Investing in precious metals can be a smart way to hedge your bets against a troubled economy. Whether it’s gold, silver, platinum or palladium, putting some of your money into these valuable metals can ensure you have something to rely on if the economy sinks or inflation soars.
Precious metals have been a part of human society since before recorded history. We started mining gold 7,000 years ago, there’s evidence we were removing silver from lead in biblical times, and we used platinum to decorate ourselves and our creations hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.
What Makes a Metal Precious?
There are four metals that are universally considered “precious”: gold, silver, platinum and palladium. They are revered, and valuable, because they are so rare, so beautiful and so useful.
Large deposits of gold exist near the earth’s core, but most of what humans use was left here by meteorites. South Africa is home to the largest gold mining region in the world, the site of a large meteorite crater. Most gold goes toward jewelry and investments, but some is put to a long list of practical uses, from dental fillings to gourmet food.
Silver isn’t as valuable as gold, but it’s still a highly prized precious metal. It’s found in China, Poland, Australia, Serbia and Latin America, and it’s usually separated from copper, lead, gold or zinc when those metals are refined. It has many uses, as currency, as an investment, in dentistry, in industry, in medicine, and as jewelry.
Platinum, like gold, is mined primarily in South Africa. It’s used in dentistry, electrical contacts and electrodes, laboratory equipment, jewelry, and other applications. Its scarcity makes it highly valuable.
Palladium, the last of the precious metals, is found in Montana, Ontario, Russia and South Africa. More than half of all palladium goes into catalytic converters, and much of the world’s supply is recycled when those auto parts are scrapped.
Why Should You Invest In Precious Metals?
There are at least two good reasons to consider investing in precious metals: recession and inflation. The economy is still rough, and there’s no guarantee which way it will go next. Precious metals – particularly gold and silver – always have some value, so they can act as a hedge against economic weakening or surging inflation, either of which is possible.
Investing a portion of your money in precious metals makes sense. Gold offers perhaps the best long-term options, while silver may be better for short-term investments. Platinum and palladium can be harder to invest it, but they’re seen by many as the best opportunity for growth in the future.
There are three general ways to go about investing in precious metals. The first is to buy coins. Although few governments circulate gold or silver coins anymore, many issue investment-grade coins with these metals. The second option is to buy investment-grade bullion. Finding a dealer may not be so easy, depending on where you live, but this is how physical investors (those who buy the actual gold) typically do it. Finally, you could invest via mutual funds. This is often the best choice, as you don’t have to worry about storage, selling your share in the metals is easy, and you can spread your investment around to several metals.