Precious metal

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Gold nugget GoldNuggetUSGOV.jpg
Gold nugget
Assortment of precious metals Edelmetalle.jpg
Assortment of precious metals

Precious metals are rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical elements of high economic value. Chemically, the precious metals tend to be less reactive than most elements (see noble metal). They are usually ductile and have a high lustre. Historically, precious metals were important as currency but are now regarded mainly as investment and industrial raw materials. Gold, silver, platinum, and palladium each have an ISO 4217 currency code.


The best known precious metals are the coinage metals, which are gold and silver. Although both have industrial uses, they are better known for their uses in art, jewelry, and coinage. Other precious metals include the platinum group metals: ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum, of which platinum is the most widely traded. [1] The demand for precious metals is driven not only by their practical use but also by their role as investments and a store of value. Historically, precious metals have commanded much higher prices than common industrial metals.


1,000 oz silver bar
1,000 oz silver bar

A metal is deemed to be precious if it is rare. The discovery of new sources of ore or improvements in mining or refining processes may cause the value of a precious metal to diminish. The status of a "precious" metal can also be determined by high demand or market value. Precious metals in bulk form are known as bullion and are traded on commodity markets. Bullion metals may be cast into ingots or minted into coins. The defining attribute of bullion is that it is valued by its mass and purity rather than by a face value as money.

Purity and mass

500 g silver bullion bar produced by Johnson Matthey Johnson Matthey 500 grammes silver bullion.jpg
500 g silver bullion bar produced by Johnson Matthey

The level of purity varies from issue to issue. "Three nines" (99.9%) purity is common. The purest mass-produced bullion coins are in the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf series, which go up to 99.999% purity. A 100% pure bullion is nearly impossible: as the percentage of impurities diminishes, it becomes progressively more difficult to purify the metal further. Historically, coins had a certain amount of weight of alloy, with the purity a local standard. The Krugerrand is the first modern example of measuring in "pure gold": it should contain at least 12/11 ounces of at least 11/12 pure gold. Other bullion coins (for example the British Sovereign) show neither the purity nor the fine-gold weight on the coin but are recognized and consistent in their composition.[ citation needed ] Many coins historically showed a denomination in currency (example: American double eagle: $20).


1 oz Vienna Philharmonic gold coin Philharmoniker 99 front.jpg
1 oz Vienna Philharmonic gold coin

Many nations mint bullion coins. Although nominally issued as legal tender, these coins' face value as currency is far below that of their value as bullion. For instance, Canada mints a gold bullion coin (the Gold Maple Leaf) at a face value of $50 containing one troy ounce (31.1035 g) of gold—as of January 2022. The USD to CAD exchange rate averaged 1.129 in July 2009 according to OANDA Historical Exchange Rates. Although the exact moment that the $1075 figure was determined is unknown, it may be considered a reasonable value for the time. Bullion coins' minting by national governments gives them some numismatic value in addition to their bullion value, as well as certifying their purity.

American Platinum Eagle bullion coin 2005 AEPlat Proof Obv.png
American Platinum Eagle bullion coin

One of the largest bullion coins in the world was the 10,000-dollar Australian Gold Nugget coin minted in Australia which consists of a full kilogram of 99.9% pure gold. In 2012, the Perth Mint produced a 1-tonne coin of 99.99% pure gold with a face value of $1 million AUD, making it the largest minted coin in the world with a gold value of around $50 million AUD. [2] China has produced coins in very limited quantities (less than 20 pieces minted) that exceed 8 kilograms (260 ozt) of gold.[ citation needed ] Austria has minted a coin containing 31 kg of gold (the Vienna Philharmonic Coin minted in 2004 with a face value of 100,000 euro). As a stunt to publicise the 99.999% pure one-ounce Canadian Gold Maple Leaf series, in 2007 the Royal Canadian Mint made a 100 kg 99.999% gold coin, with a face value of $1 million, and now manufactures them to order, but at a substantial premium over the market value of the gold. [3] [4]

Economic use

Gold and silver, and sometimes other precious metals, are often seen as hedges against both inflation and economic downturn. Silver coins have become popular with collectors due to their relative affordability, and, unlike most gold and platinum issues which are valued based upon the markets, silver issues are more often valued as collectibles, far higher than their actual bullion value. [5]


Initially a precious metal that became common is aluminium. While aluminium is the third most abundant element and most abundant metal in the Earth's crust, it was at first found to be exceedingly difficult to extract the metal from its various non-metallic ores. The great expense of refining the metal made the small available quantity of pure aluminium more valuable than gold. [6] Bars of aluminium were exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1855, [7] and Napoleon III's most important guests were given aluminium cutlery, while those less worthy dined with mere silver. [6] In 1884, the pyramidal capstone of the Washington Monument was cast of 100 ounces of pure aluminium. By that time, aluminium was as expensive as silver. [8] The statue of Anteros atop the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain (18851893) in London's Piccadilly Circus is also of cast aluminium. Over time, however, the price of the metal has dropped. The dawn of commercial electric generation in 1882 and the invention of the Hall–Héroult process in 1886 caused the price of aluminium to drop substantially over a short period of time.

Rough world market price ($/kg)

Rhodium daily Price 1992-2022 Rhodium daily Price 1992-2022.webp
Rhodium daily Price 1992-2022
Price of gold 1915-2022 Price of gold.webp
Price of gold 1915-2022
Palladium Prices 1977-2022 Palladium Prices.webp
Palladium Prices 1977-2022
(ppb) [9]
Valuable metal price (US$/kg)
10 Apr 2009
22 Jul 2009
7 Jan 2010
[ citation needed ]
31 Dec 2014
16 Jul 2018
[13] [ unreliable source? ]
2 Mar 2023
Rhodium Rh139,68046,20088,41539,64177,804 [15] 302,220
Platinum Pt542,68137,65087,74138,90228,96031,010
Gold Au431,10030,59024,31738,13043,76459,040
Palladium Pd158,4308,14013,63225,55932,20546,440
Iridium Ir114,10012,96013,11715,43246,940 [16] 147,890
Osmium Os1.513,40012,20012,21712,217
Rhenium Re0.77,4007,0006,2502,425
Ruthenium Ru12,2902,7305,5621,8658,423 [17] 14,950
Germanium Ge1,5001,050 [18] 1,038
Beryllium Be2,800850
Silver Ag75437439588441556670
Indium In50 [19] 325 [18] 520
Gallium Ga19,000580425 [18] 413
Tellurium Te1158.70
Bismuth Bi8.515.4018.19
Mercury Hg8518.9015.95

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bullion</span> Gold, silver, or other precious metals in the form of bars or ingots

Bullion is non-ferrous metal that has been refined to a high standard of elemental purity. The term is ordinarily applied to bulk metal used in the production of coins and especially to precious metals such as gold and silver. It comes from the Anglo-Norman term for a melting-house where metal was refined, and earlier from French bouillon, "boiling". Although precious metal bullion is no longer used to make coins for general circulation, it continues to be held as an investment with a reputation for stability in periods of economic uncertainty. To assess the purity of gold bullion, the centuries-old technique of fire assay is still employed, together with modern spectroscopic instrumentation, to accurately determine its quality.

The fineness of a precious metal object represents the weight of fine metal therein, in proportion to the total weight which includes alloying base metals and any impurities. Alloy metals are added to increase hardness and durability of coins and jewelry, alter colors, decrease the cost per weight, or avoid the cost of high-purity refinement. For example, copper is added to the precious metal silver to make a more durable alloy for use in coins, housewares and jewelry. Coin silver, which was used for making silver coins in the past, contains 90% silver and 10% copper, by mass. Sterling silver contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metals, usually copper, by mass.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">American Gold Eagle</span> Gold bullion coin of the United States

The American Gold Eagle is an official gold bullion coin of the United States. Authorized under the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985, it was first released by the United States Mint in 1986. Because the term "eagle" also is the official United States designation for pre-1933 ten dollars gold coins, the weight of the bullion coin is typically used when describing American Gold Eagles to avoid confusion. This is particularly true with the 1/4-oz American Gold Eagle, which has a marked face value of ten dollars.

The Canadian Gold Maple Leaf (GML) is a gold bullion coin that is issued annually by the Government of Canada. It is produced by the Royal Canadian Mint.

A bullion coin is a coin struck from refined precious metal (bullion) and kept as a store of value or an investment rather than used in day-to-day commerce. A bullion coin is distinguished by an explicit statement of weight and fineness on the coin; this is because the weight and composition of coins intended for legal tender is specified in the coinage laws of the issuing nation, and therefore there is no need for an explicit statement on the coins themselves.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Perth Mint</span> Australias official bullion mint, situated in Perth, Western Australia

The Perth Mint is Australia's official bullion mint and wholly owned by the Government of Western Australia. Established on 20 June 1899, two years before Australia's Federation in 1901, the Perth Mint was the last of three Australian colonial branches of the United Kingdom's Royal Mint intended to refine gold from the gold rushes and to mint gold sovereigns and half-sovereigns for the British Empire. Along with the Royal Australian Mint, which produces coins of the Australian dollar for circulation, the Perth Mint is the older of Australia's two mints issuing coins that are legal tender.

This glossary of numismatics is a list of definitions of terms and concepts relevant to numismatics and coin collecting, as well as sub-fields and related disciplines, with concise explanations for the beginner or professional.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Noble (Manx coin)</span>

The Manx Noble are platinum, gold or silver bullion coins distributed by the Isle of Man and minted by private companies. While platinum coins have been minted since the early 1800s, the Noble is the first platinum coin created for investors. The coins are not minted every year, but have an erratic schedule. Nobles are legal tender but they do not have a fixed face value; instead, like the Krugerrand or Mexico's Libertad, they are legal tender to the value of their precious metal content.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gold bar</span> Quantity of refined metallic gold

A gold bar, also called gold bullion or gold ingot, is a quantity of refined metallic gold of any shape that is made by a bar producer meeting standard conditions of manufacture, labeling, and record keeping. Larger gold bars that are produced by pouring the molten metal into molds are called ingots. Smaller bars may be manufactured by minting or stamping from appropriately rolled gold sheets. The standard gold bar held as gold reserves by central banks and traded among bullion dealers is the 400-troy-ounce Good Delivery gold bar. The kilobar, which is 1,000 grams in mass, and a 100 troy ounce gold bar are the bars that are more manageable and are used extensively for trading and investment. The premium on these bars when traded is very low over the spot value of the gold, making it ideal for small transfers between banks and traders. Most kilobars are flat, although some investors, particularly in Europe, prefer the brick shape.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Palladium coin</span>

Palladium coins are a form of coinage made out of the rare silver-white transition metal palladium. Palladium is assigned the code XPD by ISO 4217. The first palladium coins were produced in 1966.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silver as an investment</span> Precious metal as a store of value

Silver may be used as an investment like other precious metals. It has been regarded as a form of money and store of value for more than 4,000 years, although it lost its role as legal tender in developed countries when the use of the silver standard came to a final end in 1935. Some countries mint bullion and collector coins, however, such as the American Silver Eagle with nominal face values. In 2009, the main demand for silver was for industrial applications (40%), jewellery, bullion coins, and exchange-traded products. In 2011, the global silver reserves amounted to 530,000 tonnes.

The Canadian Platinum Maple Leaf is the official bullion platinum coin of Canada. First issued by the Royal Canadian Mint in 1988, it was available until 2002 in five different denominations, all of which are marked as containing .9995 pure platinum. The bullion coin was partly reintroduced in 2009 in the form of the 1 troy ounce denomination in .9999 purity, featuring a new portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse. The coins have legal tender status in Canada, but as is often the case with bullion coins, the face values of these coins is lower than the market price of the material they are made from.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Platinum as an investment</span>

Platinum as an investment is often compared in financial history to gold and silver, which were both known to be used as money in ancient civilizations. Experts posit that platinum is about 15–20 times scarcer than gold and approximately 60–100 times scarcer than silver, on the basis of annual mine production. Since 2014, platinum prices have fallen lower than gold. Approximately 75% of global platinum is mined in South Africa.

The coinage metals comprise, at a minimum, those metallic chemical elements which have historically been used as components in alloys used to mint coins. The term is not perfectly defined, however, since a number of metals have been used to make "demonstration coins" which have never been used to make monetized coins for any nation-state, but could be. Some of these elements would make excellent coins in theory, but their status as coin metals is not clear. In general, because of problems caused when coin metals are intrinsically valuable as commodities, there has been a trend in the 21st century toward use of coinage metals of only the least exotic and expensive types.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gold coin</span> Coin made from gold

A gold coin is a coin that is made mostly or entirely of gold. Most gold coins minted since 1800 are 90–92% gold (22‑karat), while most of today's gold bullion coins are pure gold, such as the Britannia, Canadian Maple Leaf, and American Buffalo. Alloyed gold coins, like the American Gold Eagle and South African Krugerrand, are typically 91.7% gold by weight, with the remainder being silver and copper.

A gold IRA or precious metals IRA is an Individual Retirement Account in which physical gold or other approved precious metals are held in custody for the benefit of the IRA account owner. It functions the same as a regular IRA, only instead of holding paper assets, it holds physical bullion coins or bars. Precious metals IRAs are usually self-directed IRAs, a type of IRA where the custodian allows more diverse investments to be held in the account.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vienna Philharmonic (coin)</span>

The Vienna Philharmonic, often shortened to Philharmonic, is a bullion coin of gold, silver, or platinum produced by the Austrian Mint. The coin is named for the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra, which inspired the design of both sides. It was introduced in 1989 as a one-troy ounce (ozt), gold coin with a face value of 2,000 Austrian schillings. It is generally one of the world's best selling bullion coins. In 2002, with the adoption of the euro currency, the nominal value of the one-ounce coin was changed to 100 euros. In 2008, the Mint introduced a one-ounce silver version of the coin with a nominal value of 1.50 euros. The silver coin is also one of the top selling bullion coins, ranked third in 2013. In 2016, the mint introduced a one ounce platinum coin with a face value of 100 euros.

PAMP SA is an independently operated precious metals refining and fabricating company and member of the MKS Group. It was established in 1977 in Ticino, Switzerland

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Queen's Beasts (coin)</span> Series of 10+1 British coins featuring Queen Elizabeth IIs heraldic beasts

TheQueen's Beasts coins are British coins issued by the Royal Mint in platinum, gold, and silver since 2016. Each of the 10 beast coins in the series features a stylized version of one of the heraldic Queen's Beasts statues present at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II representing her royal line of ancestry. The silver coin is notable as the first two-ounce United Kingdom silver bullion coin. Engraver Jody Clark designed the entire series. In December 2016, a full line of proof-quality coins was announced. In 2017, the mint began producing a platinum version of the coin. In April 2021, the Royal Mint issued an eleventh "Completer Coin" that featured all 10 of the Queen's Beasts, taking the series to 11 coins in total. The April 2021 release included a "one of a kind" gold coin weighing 10kg and a denominated value of £10,000. Based upon the UK spot price at the time of release, the 10kg gold coin had an intrinsic scrap value of approximately £411,000. It was widely reported that the 10kg gold coin was the heaviest gold coin the Royal Mint had ever produced and that it had taken 400 hours to produce, four days to polish and has been described as a "Masterwork". The Royal Mint announced that Completer Coin completes the Queen’s Beasts commemorative collection.

The Canadian Palladium Maple Leaf is the official bullion palladium coin of Canada. It is issued by the Royal Canadian Mint in .9995 purity. The coins have legal tender status in Canada, but as is often the case with bullion coins, the face values of these coins is lower than the market price of the material they are made from. Unlike the gold, silver and platinum maple leaf series, the palladium maple leaf is subject to the GST/HST tax.


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  3. "the Greatest coined gold in the world". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
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  9. The abundance of the element, a measure for its rarity, is given in mass fraction as kg in the earth's crust (CRC Handbook). David R. Lide, ed. (2005). "Section 14, Geophysics, Astronomy, and Acoustics; Abundance of Elements in the Earth's Crust and in the Sea". CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (85 ed.). Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.
  10. Mostly taken from London Metal Exchange.
  11. From the Archived 2012-09-14 at the Wayback Machine
  12. From the Archived 2012-09-14 at the Wayback Machine and (mid price quoted)
  13. From the
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  18. 1 2 3 The metal Price ($/kg)s of gallium, germanium, and indium are taken from Archived 2008-05-15 at the Wayback Machine as examples of modern precious metals used for investment / speculation.
  19. Tolcin A. (2012) U.S. Geological Survey Mineral Commodity Summaries 2012.