Trading in precious metals is more important than the volume required to support effective industrial or household consumption. This is particularly true for gold, which maintains its double nature of both commodity and investment asset.
Gold is disseminated in nature, often in non-recoverable trace quantities (0.004 ppm of the earth's crust). Often present in copper ores or as alluvial deposits. Besides primary production, recycling is important as well.
Bright yellow, soft and malleable metal, with a very high density, good conductor of heat and electricity. By far the most important usage (80%) is jewellery, often as an alloy. Further used in electronics and several industrial applications.
Silver is a widely disseminated, but rare metal (0.07 ppm of earth's crust). Native silver minerals only account for 30% of world silver production, the balance being recovered as a by-product of non-ferrous metallurgy. Good recycling rate.
Shiny-white, malleable metal with high electrical and thermal conductivity. Main usages are: industrial apllications, jewellery, photography, electricity and electonics and its historical usage in coins.
Palladium is recovered from rich copper-nickel ores.
It is a white, light metal, which has a very hight hydrogen absorbtion capacity. The main usage are in catalysts, both in cars and petrochemical processes. Used as well in the production of electronic components.
Platinum is a very rare metal (0.01 ppm of earth's crust). It is often associated with nickel or copper ores. High recycling rate.
It is a silver-white, malleable and very heavy metal. Almost half of the platinum consumption is for jewellery. Other main usages are: car catalyst, chemical and petrochemical industry, electrical industry, high-grade glass production.
Precious metals have many trading centers, but the major hub remains the Loco London OTC or London Bullion Market (LBMA) , which auctions are now operated by either the ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA) or the London metal Exchange (LME) ). The auction mechanism releases daily following series, which serve as a worldwide benchmark for precious metals.
Prices are for a general entitlement to fine metal, good delivery (produced by approved refiners according approved bar specifications), unallocated (no specific bar or vault assigned), loco London. Settlement and delivery is two business days in London after the day of the deal. Quality differentials (fineness, form) are adjusted by simple arithmetics, location spreads with London will depend on market conditions.
Precious metals contracts are listed on multiple exchanges around the globe, as futures or cleared swaps on top of LBMA quotes.