Whilst gold and silver are both popular investment options, they are not the only precious metals that you can choose. There are other precious metals in the marketplace such as platinum, palladium and rhodium.
Before delving into more obscure metals, it may be helpful to recap on some of the details behind silver which you may not be aware of. Silver is a soft metal and is popular to buy in coins or bars and was first coined to use as money in around 600 BC. In England, the first silver coin was called the sceatta, which was used by the Anglo-Saxons, but later it was replaced by the silver penny.
As an industrial metal, silver is used in manufacturing for switches and breakers in the distribution of electricity, radiography, photo film and in batteries. In the home, silver is used in the materials used for cavity wall insulation and silver paste is used on the photovoltaic cells of solar panels. Due to its malleability and its shine, it is also extremely popular in jewellery and in household decor and cutlery. Due to the large industrial uses for silver, the price can be influenced by volatile market conditions, especially involving the manufacturing industries.
You can buy silver bullion from the Royal Mint Bullion. It is available in coins or bullion bars. Silver, unlike gold, is subject to VAT, but the Britannia, Lunar and Queen’s Beasts coins, being legal tender, are exempt from Capital Gains Tax. You can buy silver bars for under £100 and the Britannia and Lunar coins can be purchased for less than £20 (prices correct as of April 2016).
If you don’t want your investment to be physical, in the form of jewellery, goods, bullion bars or coins, then you can invest in Exchange Traded Funds. These are like stocks, which can be bought and sold using a stockbroker and you can also hold them in ISAs.
Platinum, Palladium and Rhodium
Platinum, palladium and rhodium are all part of the ‘Platinum Group Metals’ (also known as the PGM group of metals). They are often used in manufacturing and as such, their price can be somewhat dependent on the market conditions in the manufacturing sectors.
Platinum is a rare white metal; it is like silver but it is less malleable and is found mainly from deposits in South Africa and Russia.
Platinum Coinage was used in Russia until 1845 when it was circulated as regular currency. However, it was discontinued due to the fact that it is not as easy to work with as silver or gold.
Platinum is used in the manufacture of catalytic converters for cars, for spark plugs, engines, and oxygen sensors. Dentists also use platinum in dental crowns and like all precious metals it is very popular in jewellery and watchmakers use it in high-end watches.
Platinum can be purchased in bars or coins. The United States, Canada, Australia, China and the Isle of Man all have single coins in platinum. The American eagle and the Canadian maple leaf are very popular with investors.
Like silver, Platinum can also be purchased by investing in Jewellery and by using exchange traded funds or by investing in the futures market.
Palladium is a white metal, like silver and platinum. This rare metal is found in deposits in South Africa, the United States, Canada and Russia.
It is mainly used in the manufacture of catalytic converters in cars, but it is also used in dentistry, medicine, photography and jewellery amongst others. Since 2010 Palladium has had its own hallmark, created by the Assay Offices of the United Kingdom.
Palladium can be purchased physically in the shape of 1oz coins, or bullion bars which start at 1 gram. Palladium on paper can be purchased through future markets, or by exchange traded funds (ETFs) or stocks in Palladium mining companies, which can be arranged through a broker.
Rhodium is a metal which is very rare and it was once the most expensive metal per ounce in the world. It is part of the platinum group of metals and is mixed with platinum and palladium to manufacture catalytic converters for cars. It is also used in medical equipment, electronic connectors and in jewellery, where it is often used with sterling silver to make it resistant to tarnishing. The industrial uses for platinum, palladium and rhodium mean that the price of the metals is influenced by industrial demand.
It is possible to invest in Rhodium, although it is not as easy as with other precious metals. There are no coins, but there are bullion bars, which can be purchased at various weights, through bullion dealers.
If you are interested in investing in Silver, have a look at the coins and bars at on The Royal Mint Bullion website. They offer economical ways to invest with weights from one gram to one kilogram, protected with their own serial number and the RMR logo. Alternatively, Signature Gold is also available and provides an opportunity to easily buy and sell gold, based on the live-market price.