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What Makes Fine Silver Unique?

Published on 1/6/2022 by APMEX

Fine Silver bullion against a purple background

Fine Silver is defined by its purity. The system used to grade Silver purity is called millesimal fineness and is expressed as a decimal.

Using this system as a guide, investment and commodity-grade Silver products must be 99.9 percent pure. It will often be written as .999 and is also sometimes referred to as three nines fine. Investment-grade Silver is stamped with a hallmark certifying its purity.

The London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) is the global authority for Silver, and sets the standards for hallmarks. In order for a Silver bar or coin to be stamped with an LBMA hallmark, it must be refined in an LBMA-approved refinery. There are only four refineries in the world that have this approval: Johnson Matthey in the UK, Metalor Danaos in Switzerland, Umicore in Belgium and Heraeus Metals Division in Germany.

The Royal Canadian Mint produces an exceptional Silver Maple Leaf coin composed of ultra-fine .9999 Silver, but only a few mints have that capability.

Fine Silver is also known as "coin Silver" and was used for making Silver coins until 1837. Fine Silver is a very soft metal and is purer than sterling silver. Fine Silver can be worked into extremely fine wires or beaten into sheets that are thin enough to see through. While many cultures have used the term "Silver" to refer to any of its alloys, modern usage restricts it as a term for high-purity Silver.

Sterling Silver, for example, is an alloy of 92.5% Silver and 7.5% Copper. Fine Silver is 999 parts per thousand pure. Because of its high malleability and electrical conductivity, fine Silver is often used in jewelry and electronics. In fact, fine Silver wire is so thin, it is sometimes called "thread".

What Types of Items Are Made With Fine Silver?

Fine Silver is generally only used for investment products; it is too soft for industrial, commercial or jewelry applications. Common forms of Silver bullion include Silver bars, coins and rounds. Coins command a higher premium over spot price because they are issued by a sovereign government and boast an extremely high quality of both manufacture and design. They also may have numismatic value.

Unlike Silver bullion bars, which can be minted anywhere in any quantity, Silver coins and collectibles are specific to a particular mint and may have limited mintages, which enhances their growth potential over time.

Most of the world’s important mints have a signature Silver coin. The United States Mint, for example, gives us the perennially popular Silver American Eagle, while the Royal Canadian Mint produces the Silver Maple Leaf. The Perth Mint in Australia is well-known for their Lunar Series coins, which depict different animals from the Chinese zodiac.

Canadian Mint issues the Silver Maple Leaf coins and The Royal Mint produces Silver Britannias. While private companies like the Sunshine Mint, the Highland Mint and the Valcambi Mint  all issue investment-grade Silver bullion. It is important to be aware of the Silver spot price before investing in Silver to make sure that you are buying at the best time.

How is Fine Silver Produced?

Silver is rarely found in nugget form. Mostly, it occurs in various ores such as argentite and galena. Once these ores have been extracted from the earth, they must undergo extensive processing to be refined into what we consider fine Silver. The most common way to produce fine Silver is through a process called electrolysis.

In electrolysis, an electric current is passed through a vessel containing the Silver ore. This process separates the Silver from the other metals in the ore. The pure Silver collects at the bottom of the vessel and can be then be filtered and melted down into bars, coins or fine Silver wire.

Since only a few mints have the capability of producing fine Silver coins, most of the world's finest Silver has no country affiliation. Argentina’s La Casa de Moneda de Buenos Aires, for example, produces fine Silver bars, while it also strikes a popular line of silver coins called the Libertad.

While there are several nations that produce their own line of silver bullion bars and rounds, there are only a few mints that produce fine Silver coins. The most well-known ones include the South African Mint, the Mexican Mint, the Austrian Mint and the Perth Mint. Private companies like Sunshine Minting, Highland Mint and Valcambi are also reputable makers of investment-grade Silver bullion.

Only after Silver has been refined to at least 99.9 percent purity, it is ready to be made into bars, coins and rounds. Some mints make ingots in a traditional way, hand pouring molten metal into molds. These are easily identified by their softer edges and by their relatively duller luster. Most mints, however, use a pressing technique like one used for making coins when they produce bars.

Metal strips are milled, and then uniform blanks are cut from the strips. The blanks are then stamped or struck with the mint’s design and the bar’s details. These bars have a shiny, mirror-like finish and the crisp edges associated with the machine-made items.

Fine Silver is too soft for industrial, commercial or jewelry applications, but it is often used in electrical wiring. Silver coins are generally only made out of fine Silver, and they command a higher premium over spot price because they are issued by a sovereign government and boast an extremely high quality of both manufacture and design.

Why is Fine Silver Used in Silver Bullion?

In general, most people consider fine Silver bullion to include any silver bar that contains at least 99.9% fine Silver. The most common size for a fine Silver bar is 1,000 troy ounces, although bars as small as 100 troy ounces and as large as 5,000 troy ounces are also available.

Fine Silver bullion in the form of bars and rounds has been a popular investment choice for decades. Silver bullion was approved in 1977, by an act of Congress, for use in Individual Retirement Accounts, and many people now hold Silver bullion among their retirement investments. APMEX offers a wide variety of Precious Metals IRA -eligible Silver investment products.


   

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