If you regularly read our articles to keep up with the world of investments, you already know that gold and silver are two excellent precious metal investments. Many investors buy gold bullion to diversify their risks, while other precious metals investors prefer silver bullion because it’s more affordable. There are many more valuable metals that investors should consider.
THE TOP 10 MOST EXPENSIVE METALS IN THE WORLD
Although investors often use the phrases “valuable metals,” “rare metals,” “precious metals,” and “expensive metals” interchangeably, it’s important to make distinctions. For instance, valuable metals are not always precious metals. While all precious metals are valuable, not all valuable metals are precious. Stainless steel, for example, is a valuable metal, but it’s not a precious one.
While there are many benefits to investing in precious metals, you should be careful not to over-invest. Just like any other investment, you don’t want to create an unbalanced portfolio.
WHY SHOULD I INVEST IN PRECIOUS METALS?
“Should I buy precious metals?” is a common question many investors ask. Precious metal investments are an excellent way to build up the strength and diversity of your portfolio. When investing in valuable metals, use caution and restraint so you don’t over-invest. As a commodity, the precious metals market is often volatile. This could help you or work against your position. Precious metals, like gold and silver, do not offer an income—unlike a stock, there are no dividends. Essentially, precious metals offer a store of value, serving as an alternative currency should an economic crisis devalue a national currency.
Choose Investments Based on Strategy, Not Value
When investing, it’s best to focus on your overall strategy instead of the perceived value of the metal. Copper, for instance, is not as valuable as gold, silver, platinum, or palladium, but it’s a low-risk investment. In comparison, gold is about 400 times more valuable than copper. However, the price of gold is unlikely to double in value every month because its starting price is already high. Copper, on the other hand, could very well double in price from month to month.
Invest as a Hedge Against Inflation and Currency Devaluation
Historically, investors have looked to precious metals like gold and silver as a hedge against a bad economy. The primary goal is to protect a portfolio against inflation. Should the value of the dollar fall, a part of your portfolio will maintain value.
As an investor, it’s advisable to focus on the three most popular metals: gold, silver, and platinum. Make these your primary investments and consider other investments to be secondary. It’s important to focus on the popularity of a metal when fortifying your portfolio. These three commodities have a reputation as a good hedge against deflation or currency devaluation, rather than the most expensive jewelry metal or the most expensive metal price.
Distinguish Between Actual and Perceived Value
To understand why gold, silver, and platinum are not the rarest and most expensive metals on earth, let’s look at some precious metal prices:
- Gold price: $1,454.40 per troy oz.
- Silver price: $16.37 per troy oz.
- Platinum price: $890.20 per troy oz.
- Iridium price: $1,480.00 per troy oz.
- Osmium price: $400 per troy oz.
- Palladium price: $1,553.10 per troy oz.
- Rhodium price: $3,560.00 per troy oz.
- Ruthenium price: $253.00 per troy oz.
You may notice that there are some discrepancies between what people perceive as valuable and what is actually valuable. For instance, gold’s perceived value to the market has more to do with its long history as a symbol of wealth than its rarity and usefulness. However, if you were to ask a metallurgist, “What is the most expensive metal?” they would consider rhodium ten times more valuable than gold because of its hardness, chemical composition, resistance to corrosion, and ability to withstand wear and tear.
Despite its high value, it’s probably not a good idea to invest in rhodium instead of gold—especially if you are investing in precious metals as a hedge against inflation. Rhodium’s value is less well known, and in a financial crunch, most people will perceive gold as real money and not recognize rhodium’s superior value. Your chance of buying a loaf of bread with a gold nugget at your grocery store will be higher than when offering a chunk of rhodium. However, if you do want to benefit from rhodium’s value, then invest in a rhodium mining company’s stock.
TOP 10 MOST EXPENSIVE METALS IN THE WORLD
Here are some of the rarest, most valuable, precious, and expensive metals on earth.
When investing in precious metals, gold is at the top of the list. For centuries, people considered it the most expensive precious metal and used it as a widely accepted currency. Today, many financial pundits refer to gold and silver as real money and view our present fiat monetary system tenuous.
Even today, and despite our high-tech ability to mine even more expensive metals than gold, we still consider this precious metal to be one of the best investments. Gold has existed for centuries as a symbol of wealth. Today, it’s still esteemed as a display of prosperity. It’s a malleable metal, ideal for making intricate jewelry. The electronics industry highly values gold and uses it to make specialized electronic circuits; it’s a highly conductive element which can conduct electricity with a minimal loss of energy. Gold can be purchased as jewelry, coins, rounds, and bars for investors. The higher the purity and the greater the weight, the more valuable it is deemed.
The largest producers of gold in the world are China (399.7 metric tons) Australia (312.2 metric tons), Russia (281.5 metric tons), the United States (253.2 metric tons), Canada (193.0 metric tons), Indonesia (190.0 metric tons), Peru (155.4 metric tons), and South Africa (123.5 metric tons).
When it comes to investing in precious metals, silver comes in a close second. Many people even consider it a better investment than gold because it is far more affordable, and it also has many more industrial uses. Silver is conveniently available as jewelry, coins, and rounds. However, if you want to invest in a large amount of physical silver, then your best option is to buy silver bars.
Industrially, manufacturers use it in batteries and circuits because of its high conductivity. The largest producers of silver in the world are Peru, Mexico, Chile, and China.
Platinum comes in as the third favorite precious metal after gold and silver. Historically, platinum does not have such a prestigious history as gold and silver. Although valued in ancient Egypt, civilization then forgot it for centuries. Anthropologists discovered it in Egyptian artifacts, dating as far back as 1200 B.C., but it then disappeared from public view until 1735, when its value was recognized once again.
Platinum is far superior to gold and silver for industrial applications. Many expensive metals like ruthenium, iridium, osmium, rhodium, palladium belong to the platinum group of metals. Some platinum-group members—palladium, rhodium, and ruthenium–have so many useful properties that technologists use them in nuclear reactors.
Platinum, just like gold and silver, is available as jewelry, coins, rounds, and bars for investors. Industrially, manufacturers often use it for electrodes because of its properties of high density, conductivity, heat-tolerance, and corrosion-resistance. It’s also used in turbine engines, fuel nozzles, and heat exchangers.
The largest producers of platinum in the world are South Africa, Canada, and Russia.
Palladium can be recognized by its unusual color—a blend of gray and white. It’s a rare, malleable, and stable precious metal. You may sometimes hear it referred to as “palladium platinum” because it belongs to the platinum group of metals. Palladium is available as coins and bars for investors. The United States Mint, for example, has created American Palladium Eagles.
Industrially, manufacturers often use palladium for catalytic converters that reduce emissions because this metal has an unusual property—a capacity to absorb large amounts of hydrogen at about 72 degrees (room temperature).
The largest producers of palladium in the world are the United States, Canada, and Russia.
Although ruthenium is not as well-known as platinum and palladium, manufacturers often use it as an alloying agent to make platinum and palladium even harder and more durable.
Besides its use as an important alloy, manufacturers use ruthenium for plating electrical contacts. The largest producer of palladium in the world is Russia, mining it from the Ural Mountains. However, North America, South America, and South Africa are also important suppliers.
Iridium is the most extraordinary element in the platinum group, best known for its remarkable density and high resistance to corrosion. A byproduct of nickel mining, it has an extremely high melting point. It is usually extracted from platinum ore. Iridium is available as jewelry for investors.
Since it’s one of the densest metals with a high melting point, it can withstand a lot of heat without vaporizing, melting, or softening. This resistance to high temperatures and corrosion is the primary reason for its high industrial demand.
Iridium has many industrial uses:
- Large crucibles use an iridium lining to operate at high temperatures
- It’s used in flat panel devices, electronic components, and semiconductors because of its superb electrical conductivity.
- Manufacturers use it as an alloying agent for platinum-based alloys.
- When combined with osmium, it makes compass bearings and tipping points.
- Scientists also use iridium in medicine.
The largest producers of iridium in the world are South Africa, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea.
Osmium is a rare, hard, brittle and dense bluish-silver metal. It’s so dense that it measures 22.6 g/ml; in other words, it weighs 22.6 times more than water. Osmium is too brittle to be used alone but displays some amazing properties–like malleability, durability, heat resistance, and hardness–when used as an alloying agent with platinum.
Manufacturers commonly use osmium to make electrical contacts. The largest producers of iridium in the world are North and South American countries and Russia.
Rhodium resembles platinum, but it is not as dense and far more heat resistance. It’s highly valued for his durability hardness and reflective qualities.
One reason rhodium commands some of the highest prices is simply because it’s so rare. By comparison, gold seems abundant. The automotive industry heavily depends on rhodium to improve corrosion resistance. In fact, when the global financial crisis crippled car sales in 2009, the price of rhodium immediately lost 10% of its value.
The largest producers of rhodium in the world are South Africa, Canada, and Russia, with South Africa possessing about 60 percent of the earth’s rhodium reserves.
Molybdenum is a byproduct of copper mining, and rhenium is a byproduct of molybdenum. When alloyed with nickel, rhenium becomes a superalloy coveted for many industrial applications.
This rare metal has such a high melting and boiling point that only carbon and tungsten surpass it. Because of these unique properties, manufacturers use it in turbine engines, which operate at extremely high temperatures. The largest producers of rhenium in the world are the United States, Chile, and Kazakhstan.
No list of expensive metals would be complete without mentioning tungsten, a rare earth metal.
It’s not only the hardest and strongest metal but also the most scratch-resistant metal. In fact, it’s three times as hard as titanium, and so rare that there are only 1.5 grams per every ton of rock on Earth.
Tungsten’s extreme hardness, density, high melting point, and resistance to corrosion make it an ideal metal for many industries. The military uses its hard, dense qualities to create penetrating projectiles. The steel industry uses it to make superalloys, while the electronic industry uses it in light bulbs. Tungsten is also used in the aviation industry to make power-generating applications.
Industries that require wear-resistant materials such as construction, petroleum industry, mining industry, and metalworking—rely on tungsten. Interestingly, China dominates the production of tungsten, controlling about 80 percent of the world’s supply. If China ever restricted exports because of trade wars, it would severely impact every industrial country and skyrocketing commodity prices would create a global financial crisis.
What Is the Most Expensive Precious Metal?
The most expensive metal on Earth is actually not on this list—it’s too rare, short-lived, and expensive for investment purposes.
Californium-252 is the most expensive metal in the world. It’s not a naturally occurring metal like gold. Instead, it’s a man-made radioactive metallic chemical. The most expensive metal per ounce, Californium-252 is an isotope with a half-life of just 2.6 years. It costs $27 a microgram. So, if you want a mere gram, you will have to fork out $27 million.
Since Californium-252 produces 170 million neutrons a minute, it’s used as a neutron source for detection equipment. Various industries use the most expensive metal in the world to identify explosives, track landmines, detect cancer cells, and find precious metal ores, like gold and silver.
MOST EXPENSIVE METALS IN THE WORLD
If you want to collect metals directly, then the best way to do this is to collect gold, silver, and platinum coins and bars. You can also collect precious metals in the form of intricate jewelry. However, if you’re interested in precious metals other than gold, silver, and platinum, consider investing in them as commodities in the futures market or in stocks and mutual funds that offer shares in mining companies. You can also invest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that hold metals valued by weight and buy bullion coins or bullion bars.
All things considered, it’s a good idea to invest in precious metals, adding it to your portfolio as a hedge against currency devaluation.