Precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum have many things in common.
They tend to be heavy, durable, ductile, and malleable – all desirable traits for monetary metals. They also tend to be quite rare, which is part of the reason that investors have put trust in these assets as stores of value for hundreds of years.
Despite all these commonalities, the story of each individual metal is actually quite unique. Each metal is driven by its own set of supply and demand characteristics that are unique from the group. As a result, there is a significant amount of variance in the price patterns between each individual precious metal.
Precious Metals Diversification
Today’s infographic comes to us from Neptune-GBX and it showcases the story of each precious metal.
More importantly, it shows why owning them simultaneously is the only way to get exposure to the unique supply and demand drivers behind each of them in the context of the modern market.
The story of each individual precious metal is quite unique:
Investors and people buy gold bullion or jewelry as a store of value, and the gold price is sensitive to events in financial markets. Its main use is investment, and supply is diversified and global.
Silver is unique “hybrid” metal that is simultaneously driven by its investment and industrial uses. Its main uses are investment and industrial, and supply is diversified and global.
Used in catalytic converters and for other industrial uses. Platinum demand also comes from jewelry and investment sectors. Platinum supply only comes from South Africa, Russia and Zimbabwe, giving it a unique set of supply characteristics.
Palladium is a purer industrial metal than platinum, with 80% of demand coming from catalytic converters. It has similar supply issues to platinum.
Because each metal is different, when one increases in price, the others may or may not follow suit. This creates a problem and an opportunity for investors.
Why Diversification Matters
How do investors minimize the volatility of precious metals investments, while still maximizing returns?
It’s a risk management problem that portfolio managers have been dealing with for decades – and they’ve come up with a proven solution: diversification.
- Reduces risk: All eggs aren’t in one basket
- Preserves capital: Protects against major declines in one asset
- Generates returns: Portfolio can grow in boom or bust
Since the four major precious metals are driven by individual demand and supply factors, diversification can allow you get exposure to the unique drivers behind each metal at the same time.
All the World’s Metals and Minerals in One Visualization
This massive infographic reveals the dramatic scale of 2019 non-fuel mineral global production.
All the World’s Metals and Minerals in One Visualization
We live in a material world, in that we rely on materials to make our lives better. Without even realizing it, humans consume enormous amounts of metals and minerals with every convenient food package, impressive building, and technological innovation.
Every year, the United States Geological Service (USGS) publishes commodity summaries outlining global mining statistics for over 90 individual minerals and materials. Today’s infographic visualizes the data to reveal the dramatic scale of 2019 non-fuel mineral production.
Read all the way to the bottom; the data will surprise you.
Non-Fuel Minerals: USGS Methodology
A wide variety of minerals can be classified as “non-fuel”, including precious metals, base metals, industrial minerals, and materials used for construction.
Non-fuel minerals are those not used for fuel, such as oil, natural gas and coal. Once non-fuel minerals are used up, there is no replacing them. However, many can be recycled continuously.
The USGS tracked both refinery and mine production of these various minerals. This means that some minerals are the essential ingredients for others on the list. For example, iron ore is critical for steel production, and bauxite ore gets refined into aluminum.
Top 10 Minerals and Metals by Production
Sand and gravel are at the top of the list of non-fuel mineral production.
As these materials are the basic components for the manufacturing of concrete, roads, and buildings, it’s not surprising they take the lead.
|Rank||Metal/Mineral||2019 Production (millions of metric tons)|
|#1||Sand and Gravel||50,000|
|#3||Iron and Steel||3,200|
These materials fertilize the food we eat, and they also form the structures we live in and the roads we drive on. They are the bones of the global economy.
Let’s dive into some more specific categories covered on the infographic.
While cement, sand, and gravel may be the bones of global infrastructure, base metals are its lifeblood. Their consumption is an important indicator of the overall health of an economy.
Base metals are non-ferrous, meaning they contain no iron. They are often more abundant in nature and sometimes easier to mine, so their prices are generally lower than precious metals.
|Rank||Base Metal||2019 Production (millions of metric tons)|
Base metals are also the critical materials that will help to deliver a green and renewable future. The electrification of everything will require vast amounts of base metals to make everything from batteries to solar cells work.
Gold and precious metals grab the headlines because of their rarity — and their production shows just how rare they are.
|Rank||Precious Metal||2019 Production (metric tons)|
While metals form the structure and veins of the global economy, ultimately it is humans and animals that make the flesh of the world, driving consumption patterns.
A Material World: A Perspective on Scale
The global economy’s appetite for materials has quadrupled since 1970, faster than the population, which only doubled. On average, each human uses more than 13 metric tons of materials per year.
In 2017, it’s estimated that humans consumed 100.6B metric tons of material in total. Half of the total comprises sand, clay, gravel, and cement used for building, along with the other minerals mined to produce fertilizer. Coal, oil, and gas make up 15% of the total, while metal makes up 10%. The final quarter are plants and trees used for food and fuel.
Silver Series: Perfect Storm for Silver (Part 2 of 3)
In the second part of the Silver Series, we show that the supply and demand fundamentals are potentially shaping up for a perfect storm in silver prices.
The Silver Series: A Perfect Storm for Silver (Part 2 of 3)
In Part 1 of the Silver Series we showed how precious metals can be a safe haven during times of volatility in a debt-laden era.
Today’s infographic is Part Two of the Silver Series, and it comes to us from Endeavour Silver, outlining some of the key supply and demand indicators that precede a coming gold-silver cycle in which the price of silver could move upwards.
Silver is produced primarily as a by-product in the mining of non-precious metals, and there is currently a dwindling supply of silver as a result of low base metal prices.
However, silver is more than just a precious metal and a safe haven investment. Its industrial uses also create a significant demand on silver stocks.
As the production of green technologies such as solar cells and EVs quickly escalates, upward pressure is being placed on the price of silver, indicating the potential start of a new gold-silver cycle in the market.
Just like gold, silver has functioned as a form of money for centuries, and its role as a store of value and hedge against monetary inflation endures.
Currency debasement is not new. Governments throughout history have “printed” money while silver’s value has held more constant over time.
In today’s age, the average investor does not own physical silver. Rather, they invest in financial instruments that track the performance of the physical commodity itself, such as silver exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Until recently, ETF investment in precious metals has been relatively flat, but there has been a surge in the price of silver. Meanwhile, demand for silver-backed financial products have increased the demand for physical silver and could continue to do so.
Silver is also helping to power the green revolution.
The precious metal is the best natural conductor of electricity and heat, and it plays an important role in the production of solar-powered energy. A silver paste is used in photovoltaic solar cells which collects electrons and creates electricity. Silver then helps conduct the electricity out of the cell. Without silver, solar cells would not be as efficient.
As investments and the green revolution demand more and more silver, where is the metal coming from?
A Perfect Storm for Silver: Supply Crunch
The bulk of silver production comes as a by-product of other metal mines, such as zinc, copper, or gold mines.
Since silver is not the primary metal emerging from some of these mines, it faces supply crunches when other metal prices are low.
Silver supply is falling for three reasons:
- Declining mine production due to low base metal prices
- Declining silver mine capacity
- Declining reserves of silver
The demand for silver is rising and the few companies that produce silver could shine.
Don’t miss another part of the Silver Series by connecting with Visual Capitalist.
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