Types of Precious Metals - Investing in Copper and Other Metals
Gold, silver, platinum, and palladium are precious metals, but they are not the only available vehicles for bullion investment. All tradeable metals are commodities, bought and sold in large amounts every single day. Several of these commodity metals, though not considered precious metals, have attracted significant interest from investors who buy bullion online. Notable among them are copper bullion, aluminum bullion, and nickel bullion. These three metals, in particular, have been purchased in physical form by investors in increasing numbers. Though still a commodity, and subject to commodity market forces, the largest difference between these commodity metals and others is that investors are buying physical bullion instead of merely trading the metal without ever taking possession of it. Many of the metals that are traded as commodities are very valuable and have important industrial uses, yet are highly reactive and unstable in their pure, elemental form. Physical bullion necessitates stability in pure form, which is why all physical metal bullion consists of transitional metals. Copper, aluminum and nickel physical bullion is primarily sold in ingot and bar form, though copper rounds are very popular and aluminum rounds are also made. Iron bullion, brass bullion, and even stainless steel bullion also exists.
History of Copper
Copper has been known to man for at least 10,000 years. Indeed, it is speculated that, prior to copper, the only elemental metals known to mankind were gold and meteoric iron. Copper occurs in its free form, called native copper, but as copper is very chemically reactive most of it is locked up in compounds and can only be isolated through smelting. The smelting of copper metal was one of the first major metallurgical advances mankind made, and led to bronze and iron working.
Copper has always had important ties to wealth and currency. Ancient Romans used lumps of copper bullion as money, and, eventually, copper coinage. Brass and bronze are both important alloys of copper, and both have been used extensively as a coinage metal. The use of copper for coinage continued until recent times, when the commodity price of copper finally became too high to make copper coinage practical. The famed United States Penny was comprised mostly of copper until 1982.
Uses of Copper Today
Copper is one of the most important metals known to mankind. Other than its uses as currency, copper has long been used in plumbing, even in ancient times. Coppers high electrical conductivity, second only to silver, gives it widespread use in wiring and machinery. Most household wiring is copper wire, as is most of the wiring found in electric motors and generators. Only the high price of silver prevents silver from being used in these electrical applications, though the increasing price of copper has led to even copper being replaced by other metals in electrical applications, such as aluminum. Although copper bullion investment is relatively new, the decreasing supply of copper has led to a steady rise in copper prices, making investing in copper an attractive idea.
Future of Copper Prices and Investing in Copper
Given the rarity of other precious metals, copper is plentiful, however, improved mining techniques and an always-increasing demand for copper have ensured that most of the easily-attainable copper in the crust of the Earth has already been mined. Indeed, today a large portion of annual copper production comes from using acids to mine the waste ores from old copper mines. The corresponding increase in copper prices has led to somewhat of a rush to buy copper bullion. High prices of copper have even encouraged theft of copper from construction sites and buildings, with the thieves then selling copper to scrap dealers. Investors, however, who are looking to buy copper bullion online do so by purchasing copper rounds and copper bars. We carry only highly pure and authentic copper products from well-established refiners, making CBMint the best place to buy copper online. Copper rounds, especially, have become extremely popular -- roughly the size of a US silver dollar, copper rounds often have historically-themed designs and often mimic circulation coinage.
History of Aluminum
Also spelled aluminium, aluminum has high occurence on Earth and, therefore, may seem strange as a target for bullion investment. The history of aluminum, however, is very short -- only recently was mankind able to isolate large amounts of aluminum from its compounds, as the metal is very reactive. Not until the 1880s, with the onset of electrical generation (which is used in the aluminum smelting process), was pure aluminum available in any large amounts. Prior to this, pure aluminum was so rare that it was worth more than gold. Napoleon III is rumored to have given aluminum utensils to his most honorable supper guests, whilst the others had to settle for gold utensils!
Uses of Aluminum Today
Once prodigious electric currents were available to smelt the metal, the price of aluminum plummeted. The increased availability of aluminum helped make it one of the most important industrial metals ever used by mankind. Aluminum is a very strong metal, yet has low density, making it ideal for applications that require strength combined with lightness -- hence the extensive use of aluminum in aeronautic applications. Aluminum is also electrically conductive, having 59% of the conductivity of copper. Because aluminum prices are usually much lower than copper prices, the use of aluminum wiring is widespread, especially in long-distance transmission lines. Of course, aluminum metal has a huge number of everyday applications, such as household goods, electronic products, and the ubiquitous beverage can.
Future of Aluminum Prices and Investing in Aluminum
Investing in aluminum is a new trend. With aluminum prices often being about half of what current copper prices are, the metal is not extremely valuable. Because of this fact, many investors buy aluminum bullion in large amounts, as they can acquire it very inexpensively. Like any commodity, aluminum is subject to market forces, so investors who buy aluminum bullion in physical form are hoping for increases in the price of aluminum, allowing them to turn a handsome profit. Aluminum bullion is almost always sold in the form of large aluminum ingots. Because of the low density of the metal, aluminum ingots can be quite large, occasionally making storage of aluminum bullion an issue. Though a very common metal, commodity prices have been steadily rising over the last decade, making investing in aluminum bullion a potentially profitable endeavor.
History of Nickel
Nickel is also prevalent on Earth but, like aluminum, is difficult to isolate. Pure nickel was not isolated until 1751, due to its propensity to form strong compounds and oxides. Once isolated in pure form, however, larger pieces of nickel are corrosion-resistant and resist chemical combination. This fact has led to the widespread use of nickel for plating and even for coinage. The American Nickel is, unsurprisingly, mainly comprised of nickel metal.
Uses of Nickel Today
Nickel has myriad uses in industry, chief among them its use as an alloy. Nickel-hardened steels alone account for 60% of annual nickel production. Nickel is produced through extractive metallurgy, where the metal is extracted from its ores through traditional roasting and sintering, resulting in a finished product that is over 75% nickel. The Earth has some large nickel deposits, allowing annual production in excess of 2 million metric tons of nickel. This vast production kept the price of nickel relatively low, though nickel prices were not immune from the general price increases of all commodities over the last decade.
Future of Nickel Prices and Investing in Nickel
World reserves of nickel metal are estimated at over 75 million metric tons. This distinct lack of rarity makes nickel an unlikely target for investors who buy bullion online. However, nickel is a commodity metal and, therefore, is subject to the whims of the commodity markets. Indeed, the price of nickel bullion has seen some large increases at times. To some atypical investors who buy physical bullion, this makes nickel an inexpensive target, with the potential for large gains. Investors who buy nickel bullion online concentrate on nickel ingots, which tend to be large and heavy. Storing such large nickel ingots can be an issue for some, yet, despite this, some serious investors are buying nickel bullion in physical form, hoping to take advantage of the next surge in nickel prices.
Other Examples of Base Metal Bullion
Bullion simply denotes any metal in pure, bulk form. Though private investors who buy physical bullion tend to gravitate towards precious metals, such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, other metals are available for investment in their pure, bullion form. Though perhaps not as glamorous, the potential for large profits still exists when buying base metal bullion. Base metals are usually inexpensive, yet, until recently, were hard to obtain in pure, physical form. Previously, buying commodity metals was primarily done through a broker, and what physical bullion did exist was in large, impure ingots called master ingots, intended for industrial and commercial use, as opposed to physical bullion investment.
Lately, several mints and refiners have stepped forth to fill the void, and now bullion bars and rounds are available in several types of metal, each of which has different levels of scarcity, availability, and potential for price growth. Included in this list are: Tin Bullion, Bronze Bullion, Brass Bullion, Zinc Bullion, Iron Bullion, German Silver Bullion, and Titanium Bullion. A wide selection of bullion products made from these metals can be viewed on the CBMint Base Metals Bullion page.