Precious metals are among the rarest and most valuable elements in the world, and have a long history as investable assets, stores of value, and even as the basis of currency systems. Gold is perhaps the best-known precious metal, though silver, platinum, and palladium also fall under this umbrella.
Precious metals are popular investment destinations for both long-term buy-and-holders and short-term traders. This asset class has appeal as a safe haven, as price appreciation generally occurs when global equity markets encounter volatility. Gold and silver are also used as hedges against both inflation and the U.S. dollar.
Precious metals are used both as stores of value and in manufacturing applications; the degree to which demand from the manufacturing sector exists depends on the commodity (gold has very few industrial applications, while platinum is a major input in the automotive industry).
There are hundreds of billions of dollars invested in precious metals, with the majority of that total attributable to gold. Options for achieving exposure to precious metals are numerous, and include exchange-traded products, futures contracts, and even physical storage.