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How Are Silver Bars Made?

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The first step in the creation of silver bars is of course the acquisition of the raw materials. Silver is produced from silver ores and as a by-product of mining of other some metals, for example copper, lead and gold. A third source for the silver used in silver bars is silver scrap which has been collected to be recycled.

Before the bars are made, the silver must be purified. Depending on the form of the ore, different processes are used to separate the silver. For example, silver is separated form lead using the Parkes process: Zinc is added to liquid lead that contains silver, and the silver migrates into the zinc, which it has a far greater affinity for. Zinc is immiscible with lead, so the zinc layer (which now contains the silver) is easily separated. [1]

In old times, prior to the advent of modern machinery, silver bars were hand poured from molten silver into moulds. Once these were cooled, the cast silver bar, known as an ingot was removed. It became typical to mark the bars for identification - the silver bars were weighed and then stamped with the wright, together with the logo of the silver company.

Some silver bars are still made this way - and such bars are recognizable from their appearance. They typically have a somewhat uneven surface and are usually thicker and "chunkier" in appearance, however they are still very popular with silver bullion aficionados. It's interesting to note that not only large-scale bullion manufacturers are creating silver bullion bars - we found a fascinating video from a smaller bullion company which we have featured.

A more modern method of silver bar manufacture involves minting the silver bars in a manner similar to that in which coins are made. First, silver strips are created by sending highly purified silver through a rolling mill, which sets it at a uniform thickness. Next, blanks are cut out from these strips at the exact size required for the silver bar. The blanks may at this stage be polished, weighed, measured and brought to a perfect appearance. Then, the blanks are pressed between dies bearing an inverse of the design, and the design is stamped on the bar. The bars are checked for weight and appearance and any bars outside of the strict tolerances are returned to be melted down and minted again.

Some modern bars are manufactured with a prooflike finished appearance, in the manner of the proof coins issued by major mints. This means that the blank is polished to a mirror finish before being stamped, and the dies used are similarly finished. However, not all bullion bars are finished to this standard: Many people are simply concerned with the purity of the silver and the weight of the bar. There is a difference, in general, between investors and collectors. A collector is generally more concerned with rarity, appearance, and perhaps historical or souvenir interest of their items, whereas an investor is more concerned with the weight and purity of their silver and is less interested in the "display" qualities. There are many shades of grey however, and of course all are concerned with the resale value of their investments.

One can easily see that the silver bullion market caters to both collector and investor types - with "art bars" and rare pressings at one end of the spectrum, and large "investment bars" at the other end.



How Are Silver Bars Made - References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkes_process





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