When collectors search for their silver lining, a multitude of product choices awaits them, as well as a variety of sources and ways to hold their investment.
Silver bullion is marketed in many widely differing sizes, from wafers measured in grams to investment bars measuring 1,000 troy ounces. Most commonly found are those in a 1-ounce size, be they government-issued bullion coins or privately issued rounds or bars.
Getting finished collector- and investment-quality silver products to consumers who demand them is no easy task.
Mining and refining
The metal is extracted in mining operations. It may be sent to a refinery like Johnson Matthey (which has facilities in the United Kingdom and the United States) for initial or final processing. Or in some cases, ore may be refined onsite, usually rendered into bar form, then shipped to customers who convert the silver bar into a different finished product.
The silver may come in the form of a doré bar.
A doré bar is composed of a semi-pure alloy of gold and silver and is usually created at the site of a mine. Doré bars are usually transported to another refinery for further purification. Proportions of silver and gold can vary widely among doré bars, and the bars can weigh as much as 25 kilograms.
Refined silver bars may make some intermediary stops along the way before their content is offered to consumers; many are converted into planchets for striking into coins, rounds or smaller bars.
Many government and private mints have their own planchet-production operations: the Perth Mint in Australia, Royal Canadian Mint, Royal Mint in Great Britain and the Muenze Oesterreich (Austrian Mint) are examples.
The United States Mint, however, does not, and so must rely on contracted vendors to supply the planchets necessary for producing the world’s most popular silver bullion coin — the 1-ounce American Eagle.