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A precious metal is a rare, naturally occurring metallic chemical element of high economic value, which is not radioactive (excluding natural polonium, radium, actinium and protactinium). Chemically, the precious metals are less reactive than most elements, have high lustre, are softer or more ductile, and have higher melting points than other metals. Historically, precious metals were important as currency, but are now regarded mainly as investment and industrial commodities. Gold, silver, platinum, and palladium each have an ISO 4217 currency code.

The best-known precious metals are the coinage metals gold and silver. While both have industrial uses, they are better known for their uses in art, jewellery 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. In December 2009, gold was over $1200.00/troy ounce and silver was about $15.00/troy ounce, compared to copper at $0.11/troy ounce and nickel at $0.36/troy ounce.[citation needed]

In the early part of the 21st century, precious metal prices rose significantly and recycling precious metals became more and more attractive.[citation needed] Some companies have been doing recycling for many years, such as Sabin Metal Corporation (since 1945).[citation needed]



A 500 gram silver bullion bar produced by Johnson Matthey

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.[2]

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 July 2009, this coin is worth about $1,075 as bullion.[citation needed] Bullion coins' minting by national governments gives them some numismatic value in addition to their bullion value, as well as certifying their purity.

Silver 1000oz bar

The level of purity varies from issue to issue. 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. Note that a 100% pure bullion is not possible, as absolute purity in extracted and refined metals can only be asymptotically approached. Many bullion coins contain a stated quantity (such as one troy ounce) of the marginally-impure alloy. In contrast, the Krugerrand is one of many historic and modern bullion coins of 22 Kt Crown gold, with a stated content (usually one troy ounce) of "fine gold", with the other component(s) of the alloy making the coin heavier than one ounce in total. Still more bullion coins (for example: British Sovereign) state neither the purity nor the fine-gold weight on the coin, but are recognized and consistent in their composition,[citation needed] and many historically stated a denomination in currency (example: American Double Eagle).

One of the largest bullion coins in the world is the 10,000 dollar Australian Gold Nugget coin minted in Australia which consists of a full kilogram of 99.9% pure gold. There have been a small number of larger bullion coins, but they are impractical to handle and not produced in mass quantities. China has produced coins in very limited quantities (less than 20 pieces minted) that exceed 260 troy ounces (8 kg) 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.

Gold and silver 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 collectables, far higher than their actual bullion value. PAMP (Produits Artistiques Metaux Precieux) CH-6874, Castel San Pietro, Switzerland deals with Gold Bullion of metal Fineness : 995.0 RAND Refinery Limited, Germiston, South Africa also deal with Gold Bullion of metal fineness : 995.0


An example of a precious metal that is now common is that of aluminum. Although aluminum is one of the most commonly occurring elements on Earth, it was at one time found to be exceedingly difficult to extract from its various ores. This made the little available pure aluminum, which had been refined at great expense, more valuable than gold.[3] Bars of aluminum were exhibited alongside the French crown jewels at the Exposition Universelle of 1855[citation needed], and Napoleon III's most important guests were given aluminum cutlery, while those less worthy dined with mere silver[3]. Additionally, the pyramidal top to the Washington Monument is made of pure aluminum. At the time of the monument's construction, aluminum was as expensive as silver[4]. Over time, however, the price of the metal has dropped; the invention of the Hall-Héroult process in 1886 caused the high price of aluminum to permanently collapse[citation needed].

Bismuth and tellurium

Bismuth and tellurium are the only two metals which have abundances less than 10-8 by mass part (g/g) in the Earth's crust, but which are currently not of high economic value.[citation needed]

Rough world market prices

Valuable metal prices containing all precious metals names in bold
metal mass abundance[5] price 2009-04-10[6] price 2009-07-22[7] price 2010-01-07[citation needed]
0 0 0 0
Platinum 0.003 ppb 42681 $/kg 37650 $/kg 49995 $/kg
Rhodium 1 ppb 39680 $/kg 46200 $/kg 88415 $/kg
Gold 4 ppb 31100 $/kg 30590 $/kg 36370 $/kg
Iridium 1 ppb 14100 $/kg 12960 $/kg 13117 $/kg
Osmium 1.5 ppb 13400 $/kg 12200 $/kg 12217 $/kg
Palladium 15 ppb 8430 $/kg 8140 $/kg 13632 $/kg
Rhenium 0.7 ppb 7400 $/kg 7000 $/kg 6250 $/kg
Ruthenium 1 ppb 2290 $/kg 2730 $/kg 5562 $/kg
Germanium 1500 ppb 1050 $/kg[8] 1038 $/kg
Beryllium 2800 ppb ˜ 850 $/kg[citation needed]
Silver 75 ppb 437 $/kg 439 $/kg 588 $/kg
Gallium 19000 ppb 425 $/kg[8] 413 $/kg
Indium 250 ppb 325 $/kg[8] 520 $/kg
Tellurium 1 ppb ˜ 158.7 $/kg
Mercury 85 ppb 18.9 $/kg 15.95 $/kg
Bismuth 8.5 ppb 15.4 $/kg 18.19 $/kg

See also


  1. ^ Platinum Guild: Applications Beyond Expectation
  2. ^ Gold bullion facts from
  3. ^ a b Aluminum: Common Metal, Uncommon Past, Chemical Heritage NewsMagazine, Winter 2007/8, Vol.27, No.4
  4. ^ George J. Binczewski (1995). "The Point of a Monument: A History of the Aluminum Cap of the Washington Monument". JOM 47 (11): 20–25. 
  5. ^ The abundance of the element, a measure for its rarity, is given in mass fraction as kg/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. 
  6. ^ All given prices from 10th April 2009 are taken mostly from London Metal Exchange.
  7. ^ Data from 22nd of July 2009 are from the taken, except as noted.
  8. ^ a b c The metal prices of gallium, germanium, and indium are taken from as examples of modern precious metals used for investment / speculation.

External links


Sources of current metal prices


Simple English

A precious metal is a type of metal that is worth a lot of money compared to most other metals. Some precious metals are gold, silver, and platinum. Many pieces of jewelry are made out of precious metals.

The precious metal worth the most amount of money for the same mass is Rhodium.[1]


  1. Precious Metal Prices Index (HTML). Accessed 19 November 2006.


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