Introduction to precious metals

CME Group


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Introduction to metals

Since the dawn of time, society has sought after and prized precious metals such as gold and silver. Through the ages, these metals have been used as a measure of wealth and value and as a medium of exchange.

With time, their universal acceptance made gold and silver a convenient means for financing international trade alongside local currencies. Today, gold is still frequently treated as a currency for trading purposes.

All these metals are found in mineral ores, which are located in deposits around the globe. The deposits require mining and refining in order to produce material for onward consumption. Gold, silver, platinum and palladium are physical commodities and have a wide range of physical and industrial uses. They also retain a significant role as an investment and a store of value by the private sector, governments and central banks.

Precious metals are most frequently priced in amounts per troy ounce. The troy ounce as a unit of measure has its origins in medieval times, and is slightly larger than an imperial ounce. A troy ounce is equivalent to 31.1035 grams. Metric measurements are also used for precious metals. There are local markets for precious metals, particularly gold and silver, in all parts of the world. In the international markets, such as those offered by COMEX and NYMEX, prices are typically in U.S. dollars.

Types of Precious Metals

COMEX offers futures and options contracts for gold and silver, while NYMEX offers futures and options contracts for platinum and palladium. These contracts are amongst the most liquid precious metals products in the world, and are the main international risk management tools for the precious metals markets.

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