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The MGS Precious Metals Blog

Manhattan Gold & Silver is an industry leader in precious metal pricing and refining with more than 30 years of experience. During our time in the business, we’ve found the topic of precious metals to be a vast and interesting one. Here on our precious metals blog, we write in-depth posts about the science of precious metal refining, historical and modern uses for precious metals, market news, and much more. Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay current, and discuss the latest posts on our Facebook page.

How Entomologists Use Gold to Document New Species

July 24, 2019 07:00
How Entomologists Use Gold to Document New Species

If you like to stay up-to-date on the latest gold buying trends, then you’re probably familiar with the term “gold bug.” But, did you know that literal gold bugs are essential for helping entomologists advance their understanding of insect anatomy?

When classifying newly discovered species, entomologists will use electron microscopes to analyze the specimen's anatomy in order to compare it with known species. Electron microscopes use beams of accelerated electrons to create ultra-magnified images. While this works great on inorganic or electrically conductive samples, it often creates sub-par images of insects because the electrons can either pass through the specimen instead of reflecting off the surface, or cause the specimen to accumulate static electricity that generates lots of signal noise in the images produced. To get the clearest view of an insect’s tiny and intricate anatomical structures, entomologists coat the specimen with a layer of gold to make it more visible under the microscope.

The electroplating process that jeweler’s use to add a surface layer of gold to an object wouldn’t work on a delicate and non-conductive specimen like an insect. Instead, scientists use a method called sputtering – in which a “target” of gold is bombarded with high energy ions in a vacuum chamber filled with an inert gas, like argon. The ionic energy causes the target to release atoms of gold, which “sputter” into the argon vapor before finally condensing on the specimen as an ultra-thin coating of pure gold.

In addition to dramatically enhancing the detail of electron microscope images, the gold coating also helps preserve the specimen. This not only enables follow up study of difficult-to-acquire insects – it also makes the specimens easier to display, as in the picture above.

Green Technology Driving Silver Demand (And Prices)

June 19, 2019 07:00
Green Technology Driving Silver Demand (And Prices)

Since platinum group metals (PGMs) are a necessary component of catalytic converters, and pretty much every vehicle with a combustion engine needs a catalytic convertor, the correlation between PGM prices and activity in the automobile industry is well-known.

Similarly, a significant amount of silver's global demand comes from electronics manufacturing. But with an industry sector as broad as "electronics," it’s difficult to find correlations between electronics demand and silver prices that have the same consistency and statistical significance as PGM prices and automobile demand (after all, consider how many electronics are installed in your vehicle). However, researchers at the Kent Business School recently discovered that there is indeed a causal relationship between the price of silver and solar energy demand.

With the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals, silver’s physical characteristics make it an important material for making solar panels. In the average solar panel, a grid of interlaced wires lays on top of the solar cells. These wires are necessary for conducting the charge generated by the solar cell, but at the same time, they inhibit the cell’s efficiency by blocking 5-10% of the incoming sunlight. Making the wire from highly conductive silver allows the wire to be as small as possible – minimizing the blocked sunlight and maximizing overall energy efficiency.

In their analysis, the researchers looked at quarterly silver prices from the London Bullion Market, installed solar energy capacity, and gross solar energy production between 1990 and 2016. Using this data, they were able to map clear correlations that showed a rise in silver prices at the same time as increased demand for solar panels.

The researchers note in their findings that the average solar panel uses about 20 grams of silver, and the price of the metal makes up about 6.1% of the total cost of each unit. The Silver Institute predicts that roughly 820 million ounces of silver will be utilized by global solar energy applications through 2030. That’s a lot of solar panels!

More Countries are Bolstering their Gold Reserves

June 12, 2019 07:00
More Countries are Bolstering their Gold Reserves

Over the past 9 months, a new trend has developed in the world economy: more central banks are buying up gold. According to the World Gold Council, 2018 had the highest level of annual net central bank gold purchases since 1971, and the second highest annual total on record. In total, the world’s central banks accumulated 651.5 tons of gold last year.

With central banks adding another 90 tons of gold to their reserves over the first 2 months of 2019, the trend appears to be going on strong. Just a few noteworthy examples include:

  • Since December 2017, the Reserve Bank of India has added 50.4 tons of gold to its reserves. More than 10% of that total (8.2 tons) was acquired in January and February of this year. According to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s gold reserves currently stand at a record high of almost 609 tons.

  • Russian gold reserves increased 274.3 tons in 2018, marking the country's fourth consecutive year of 200+ ton growth. During the first quarter of 2019, Russia has already acquired an additional 56 tons.

  • Last year, Poland dramatically increased its gold reserves by approximately 20%, going from 103 tons in July to about 128.6 tons by December.

  • The Hungarian National Bank increased the size of its gold reserves from 3.1 tons to 31.5 tons during October 2018 – a 1000% increase. Prior to that, Hungary’s central bank had not altered its gold reserves since 1986.

When it comes to this trend, the exact reasons for investing in more gold may differ for each country, but the overall message is clear: gold is still the asset of choice for lower-risk, longer-term growth strategies.

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