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What are the Different Types of Precious Metals?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By truman12 — On May 13, 2012

There has been a whole new market for precious metals that has sprung up around the high tech industry. Many computers, smartphones and other common gadgets use small amounts of rare metals and minerals as part of their most vital components.

Precious metals used to be thought of primarily in the context of luxury but they have found a new market in the area of industry. The fight over mineral rights is always contentious and now that big business has a stake in mining these metals there will be a bigger fight than ever over who gets to take the profits.

By ZsaZsa56 — On May 13, 2012

Precious metals investing can be one of the safest and the most lucrative ways to invest your money. I do not mean to suggest that there is no risk. Huge fortunes have been lost gambling on gold and silver. But unlike many other investment opportunities, precious metals have real, enduring value. The value may fluctuate, but it will never be worthless and it has a value that will endure the collapse of any monetary system.

There has been a lot of talk about gold investing during the recent economic downturn. You will have to do the research yourself before you decide to make the leap but it can definitely lead to rewards just waiting to be reaped.

By nextcorrea — On May 12, 2012

There was a project announced recently where a bunch of very rich men are planning on developing a space craft that will allow a team of miners to travel to an asteroid and harvest a tremendous amount of platinum, one of the most expensive precious metals on earth.

I know you are probably thinking that this sounds like something out of Hollywood but it is apparently true. The project will cost incredible amounts of money but the value of the platinum harvested will far exceed that number. It is a pretty fantastical idea but I hope they succeed just as an example of human will.

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