and intravenously as a torture method.
- In Supernatural, silver is one of the most common monster weaknesses (next to salt and iron). Shapeshifters, lamias and werewolves are all, in some way, vulnerable to silver and hunters often test people with silver to make sure they aren't monsters.
- In The Vampire Diaries, it's initially assumed that werewolves are vulnerable to silver (which the local werewolf plays up by avoiding touching a silver knife). While this is a Fake Weakness, it turns out that silver does have an effect on werewolves — it jumpstarts their already impressive Healing Factor. Attacking a werewolf with silver, therefore, is literally less effective than anything else you could hit them with.
Mason: You know, I think werewolves were probably the ones who started this whole "weak to silver" thing, just for moments like this.
- Invoked with the Silver Wizard in Silverball Mania, who's the source for the game's various mystical activities.
- Dungeons & Dragons uses this a lot for so many items.
- It's possible to purchase weapons made out of silver, which do slightly less damage than normal (read: iron) weapons, but which bypass the damage resistance of Vampires, Were-animals, and some extraplanar creatures. Supplemental books provide an oil that can be used to coat a weapon and give it "silver" properties without making the weapon weaker, but it's hard to use while in combat (so you'll want to use it just before a fight starts, if you can). Third edition calls it "alchemical silver", claiming that it's actually silver alloyed with steel so that it has only a -1 penalty to damage.
- Silver dust is a common material component of spells as well, ranging from "magic circle against..." to "bless water".
- The "Cloak of Lordliness" is a Pimped-Out Cape that grants powers to make crowds listen to you, and is made of ermine sewn together with silver thread.
- Forgotten Realms supplement Volo's Guide to All Things Magical. Silver is the metal most associated with and suitable for magic. Magic items that involve moon-related magics, electricity/lightning and energy discharges (e.g. Magic Missile) will automatically make all saving throws related to item creation magic if they're 60% (or more) silver by weight.
- Dragon magazine #32 article "Poisons from AA to XX".
Poison may be applied only to ordinary iron or steel non-magic weapons. Silver will not hold poison; the magic radiating from such weapons will burn it off.
- In Rifts, Silver is one of the few things that can hurt nearly every supernatural creature in the game, up to and including many Gods. Consequently, nearly every PC in the game usually has at least a single silver-plated knife or cross. One nation at war with a kingdom of vampires equips Silver-plated swords on their Humongous Mecha.
- In Warhammer 40,000, psycannons (designed specifically to fight daemons) fire shells that are not only charged with negative psychic energy and inscribed with holy symbols, but are (of course) tipped with silver.
- In Werewolf: The Forsaken, pure silver is anathema to werewolves: silver weapons deal Aggravated damage that their Healing Factor can't fix and that bypasses the Made of Iron powers they can learn; silver items can't be affected by Shaping charms; and even carrying silver threatens a werewolf's combined Karma/Sanity Meter. Justified because silver is associated with the Moon, which happens to be a primal spirit of godlike power who has a very old grudge against the werewolves.
- Common throughout The Elder Scrolls series, crossing over with Silver Bullet for weapons. To note:
- Throughout the series, certain supernatural enemies such as ghosts and wraiths (among others) can only be harmed by weapons of silver quality (or greater), or by enchanted weapons. Items of greater than silver quality tend to have their own "mystic" properties which justify their ability to harm these types of beings. (For example, Dwemer/Dwarven equipment was created and made to last using Reality Warping processes; Ebony equipment is made from the petrified blood of a dead god; Daedric equipment is made from Ebony which has been imbued with the souls of lesser Daedra, etc.)
- Vampires, Werewolves, and other were-creatures are specifically vulnerable to silver, taking more damage from silver weapons. (Though they can still be harmed by non-silver weapons.) The werewolf-hunting Silver Hand in Skyrim always wield such weapons.
- League of Legends has Vayne, a ranged carry/assassin. One of her abilities called Silver Bolts causes every third consecutive shot on the same target to deal a % of the target's maximum health as true damage letting her easily chew even the tankier champions.
- The protagonist of The Witcher, Geralt, is a monster hunter, a Witcher, who uses a silver sword in his monster-slaying work. Said monsters are mostly things like zombies, werewolves and vampires and the like, so silver weapons hurt them more. Specifically, silver works well on "post-conjuction" creatures, meaning creatures from another plane of reality, their presence being explained in the backstory. Witchers, including Geralt, usually carry a steel weapon to deal with non-conjunction creatures, like goddamn bears or human enemies. Leading Geralt to snark/threaten that that the silver sword is for the post-conjunction creatures, the steel sword is for other foes, both are for monsters.
- Some of the best armor in Final Fantasy I was named Silver equipment, but was made Mithril in the remake. This is refrenced in Dissidia: Final Fantasy by Garland's Super Mode, which turns his armor silver.
- Upon the reawakening of the deadites in Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick, several vortices materialize in the town of Dearborn, and Ash is tasked by the local priest to close them with silver. This leads to a mission where he has to hunt for biker gang members who had raided stash of it recently.
- In The Legend of Zelda and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Silver Arrows can only be obtained late in the game and were needed to fight Ganon, The King of Evil. Specifically, they're used to deliver the killing blow once he was stunned by Link's sword in both games. Later games would replace them with the Light Arrows.
- In the original Ys duology, silver is one of the higher equipment tiers, and a rash of thefts has been going on recently. It turns out that Silver, at least in this region, is in fact Cleria, the only metal capable of harming both games' Big Bad.
- In Zombies Ate My Neighbors, silverware is useful for taking down werewolves.
- In The Order of the Stick, the Paladin leader Hinjo is Crazy-Prepared enough to carry a silver katana AND a Cold Iron one for use against various demons and devils. His mount, a large rideable silver wolf named Argent, also has silver fillings (due to Lord Shojo, Hinjo's uncle once feeding Argent table scraps... and by table scraps, Shojo figured a 20-lb. tub of strawberry cake frosting counted.) It's not clear if this was intentional, since Hinjo's uncle is both The Chessmaster pretending to be Crazy Awesome and kind of a Jerkass.
- From a Magical Metals list found on the Net
Silver: The metal of the moon, silver is well-known for being able to ignore lunar-based defensive powers such as those of lycanthropy. Unlike gold, silver will tarnish readily unless protected, but it needs no special preparation for most magical uses. Awakened, 3 ounces of silver (6 quantities for enchanting purposes) will grant moderate bonuses to divinations and magical wards it is used in. Unfortunately, silver is also strongly attuned to goodness and purity, it does not readily tolerate evil enchantments, having a marked tendency to decay into iron should the evil continue to be forced into it, though the presence of blue sapphire will aid the metal in resisting wickedness, and emeralds will weaken the silver if set in it. Like gold, but to a much weaker degree, silver can provide support for a spell, and also like its yellow cousin, it requires strengthening for physical reasons if used in weapons and armor. A wide selection of alloys can be made using silver, many exhibit varying degrees of tolerance for magical lightning, a quality the pure metal does not seem to have. Quite a few spells utilize the innate goodness of silver to strike out at evil, generally this does not harm the metal in the least.