Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

Measuring the Price of Silver.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2010/09/17

Do you follow the “price” of silver?

It looks like it hit right around $21/oz on some foreign markets for a brief moment earlier this morning (around 4 am New York City time).

It’s back down by a few cents now (as I write this mid-afternoon) since the New York markets opened. Though prices have been bouncing around higher than “usual” for the past five to seven years, the 20-and-high-change numbers this week are still the highest silver’s been since the price spiked (to as much as $50/oz) in the early 1980s

That’s back when I first got interested in metalsmithing; it was a secondary reason why I didn’t pursue this more actively at that time. The primary reason was that I tried several different classes, all of which were very unpleasant experiences. I wondered then, and more recently confirmed, that it was just my luck to have drawn a few really dreadful teachers. But watching the raw material price climb from its historic $5/oz to $50/oz at the same time sure didn’t provide an incentive to try more classes. Instead, I just started prowling antique shops, estate sales, flea markets, and the occasional museum, to examine and admire older pieces and gain a different kind of education, a better appreciation of what others had done over time with precious metals, gemstones, and more.

Of course, the nominal price and the actual price differ as well. That $20-something an ounce is what a large-scale “investor” might pay for quantities of the stuff. They are the ones who drive the prices. The actual small-scale jeweler (and hobbyists) will pay much more, once you’ve added on the mark-ups for various brokers (those involved in trading the raw material), fabricators (who turn ingots into sheet or wire, or reclaimed fragments into the powders used in metal clays), distributors, shippers, and more. Thus, in round numbers, when the nominal price of silver is around $20, I figure it’ll cost me at least $50. (I still don’t want to think what I’ll do if the nominal price reaches $50…)

Oh, and the ounces we’re talking about are troy ounces. I resist the urge to include here a math lesson on troy versus avoirdupois weights. (Gold and silver merchants use the former; bakers and butchers use the latter.) I can do so if anyone requests it…. For now I’ll just point out that a troy ounce is heavier than an avoirdupois ounce, while a troy pound is lighter than an avoirdupois pound! Which is why a lot of people prefer metric measures: a gram is a gram, a kilogram is a thousand grams, no matter what you’re weighing.

There are many sources of information on precious metals prices, should you want to track them yourself; for now I’ll provide two links. Both have daily and historical charts, but:

  • also has hourly information for several recent days and
  • At the bottom of this page is a chart that goes back before the silver price spike I mentioned above.

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