Silver bars: a popular, flexible investment format

Many different denominations make silver bars affordable for every budget. They offer many advantages over silver coins and gold products.

Besides gold bars, silver bars are another popular form of investment, and have the distinct advantage of a somewhat lower purchase price for each individual unit. Experts too are noticing an increased demand for silver whenever the market price of gold rises: The price of silver seems to generally track gold whilst still keeping a discreet distance apart. This is particularly evident in times of international crisis. This shows that, alongside gold, silver is also a precious metal much sought after at times of crisis. It also represents a secure and independent investment.

Silver bars offer investors the choice of a convenient standard format which is available on the market in many different denominations from one gram to approximately 31 kilograms (a good delivery silver bar of approximately 1,000 ounces). Such flexibility makes this type of investment accessible and affordable for every investor, because it can be adapted to suit the needs of any existing budget, and at any time. The value of a silver ingot is primarily governed by its weight. All transactions are, of course, directly dependent on the silver price, which is published daily on the global precious metal exchanges. Silver is traded in US dollars per one troy ounce (31.1034768 g). The exchange rate for Swiss francs is also published daily across all the major financial markets.

Three silver bars of 250, 500 and 1000 grams
Silver bars are available in different sizes.
© vladk213 – stock.adobe.com

History and production of silver bars

Cast ingots made of precious metals such as gold, bronze, copper, tin or silver are known from archaeological finds dating back as far as the second millennium BC. At that time, there was little standardisation, so these early ingots had irregular, open-pore surfaces rather than the classic rectangular shape we see with the precious metal bars available today. Then as now, these ingots were a much sought-after exchange item which was easy to transport and could be readily melted down at any time.

Once paper currency was introduced in Europe at the end of the 13th century, bars of precious metal gradually lost their importance as a means of direct payment. However, they were still used as a means of security to cover paper financial assets up until World War II. Indeed, they are still kept in certain central bank vaults to this day as a hedge against inflation, because of their more or less guaranteed intrinsic value. These are mostly large accredited (good delivery) industrial silver bars weighing somewhere around 23 to 34 kilograms.

Today, most gold and silver bars are primarily produced for the investment market, and sometimes in more manageable units for collectors too. A distinction is always made between pressed and cast bars. Sizes of up to around 100 grams are usually pressed, which is why they are also called minted bars. This minting or pressing technique is essentially the same as that used to produce coins, and thus ensures the final product has a fine, glossy surface. However, for weights of 250 grams and upwards, silver bars are more likely to be cast, which is why they tend to have a coarser, matt surface and often have rounded edges.

LBMA standardisation ensures widespread acceptance

In 1979, a new standard was introduced to bring some clarity to the diverse range of silver bars on the market for the benefit of investors. This certification specifies the physical properties of the precious metal, such as the weight and dimensions. Only a small deviation is ever allowed from the quoted measurements, with a maximum tolerance of no more than 15 – 40 mm. This standard was drafted by the famous London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), whose history goes back to 1919. Approved bars must comply with their “Good Delivery Standard” specification (GD). For instance, bars must have a fineness of at least 999/1000 parts of silver, and must bear a cast or pressed value, as well as an assay stamp giving details of the refiner, and finally a serial number. GD silver bars weigh from 23.3 kg (750 oz) to 34.2 kg (1100 oz) and are considered to be fully tradable across all international bullion markets.

LBMA maintains precious metal lists from refiners and manufacturers who can be relied upon to produce bankable silver bars. However, to maintain the ongoing financial credibility of their product, these approved producers and refineries all have to undergo regular tests by an independent commission. Many banks today limit their trading to investment bars from accredited and certified manufacturers with GDL status.

-> Learn more about the LBMA and the London Bullion Market.

Other popular and well-known silver bars

It’s not just good delivery bars that make an attractive silver investment. Small investors in particular generally prefer silver bars of 100, 250 or 1000 grams, and 31.103 grams of silver per troy ounce. In addition, you can also purchase what are known as silver coin bars, which have an embossed face value and thus actually have the same status as coins. These coin bars often have attractive motifs, such as the Dragon Rectangular (AUS), Cook Islands (AUS) or Athenian Owl (NIU).

Below is a list of international manufacturers of well-known silver bars, most of whom are LBMA certified.

Manufacturer City Country
Argor-Heraus SA Mendrisio Switzerland
Britannia Refined Metals Ltd. Gravesend England
Cendres Métaux Biel Switzerland
Heimerle + Meule GmbH Pforzheim Germany
Heraeus Holding GmbH Hanau Germany
Metalor SA Neuchâtel Switzerland
Pamp SA Castel San Pietro Switzerland
Rand Refinery Ltd. Germiston South Africa
Royal Canadian Mint Ottawa Canada
Schöne Edelmetaal BV Amsterdam Netherlands
Umicore AG & Co. KG Brussels Belgium
Valcambi Balerna Switzerland
Western Australia / Perth Mint Perth Australia

As of June 2020

Advantages and disadvantages of silver bars:

The bar shape offers many advantages over a collection of silver coins. Classic silver bars are much less expensive to produce than coins, which is why they can then be offered at cheaper prices. This gives investors a greater amount of silver in return for their investable assets. The serial number stamped on each bar clearly identifies the individual units, which can always be traced at any time. In addition, modern ingot products are often supplied along with a certificate, which confirms their origin and authenticity. This makes it much easier for investors to sell their white metal as and when required. Silver bars are widely available and highly visible on today’s markets. They are sold through classic precious metal trading networks (both bricks-and-mortar and online), as well as through banks, and can always be resold later in the same way.

Three silver bars
Bars are useful for investing larger sums in silver.
© vladk213 – stock.adobe.com

The only potential drawback is VAT, because unlike gold investment products, silver is still subject to VAT. In Switzerland, the rate is 7.7 percent, which must be added to the net price. And if investors wish to buy in Germany, they have to add an even higher rate of 19 percent. But potential investors should not despair, because there are ways to save some or all of this VAT element.

Those investors who don’t want to take personal responsibility for storage of their own silver bars are advised to store them in a bonded warehouse or an open bonded warehouse in Switzerland – for example with a professional company such as Swiss Gold Safe. Investors can buy silver through a Swiss precious metal dealer such as Echtgeld AG and have it delivered direct to their chosen duty-free warehouse. And what is more, this method of purchasing silver is VAT-exempt.

-> You can read all the details about duty-free warehouse storage in Switzerland here.

An overview of the features of silver bars:

  • Silver bars to suit every budget are available in many attractive denominations from 1 gram to 34 kilograms.
  • Your purchase price is based on the current silver price.
  • LBMA certification guarantees investors receive standardised, internationally tradable, Good Delivery silver bars.
  • Get more silver for your money: bars are cheaper than coins.
  • Duty-free warehouses enable VAT-free purchase and storage.
Four silver bars weighing 250 grams each
Silver bars provide an interesting investment opportunity.
© vladk213 – stock.adobe.com