The Silver Market
The market for silver is not as big as the gold market, but is still worth an estimated $15 billion annually. Traditionally, the price of silver tracks the price of gold. The ratio was set by United States law at 1:15 in 1792, but price increases in both metals meant that the gold/silver ratio rose to over 1:60 in 2009. The price of silver has continued to rise and reached record levels in 2011, with the average price reaching $41.20 for one troy ounce.
Like most commodities, silver trades on a market with traders buying and selling the metal to make a profit. The London silver bullion market is one of the main places where it trades. Another is iShares.
Silver in Banks
In some countries investors can walk into a bank and buy silver bullion over the counter. This can then be taken home and stored in a safe or kept in a safe deposit box in the bank. It is even possible to store your silver in allocated or unallocated storage with a bank or dealer to keep it safe.
Silver comes in a variety of bars, including:
* 1000 oz troy bars (31 kg)
* 100 oz troy bars (3.11 kg)
* 1 kg bars
* 10 oz try bars (311 g)
* 1 oz troy bars (31.1 g)
* Odd weight bars
The most popular bars are the 100 oz troy, with popular brands including Engelhard and Johnson Matthey. The branded bars are usually worth more than unbranded or odd weight bars.
Investing in Silver
Silver can be both a long-term and short-term investment. In the short-term, investors can trade silver for a profit in the same way as any other commodity by always aiming to buy low and sell high. Market fluctuations can give profits on each trade, but also losses meaning that this can be a risky investment as one needs to know how to time the market (something I admit I am totally not good at!)
Over the longer term, the price of silver has generally risen, with a sharp rise over the last few years. This is great news for anyone that owned silver before 2005, but not so good for anyone thinking of investing now. Of course the market price could continue to rise, but nobody knows for sure and it could fall back down to earlier levels.
Over the past few years, investing in silver has been a great way to make money. The price has increased by eight times in 11 years and doubled since last year, but that does not mean that it is guaranteed to continue that way so never risk any money that you cannot afford to lose.
You might also be interested in reading the recent article on Investing in Gold.