Excerpt: "Metallic silver was known to the Chaldeans as early as 4,000 B.C.E., and it was the third metal known to be used by the Ancients, after gold and copper .
Over these millennia, silver has been used for numerous medical conditions, mostly empirically before the realization that microbes were the agents of infection.
The metal was used in many configurations, including vessels or containers for liquid, coins, shavings, foils, sutures, solutions (e.g., nitrate, oxide, bromide, chloride, and iodide), colloids providing fine particles, and electric colloids (introduced in 1924, which provide even smaller particles of 0.1mcm to 0.001mcm in diameter).
Electric colloids of silver became the mainstay of antimicrobial therapy in the first part of the 20th Century until the introduction of antibiotics in the early 1940s.
Complexes of silver and protein known as mild silver proteins also were employed.
These formulations were delivered topically (by solution, ointment, or direct application of colloids or foils), orally, and by injection. By 1940, at least 50 silver products were marketed in the United States."
-- Surgical Infections, Volume 10, Number 3, 2009, J. Wesley Alexander, History of the Medical Use of Silver