Gold and Silver: Investment Differences
Gold just had an amazing year, in which it reached a new all time high, rising about 25%. Silver provided an even more stellar performance, with a gain of about 75% and counting. It’s no wonder then, that more and more investors are becoming interested in the potential offered by silver.
One of the most pronounced differences between gold and silver is the price per ounce. Gold is currently around $1,400 per ounce, while silver is at $30. The difference has not always been so large.
The gold-silver ratio, or the number of ounces of silver it takes to buy one ounce of gold, is currently around 47:1. Historically, this ratio has been around 16:1, which closely corresponds to the ratio of gold to silver within the earth's crust. Thus on an absolute basis, the difference in price is justified, but not to such a degree as current prices have suggest.
Another key difference between gold and silver is the price volatility. While gold has enjoyed a string of ten straight years of annual gains, silver's price performance has not been as constant. Some years have been downright disastrous, such as the 27% drop silver experienced during 2008. From the start of the year to the low, silver had experienced a decline of nearly 40%. During 2008, gold had booked a 4.32% gain, with a maximum decline of 14.54% from the start of the year.
Finally, while gold and silver are both metals that store value, silver has been long served as an industrial metal. The recent case for gold demand has been as a hedge against inflation or a safe harbor from fiat currencies. Demand from these factors has offset declines in demand from gold jewelry, which has historically been the predominant source of demand. Silver, on the other hand, can serve in a dual capacity, with possible appreciation in value in times of both economic distress and prosperity.
Silver's roles may be expanding once again, as it is starting to be utilized for its antibacterial qualities.
With an impressive year nearly in the books, the story for silver seems hardly over. Next year might be telling as to whether silver will continue to make progress in catching up with the historic ratios and start to challenge the label of "poor man's gold."