What is the Difference Between Precious Metals and Base Metals?

We often do not think about what makes a Precious Metal "precious". The periodic table lists all known elements on the earth, but we do not give a second thought to the group of Precious Metals on the table. Their properties are important to know, but distinguishing the Precious Metals from the base metals and other elements will give you a better understanding of what makes a metal precious in the first place. 

People have traded Precious Metals like Gold, Silver and Platinum for thousands of years. Not all metals you find on the periodic table are used that way. What separates Precious Metals from base metals will help you understand exactly how precious and important the bullion you are buying is. 

The Differences Between Precious Metals and Base Metals

"Couldn't any of the elements be used as money? Not really. Theoretically, any of the elements could serve as money. Practically, however, there are limitations on which elements can service as money and which can't." (Gold Money)

The limitation is broken into four parts that are essential to grasp. Those limitations are scarcity, solid, non-toxic and durability. (Gold Money) The common Precious Metals we are familiar with, Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium, fall into these categories. Silver appears more commonly than the others. If the limitations hold true, then nearly 100 elements are eliminated from being a Precious Metal. Gasses, toxic elements and base metals fill in the rest of periodic table. 

Some base metals are important for industrial commodities and resources, but many of them are not considered as precious as Gold and Silver. In regard to base metals, "Pricing varies with the laws of supply and demand, often making good investments when purchased in bulk...These metals are frequently traded on commodity markets and are rarely used for jewelry purposes." (SBC Gold) The brittle nature of many of the base metals disqualifies them from being considered precious. These metals include Lead, Iron, Aluminum and Uranium. It is argued that Copper is a Precious Metal, but it is commonly associated with the base metal group because of its high melting point. There are other metals that fall into both the Precious Metals and base metals camp, including Osmium, Rhodium, Ruthenium and Iridium.  

Base metals are not considered collectible metals. They are not used in bullion production, jewelry or other accessories. Even though all Precious Metals have industrial purposes, they also have history on its side. Their economic value has been tested over time and the demand has maintained consistency. Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium are rare but they are also durable and solid. 

Precious Metals make good investment opportunities. Their stability and importance in history go with the scientific reasoning why base metals are different from Precious Metals. At APMEX, you can find a large selection of Precious Metals bullion at competitive prices.


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