Since the dawn of time, gold and silver have been recognized as valuable. And even today, precious metals have their place in a savvy investor's portfolio. But which precious metal is best for investment purposes? And why are they so volatile? If you're just getting started in precious metals, read on to learn more about how they work and how you can invest in them. There are many ways to buy into precious metals like gold, silver and platinum and a host of good reasons why you should give in to the treasure hunt.
We'll start with the grand-daddy of them all: gold. Gold is unique for its durability (it doesn't rust or otherwise corrode), malleability and its ability to conduct both heat and electricity. It has some industrial applications in dentistry and electronics, but we know it principally as a base for jewelry and as a form of currency.
The value of gold is determined by the market 24 hours a day, nearly seven days a week. Gold trades predominantly as a function of sentiment; its price is less affected by the laws of supply and demand. This is because new mine supply is vastly outweighed by the sheer size of above-ground, hoarded gold. To put it simply, when the hoarders feel like selling, the price drops. When they want to buy, new supply is quickly absorbed and the gold prices are driven higher. Several factors account for an increased desire to hoard the yellow metal:
The silver bullet: Unlike gold, the price of silver swings between its perceived role as a store of value and its very tangible role as an industrial metal. For this reason, price fluctuations in the silver market are more volatile than gold.
So, while silver will trade roughly in line with gold as an item to be hoarded (investment demand), the industrial supply/demand equation for the metal exerts an equally strong influence on price. That equation has always fluctuated with new innovations, including: