15 Precious Metals Terms & Gold Terminology

Investing in precious metals is an excellent way to diversify your portfolio, hedge against inflation, and protect your wealth. However, to become a savvy investor in this sector, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the industry jargon. This comprehensive article will demystify 15 precious metals terms and gold terminology that every investor should know. By understanding these terms, you will be better equipped to make informed decisions about your investments in the precious metals market.


Bullion refers to gold, silver, platinum, or palladium in the form of bars or coins that are at least 99.5% pure. These precious physical metals are often used to store value and hedge against inflation. Bullion can be purchased from dealers, mints, or online platforms and stored in private vaults or depositories.

Spot Price

The spot price of precious metal is the current market price at which it can be bought or sold for immediate delivery. Spot prices fluctuate throughout the trading day based on market demand and supply, economic factors, and global events. Therefore, investors should be aware of the spot price when buying or selling precious metals, as it serves as a benchmark for determining the value of their investments.

Futures Contract

A futures contract is a legal agreement to buy or sell a specific quantity of a commodity, such as gold or silver, at a predetermined price on a future date. These contracts are traded on futures exchanges, like the COMEX, and allow investors to speculate on the future price of precious metals or hedge their positions against potential price fluctuations.

Gold-to-Silver Ratio

The gold-to-silver ratio is a financial metric that measures the relative value of gold and silver by dividing the price of gold by the price of silver. Investors use this ratio to determine whether gold or silver is overvalued or undervalued relative to each other. A high ratio indicates that gold is more expensive than silver, while a low ratio suggests that silver is more expensive than gold.

Troy Ounce

A troy ounce is a unit of measurement used for weighing precious metals. One troy ounce is equal to 31.1035 grams or 1.09711 avoirdupois ounces. It is important to note that the troy ounce differs from the avoirdupois ounce commonly used in the United States. Therefore, when buying or selling precious metals, use the troy-ounce measurement to ensure everything is clear.


The premium is the additional cost above the spot price of a precious metal that investors pay when purchasing bullion coins, bars, or rounds. Premiums vary depending on factors such as the type of metal, the product’s rarity, and the dealer’s profit margin. Understanding the premium is essential when comparing prices among dealers to ensure you get the best value for your investment.

Numismatic Coins

Numismatic coins are collectible coins with value beyond their metal content due to their rarity, historical significance, or artistic design. These coins are typically sold at a higher premium than bullion coins and are often sought after by collectors rather than investors. Therefore, when investing in precious metals, it is essential to distinguish between numismatic coins and bullion coins to make informed investment decisions.

Gold IRA

A Gold IRA (Individual Retirement Account) is a self-directed retirement account that allows investors to hold physical gold, silver, platinum, or palladium as an investment. These accounts allow investors to diversify their retirement portfolio by including precious metals, which can protect against inflation and economic uncertainty.


An assay is a process used to determine the purity and composition of precious metals. This can be done through various methods, such as fire assay, X-ray fluorescence, or inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Certified laboratories or mints perform assays to ensure the quality and authenticity of bullion products. Therefore, when purchasing precious metals, it is essential to look for products with an assay certificate or minted by a reputable organization.

ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds)

Precious metals ETFs are investment vehicles that track the performance of a specific precious metal, such as gold or silver, or a group of precious metals. These funds are traded on stock exchanges like regular stocks, allowing investors to gain exposure to the precious metals market without physically owning the metals. However, it is essential to note that investing in ETFs does not provide the same level of security as holding physical bullion, as ETFs are subject to counterparty risks and management fees.


Mintage refers to the number of coins or rounds a mint produces for a specific design or release. Limited mintage products are often more desirable to collectors and may carry a higher premium due to scarcity. Therefore, understanding mintage can help you identify potential investment opportunities in rare or limited-edition products when investing in precious metals.


A hallmark is a stamp or engraving on a precious metal item that indicates its purity, weight, and the manufacturer or refiner. Hallmarks guarantee the quality and authenticity of bullion products and can provide additional confidence to investors when purchasing precious metals. Always look for hallmarked products when buying gold, silver, platinum, or palladium to ensure you get a genuine item.


Karat (abbreviated as “K” or “kt”) is a unit of measurement used to describe the purity of gold. Pure gold is 24 karats, meaning it contains 100% gold, while lower karat gold includes a percentage of gold mixed with other metals. For example, 18-karat gold has 75% gold and 25% other metals. Therefore, when investing in gold, it is essential to understand the karat system to accurately determine the gold content and value of various products.

London Fix

The London Fix is a daily benchmark price for precious metals, including gold and silver, determined twice daily by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). This benchmark price is used by financial institutions, investors, and traders worldwide to establish contracts and settle transactions. Therefore, familiarity with the London Fix can help investors better understand the global precious metals market and make more informed investment decisions.


An alloy is a mixture of two or more metals, often created to enhance specific properties such as strength, durability, or resistance to corrosion. Precious metals, such as gold and silver, are usually alloyed with other metals to improve their wearability and workability in various applications, including jewelry and coinage. When investing in precious metals, it is essential to understand the difference between pure bullion and alloyed products to assess their value and suitability for your investment objectives accurately.


Understanding these 15 precious metals terms and gold terminology is crucial for anyone looking to invest in the precious metals market. By familiarizing yourself with these concepts, you will be better equipped to make informed investment decisions, navigate the market confidently, and ultimately protect and grow your wealth.

As you continue your journey in precious metals investing, remember to stay informed, conduct thorough research, and seek professional advice when necessary. By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to building a diverse and robust investment portfolio with the potential for long-term growth and stability.

If you are interested in learning more about gold and other precious metals, American Bullion is a great resource. They offer a wide range of products and services, including gold and silver coins and bars, as well as IRA services. They also have a team of knowledgeable professionals who can help you navigate the market and make informed decisions about your investments. Contact American Bullion today to learn more about how you can diversify your portfolio with precious metals.