Industrial demand for silver has increased substantially over the past two decades and is expected to soar to a new record level in the coming year.
Speaking last week at the annual Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto, Michael DiRienzo, Executive Director of the Silver Institute, said that demand for silver is broadening in many directions. Industry's widening use of the precious metal is expected to average more than 483 million ounces (Moz.) from 2012 to 2014, a level 53 percent greater than the average annual industrial fabrication demand of 313.4 Moz from 1992-2001.
Silver provides a unique combination of properties that make it ideal for applications in industries ranging from health and medicine to electronics, communications, solar power, batteries, superconductors, and computers, as well as jewelry and silverware. Silver withstands extreme temperatures, serves as an excellent reflector of light and conductor of heat and electricity, and is a natural anti-microbial agent.
"Silver helps make today's interconnected lifestyle possible and is a vital component of virtually every automobile, cell and smartphone, computer and laptop, appliance and electronic device we use. Further, silver's antibacterial properties are finding new uses in textiles, medical instruments and hospital equipment, providing an effective tool in combatting infection and bacteria," according to Mr. DiRienzo.
As industry continues its wide-ranging use of silver, investors are also increasingly acquiring silver bullion, seeking the safety of the precious metal as a store of value. Investor demand for silver can be seen in the record-shattering sale of 7.5 million American Eagle Silver Bullion Coins by the U.S. Mint in January of this year. In fact, over the first two months of 2013 investors purchased 10.9 million American Eagle Silver Bullion Coins, up by 43 percent over the sale of the coins in the first two months of 2012.
Further, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) that track physical backed silver are at a record high. As of March 8, total silver ETF holdings were 653.7 Moz, up by 22 Moz from year-end 2012. "Clearly, investor demand for silver remains buoyant by any measure," Mr. DiRienzo said.