Precious metals are among the hottest investments around at present. With real estate having proven to be yet another bubble and anxiety about the economy being persistent, metals have attracted investors of all levels of wealth. Some investors are merely insulating themselves against the worst effects of inflation, while others are making long-term investments for savings and, in some cases, as part of their retirement strategies. With all of this serious business going on, it’s easy to forget how fascinating these metals are. All of them are important parts of human history and the story of civilization on the whole.
Gold and silver are easily the most established precious metals. They’ve also managed to remain useful throughout all the thousands of years that they’ve been available. For instance, silver was once used to keep milk and other liquids prone to spoilage fresh. This worked because the metal is a natural bactericide. For a time, it was used as an antibiotic in human beings, as well. While modern antibiotics have largely displaced the use of silver to fight infection, it is being used for those purposes once again. It can be found on some bandages and is still used in containers to hold crème and milk.
Part of the reason that precious metals command such high prices is that they’re every bit as rare as they’re made out to be. There isn’t much gold in the world and, interestingly, most of the gold that’s in circulation now has been in circulation for many years. Gold can be melted down and reused over and over again, as can silver. Among the many human-made materials in the world, natural gold and silver still have the very “green” aspect of being almost endlessly recyclable, which further adds to their value.
Precious metals have proven themselves useful in most every technology developed since their discoveries. Gold, for instance, was once used to represent the power and wealth of kings and queens. Today, golden plaques on deep-space probes are hurtling out into extra-solar space representing humanity as a whole. This is not to give the impression that Earth is populated exclusively by nobility, but simply because of the fact that, in the thousands of years since the discovery of gold, it is still one of the most durable materials known to humankind, and thus one of the most valuable economically and culturally.