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Atkinsons Bullion & Coins
Back to February 2017

Here at Atkinsons, we can often find ourselves submerged in investment and monetary terms when speaking about gold or silver bullion and coins. Both silver and gold are classified as precious metals, so we feel it’s important to mention their metal properties.

Today, we’re taking the opportunity to briefly explore these precious metals, to gain some insights into the scientific properties of both. (A more in-depth article covering the mining process for both metals is coming soon. If this is something that interests you, then please keep an eye out).


Did you know that gold is one of the few elements in nature that occurs in its pure state?

Gold is easily recognisable for its yellow cast. It is malleable, ductile (pliable), sectile (easily cut or shaped into smaller pieces)It’s ability to resist oxidation makes its uses innumerable. This resistance to oxidation can also help to explain its popularity within the jewellery industry.

The word 'gold' is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word 'gohl'. Although we can not be certain, 'gohl' has been translated as meaning, 'yellow, green or shiny'. Gold's chemical symbol is Au which comes from the Latin name 'aurum'.

As gold is a soft metal, it can often be alloyed with other metals (silver, copper, nickel or platinum) to increase its strength. The alloying process will define the karat for gold. Pure gold is 24 karat. When a jewellery item for example is 18 karat gold, this means that there are 18 parts gold, to 6 parts other metals, making 24 karat in total.

Gold is usually discovered in a pure state, but it is worth noting that the yellow metal can be extracted from silver, copper, lead and zinc. Seawater has also been found to contain gold, however the quantities of gold found in seawater are minimal, making it futile to attempt to extract the precious metal from the ocean. 

When gold is discovered, it can be found in one of two types of deposits: lode or placer. Gold is usually extracted from lode deposits using drills or blasting techniques. Placer deposits are extracted using hydraulic mining or power shoveling. Once gold has been extracted, the gold ore is then pulverized as part of the process for refinement. There are four types of refining processes: flotation, amalgamation, cyanidation, or carbon-in-pulp.

Gold is a very rare metal and only a small percentage of gold is reachable through mining the earth’s crust. Due to its limited availability, this precious metal is held in high regard, and as such, is often worth a lot in terms of its monetary value.


Did you know that silver is the whitest metallic element? It is also the highest thermal and electric conductor of any substance!

Silvers chemical symbol in the periodic table is Ag, which derives from the Anglo-Saxon word for silver which is ‘seolfor’. Seolfor stems from the ancient Germanic term, ‘silibar’. Ag is an abbreviation of ‘argentum’, which is a Latin word for silver. The origins of argentum come from Sanskrit, which means ‘shining’.

Silver is unaffected by moisture, vegetable acids or alkalis. It is both strong and resists corrosion. However, silver does react with Sulphur, which can be found in the air. This chemical reaction can cause silver to tarnish, which makes it important to polish the precious metal to keep its aesthetically pleasing condition.

Medicine and industries such as chemical engineering and glass manufacturing, prosper most from the use of silver. Another interesting industry that benefits from silver’s scientific abilities is photography. Silver can form light-sensitive salts known as halides, which are crucial for the development of high-quality photography.

Silver, just like gold, is used extensively in jewellery. However, pure silver is too soft to be used in jewellery, thus it is mixed with 5-20% copper in an alloy, making it into ‘sterling silver’.

Returning to our area of interest and expertise, it is worth noting that only a small percentage of the world’s silver is now used for coinage, making silver coins potentially great for a collector’s item and for investment purposes.

That’s All for Now

Hopefully it has been enjoyable to read up a little on the scientific properties of the precious metals. The history and properties of the metals are extensive; thus, it is a challenge to fit everything into one blog post. So, in true Atkinson’s fashion, and to help plug any scientific gaps, we now invite you to share any facts about silver and gold that you have in the comments section. 

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This blog represents one person’s opinion only. Customers should conduct their own research and take advice before making an investment. We do not offer investment advice.


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