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A silver ingot is a metal casting of pure silver in a pre-determined weight, size, and shape. As a metallurgical process, melting purges silver of impurities to create pure silver. While the metal remains in liquid form, pouring it into a cast forms bars, bullion, plates, or sheets, depending on the specific cast used. When cooled, these silver ingots provide an easy way to transport and store silver.
The practice of casting silver ingots goes back centuries. In many ancient cultures, silver in the form of coins and other castings served as money. Rather than dollars, Euros, Yen, or other forms of monetary denominations, cultures used various silver weights as currency. In 18th century Burma, for example, silversmiths cast ingots in the form of discs. The cooling process produced swirled patterns, indicating the purity of the ingot to prevent fraud. To pay for an item, merchants weighed out a customer's silver discs to equal the agreed purchase price.
Using silver as currency continued into modern times, although not in the form of ingots. The most common way to use silver as currency is through minting coins with a percentage of pure silver. Many countries, including the United States, England, and Canada, used silver in coin production into the 20th century. The representation of wealth through silver and other precious metals likewise continues in the form of silver commodities and ingots.
In terms of present-day uses for silver ingots, individual investors, governments, and other organizations commonly purchase precious metals in the form of ingots such as silver bars or silver bullions. Silver bullion bars serve to store wealth in a stable, universal commodity. Ingots as commodities are also common investments, purchased with the intent to resell at a higher price later. While most commonly used as an investment or as wealth storage, manufacturers whose finished product requires silver also purchase silver ingots as a raw material.
Investing in silver generally involves the purchase of silver in the form of coins, medallions, or bullion based on troy ounce. A troy ounce of silver weighs more than a typical ounce. In exact terms, a troy ounce is equal to 31.1034768 grams, 0.0311 kilograms, or 1.097 standard ounces. The idea behind investing in pure physical silver is to buy at a low price and sell when precious metal commodities increase in spot price. Investors need not take possession of physical silver ingots, as shares in silver mining stocks, certificates, and storage accounts provide the ability to invest without physical silver storage requirements.
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