What is Fine Silver?
Investing in fine Silver and other Precious Metals is a good way to diversify your investment and retirement portfolios and provide a hedge against inflation. While fine Silver investments may come many different forms, all Silver investment products share certain properties that make them investment grade. Specifically, they must all be crafted of fine Silver, ensuring their quality and purity.
What is Considered Fine Silver?
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 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 Royal Canadian Mint produces an exceptional Silver Maple Leaf coin composed of ultra-fine .9999 Silver, but only a few mints have that capability.
- Sterling silver used in jewelry, for example, has a purity of 92.5 percent. Thus, silver jewelry is often stamped with 925.
- Silver coins minted for general circulation generally used a Silver alloy with an 80 to 90 percent Silver content.
- Only fine Silver is used in silver bullion and bullion coins; only silver stamped 0.999 purity has value on the trade markets.
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, Silver coins and Silver rounds. Common sizes of Silver bullion bars are one ounce, five ounces, 10 ounces, and 100 ounces, with the 100-ounce bar being by far the most popular size for investment purposes. “Good delivery” Silver bullion bars used for international exchanges usually weigh in at 1,000 troy ounces. Silver bullion coins and rounds, are very popular for investment purposes. Coins command a higher premium over spot price because they are issued by a sovereign government and boast 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 American Silver Eagle, while the Royal Canadian Mint issues the Silver Maple Leaf coins and the Royal Mint in London produces Silver Britannias. Non-government mints issue Silver bullion rounds. Rounds are different from coins because rounds have no face value and are not legal tender. Private companies like the Sunshine Minting Company, the Highland Mint and the Northwest Territory Mint all issue investment-grade silver bullion rounds. These rounds provide a good opportunity to buy investment grade Silver at a low premium over spot price. Silver coins struck for general circulation are not considered fine Silver for investment purposes, but some do have melt value or numismatic value.
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, it must undergo extensive processing to be refined into what we consider fine Silver.
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 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, using a pressing technique similar to 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 machine-made item.
Silver coins and Silver rounds tend to go through a more detailed production process, which begins with an artist designing and sculpting a large plaster model of the coin. After it is approved, the model is used to create a die that will powerfully strike Silver blanks into coins or rounds. Even small mints can make intricate and beautiful designs for their Silver products.
Why is Fine Silver Used in Silver Bullion?
The London Bullion Market Association set forth the requirements that Silver bullion must meet in order to be accepted as settlement in the London bullion exchange. These requirements, commonly called “Good Delivery,” specify the size, weight, markings, and fineness acceptable for bullion bars used on the exchange. Good Delivery bars must be .999 pure at a minimum. The Good Delivery standard has been adopted by all major international financial markets including New York, Zürich, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Sydney, as well as international governments, the IMF, and central banks.
Fine Silver bullion in the form of bars and coins have been a popular investment choice for decades. Silver bullion was approved in 1977, by 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, and our approved items are clearly labled as well as easily searchable to make it easy for you.
Investing in Fine Silver Bullion
Some experts think that Silver investments may be more lucrative than other Precious Metals investments in the long run. There is great industrial demand for Silver, which will underpin its price indefinitely. Further, mine production has failed to meet the combined industrial and commercial demand for nearly 30 years running, which drives up the value of Silver and may continue to do so for a long time.
Both experienced and first-time investors may prefer Silver because of Silver’s relatively low price compared to Gold. Silver bars stack efficiently and are easy to handle. You can store a good bit of wealth in a relatively compact space with Silver bars. APMEX is thrilled to offer an extensive array of Silver investment pieces, including Silver bars, Silver rounds and Silver proof coins from the world’s most respected mints. Browse our unparalleled array of fine Silver investment products today.