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Gold & silver: facts at a glance

Silver vs gold

People have been investing in gold and silver for thousands of years and both of these precious metals have been found on every continent of the world. It’s their relative prices that the differences between the two types of bullion are at their most stark. Silver has never achieved more than one-tenth of the value of gold and has often sold at much lower levels than that.

One reason for silver’s price weakness is that it is, in large part, recovered as a byproduct of lead, copper and zinc mining, which means output usually exceeds what would have been mined on the basis of silver demand alone.

Gold production, by contrast, is famously meagre: fewer than 175,000 tonnes have been mined since the dawn of civilisation, according to the World Gold Council, the industry body. Which means all of the gold ever mined would fit in a crate just 21 metres cubed.

Did you know?

Facts about gold…

  • Gold never rusts and is so pliable that it can be made into sewing thread
  • It’s rarer to find a 1oz nugget than a five carat diamond
  • Gold is so rare that the world pours more steel in an hour than it has poured gold since the beginning of recorded history
  • Nearly half of all gold mined today is turned into jewellery, which remains its largest single application
  • 90% per cent of the world’s gold has been mined since the 1849 California gold rush
  • In Fort Knox there are 4,600 tonnes of gold at the US Bullion Depositary, Kentucky
  • The world’s sea-beds are a treasure trove, they’re estimated to hold up to 15,000 tonnes of gold
  • Gold’s boiling point is 2,808 degrees centigrade and its melting point 1,064 degrees
  • The largest gold bullion coin ever produced was unveiled in 2012 by the Perth Mint in Western Australia. Known as the “1 Tonne Gold Kangaroo Coin” it had the face value of one million Australian dollars
  • Best-known for its monetary and decorative properties, gold is increasingly used for industrial applications. In fact, 9 per cent of world demand is for technical uses – ranging from electronics to dentistry via nanotechnology and uses in the space industry.

Facts about silver…

  • Silver is the best conductor of both heat and electricity out of all the elements
  • The US coins, dimes, quarters and half-dollars contained 90 per cent silver until 1965
  • Silver is also the best reflector of light, which is why it’s often used to make mirrors
  • British ‘silver’ coins used to contain real silver until 1947, after which it was replaced by cupro-nickel
  • Silver and gold are formed in star explosions called supernovae – A September 2012 study, published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, found that smaller stars that explode produce silver, while larger stars produce gold.
  • Silver has antimicrobial properties. This means nanoparticles of silver can be woven into clothing to prevent bacteria from building up on deposits of sweat and oils, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC)
  • More patents have been issued in relation to silver than for all other metals combined
  • The 30 pieces of silver for which Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus may have been shekels issued in the town of Tyre in the south of what is now Lebanon
  • Silver has long been known for its industrial uses, not least its application in traditional film photography, hence ’the silver screen’. Today it is found in a wide range of products, from mobile phones and batteries to solder, switches and medical applications

Gold and silver have been linked for centuries, and, despite the differences between the two best-known precious metals – and their evolving uses – that’s unlikely to change.
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