The world of precious metals is a lot larger than some people realize, and a wide variety of these elements get traded and analyzed frequently across global markets. Precious or valuable metals vary from the most commonly recognized “wealth metals” to other heavy metals that may provide specialized materials for technologies, or even constitute the cutting edge of physics research. Knowing more about precious metals will help anyone who is involved in markets or tasks relating to valuing any of these products.
The two most commonly recognized precious metals are silver and gold. Both of these conform to a general standard for precious or valuable metals: they each have a shiny “luster,” a certain texture and density, and high melting points. Other precious metals often conform to these standards as well.
Other valuable metals like platinum and palladium have been commanding their own audiences as commodities. Commodities are physical materials that are traded in specific ways on national exchanges and in world markets. Gold, silver, platinum and palladium are all recognized commodities with their own place in these trading markets.
Beyond all of the above, which are naturally occurring precious metals, some metals are also being produced through a process called nuclear fission. The idea is that changing the chemical makeup of a substance can change its status as a precious metal. Experiments have been done with elements like rhodium and ruthenium, as well as silver, where experts claim to have created small amounts of the precious metal artificially. There’s even study around “gold synthesis” which is a lofty and long-time goal of many societies throughout history.
Another very important distinction between kinds of precious and valuable metals relates to their values in financial markets and not to their chemical makeup. The difference between raw versus numismatic forms of precious metals like gold and silver is an important one. Financial institutions and markets use the term “bullion” or “boullion” to refer to a precious metal that is “in the lump” or unformed, where the value is by ounce. Numismatic heavy metals are those crafted into jewelry, coins, watches, etc. where the value has to do with the actual crafted item.
Today, markets are generally expanding their ideas about precious and valuable metals to include all of those elements important in manufacturing digital technologies. Market news follows the pursuit of precious metals by national industries, and tracks their origins and prime market holders. Precious metals will most likely be an interesting part of the world of commodities for some time to come.