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Gold Bullion Glossary

The world of gold bullion buying, selling, and collecting has many unique terms that you may not be inherently familiar with. Use this handy gold bullion glossary to learn some common terminology.

Assay: A test to determine the purity level of a precious metal item. This term can refer to a hand assay (a “scratch test” performed by a trained professional), machine assay (performed by an X-ray fluorescence machine), and fire assay (performed at a refinery by melting down the sample).

Bear Market: A market trend where precious metal prices decrease. Opposite of Bull Market.

Bullion: A refined amount of precious metal used as a store of value and investment purposes. Bullion is marked by its weight and purity and can take the form of coins, bars or ingots (infographic).

Bull Market: A market trend where precious metal prices increase. Opposite of Bear Market.

Good Delivery: A set of specifications for bullion bars as determined by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). Good Delivery bullion bars are high quality and heavily regulated.

Karat: A measurement of gold purity, defined as 24 times the purity by mass. For example, a gold bullion bar containing 99.99 percent gold would be 24 karats, whereas a bar containing 25 percent impurities and 75 percent pure gold would be 18 karats. Outside of North America, the word is spelled “carat.”

London Bullion Market Association (LBMA): An international trade association headquartered in London that represents the global gold market and sets gold prices.

Hallmark: A mark stamped into bullion that denotes its weight, purity, serial number, and/or origin.

The London Fixing: An internationally published benchmark for precious metal prices that occurs twice daily. The London Fix prices are used as a baseline for nearly all bullion transactions in the world.

Millesimal fineness: A measurement of precious metal purity measured in parts per thousand. For example, bullion marked as “0.9 fine” is 90 percent pure.

Spot price: The price that is quoted for immediate (on-the-spot) payment and delivery of a precious metal. Spot prices are commonly based on the London Fixing price, but are slightly adjusted by other factors such as region, supply and demand, etc.

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