Types of Precious Metals - An Introduction

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A precious metal is defined as any rare, metallic chemical element that is naturally occurring and has high economic value. In the past, precious metals were widely used in currency, but today they are mainly industrial and investment commodities. Nevertheless, the big four of gold, silver, platinum, and palladium each have an internationally-recognized ISO 4217 currency code.

Chemically, precious metals tend to share many of the same characteristics. They tend to be less reactive than most chemical elements, they usually have high lustre and are ductile. Of course, common to all is their rarity on Earth.

Gold and silver are known as the coinage metals. Despite both having many important industrial applications, they are most famous for their use in jewelry, coinage, and even art. Other precious metals include the platinum-group metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium.

Industrial uses and demand by investors drive the price of precious metals. Many precious metals have unique chemical properties that make them very useful in various industrial processes. Investors buy physical precious metals because owning physical precious metals functions as a store of value.

Any precious metal in bulk form is known as bullion, which is traded on commodity markets. Though investors can buy bullion in many different metals, the most famous metal is, of course, gold.