There can be many differences between one gold/silver bar and the next, not least of which are the ways in which the bars are made. There are two main ways of creating precious metal bars, and these methods produce completely different results, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
The process of casting has been around for at least 6,000 years, and while ancient techniques differ greatly from modern ones, the basics are the same. Bars created via this method are also referred to as “molded” or even “poured”.
The process begins when the metal is heated until it is a liquid. It is then poured into a mold, designed to hold a certain weight and to create a certain shape. The metal solidifies quickly. Once it has cooled, it is popped out of the mold. Additional steps may include engraving or stamping further details onto the bar, but these can also be included on the mold itself.
The beauty of this process is that it’s simple, often requiring just this one step. The designer can create the molds they want in the design and shape they choose, and from there they just need to melt and pour. This casting process is used to produce many precious metal bars, but it can also be used to create complex ornamental shapes, making it an essential manufacturing process.
• Originality: No two poured bars are the same because the pouring process often creates abnormalities and blemishes that are unique to those bars.
• Price: Because this process is so quick and cheap for the manufacturer, they are able to pass those savings onto the customer, which is why these bars are often available for close to spot price.
• Simplicity: If you like fancy designs, then this method may not be for you. Cast bars are often very simple, engraved only with the details of the bar and its manufacturer.
• Rugged: These bars can be a little rough around the edges. So, if you want a bar that is neat and clean, much like a bullion coin, then this option is not for you.
The minting process creates a bar that is cleaner, straighter and perhaps more fitting of the image that many of us have for gold bars. It allows for more intricate designs, but it also requires a little more time, effort and money, which is why minted bars carry a higher premium than cast bars.
Minted bars traditionally began life as cast bars. From there they were fed through a machine that compressed them so that they were of a uniform length. Although this method is still used by some mints, one of the more common methods of producing minted bars involves something known as a “continuous casting machine”. This still requires a casting process, but it produces a long strip of metal of a required width and thickness. From there, the strip is cut into precise lengths, producing blanks of precious metal with no distinguishing marks, much like a blank coin.
There can be several other steps involved, all of which are there to ensure the bars are of a certain weight, width and thickness, after which the striking process begins. The bars are moved to a furnace, and this softens them to make the strike more effective. The surface is then polished, cleaned and dried.
The process differs depending on the metal being produced, but this is a multi-stage, time-consuming process whether they are manufacturing silver, gold or platinum.
Detail: A lot of detail goes into a minted bar, which means the end product is infinitely more complex than a simple cast bar.
Value: Minted bars are very popular and you should not have an issue selling these on when the time comes to profit from your investment.
Price: Because minted bars carry a premium, they may not be the best option for investors on a budget or for those looking to invest only in the precious metal content.
Packaging: If you want to hold the metal in your hands, then minted bars may not be for you. Many of these bars are securely packaged and derive a lot of value from that packaging, so opening them to get at the metal may devalue them.