Before stock markets and banks, people recognized the importance of protecting their wealth. A thousand years ago, that often meant accumulating and hiding treasure. We’ve come a long way from the time – a thousand years ago – that one individual buried 5,000 silver coins in an English field. The hoard, valued at $1,500,000 today, is just one of many found in recent years.
Smart investors today still buy precious metals in the form of coins and bars. But how does a precious metal, silver, go from the mine to the investor? First, let’s take a look at the mining process itself.
The Mining Process
Investing in silver doesn’t start with digging pure metal out of the ground. Instead, since silver is naturally mixed with other minerals and elements, it has to be extracted from metal-bearing ore.
That means separating the silver from ores containing other elements – usually lead, copper, or zinc. After mining the ore, crushing the chunks is the next step. Crushing reduces the silver ore to a fine powder.
Refining and Extraction
After the ore is pulverized, the next step is to separate the silver from the other elements. Using various chemical processes or high-temperature smelting separates the silver.
Which process to use depends on what other elements the silver is combined with. For instance, if it’s combined with copper, the ore is put in a tank containing a chemical bath. By running an electrical current through the bath, the silver falls to the bottom of the tank. For silver combined with lead, a different process – the Parkes Process – is used.
Once the silver has been extracted, a laboratory verifies that it meets the required purity level and is ready for minting.
Before a smart investor looking for portfolio diversification can purchase silver, a mint takes the refined silver and turns it into coins, rounds, or bars. Like the Silver Buffalo Round, the result is easily transported and stored.
Using highly-automated processes, modern mints, both private and government-operated, produce investment-grade silver meeting exacting specifications. First, long strips are produced with the desired thickness by running the silver through rolling mills. Processing the strips into bars, rounds, or coins comes next.
For example, in the case of bars, the strips are first cut into blanks of the right length. The next step is polishing the blanks to achieve the high sheen we see.
Placing the blanks between two dies is the final step. The dies imprint the final design or logo onto the bars using high pressure.
From Ore to Vault: Investing in Precious Metals
Silver takes a long voyage from the ground to the hands of the person interested in smart investments. Scientists have developed various processes to automate silver production, starting with the mining process, from ore to extraction, from refinement to minting.
In the form of coins, rounds, and bars, the final result makes investing in precious metals today far easier than burying coins in the ground!
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