Investors are talking about gold, and why not? In the past 10 years, the price has climbed more than fivefold from less than $300 to more than $1,500 an ounce. A $10,000 investment made in June 2001 would be north of $50,000 in value today.

But guess what? Silver has actually done quite a bit better, rising from less than $5 to nearly $40 per ounce - good for about an eightfold price gain over the previous decade. So instead of the $50,000 you'd have if you bought gold, your $10,000 would now be worth around $80,000. (For more on silver, read Silver Thursday: How Two Wealthy Traders Cornered The Market.)

TUTORIAL: Investor Guide To Commodities

Considering this outperformance, it may be time to think of silver as "the new gold." Indeed, there's compelling evidence it could soon replace gold as the precious metal of choice for investors. For example, some analysts project silver prices as high as $90 an ounce by the end of 2011 - more than double current levels. Gold, however, may hover around $1,500 an ounce throughout the year, suggesting there won't be much, if any, money to be made in the yellow metal for a while.

Why Silver's Hot
Silver has skyrocketed for many of the same reasons as gold, a big one being widespread fear about the condition and direction of the economy. Anytime there's economic uncertainty and a risk of higher inflation, just like there is right now, precious metals become increasingly popular because of their perceived safety and reputation as strong inflation hedges.

The big advantage of silver is it's not mainly a store of value like gold. Besides offering an inflation hedge and helping to calm investors, silver has many applications in industry, medicine and dentistry thanks to its electrical and thermal conductivity, usefulness in making metal alloys and other unique properties. Commercial and industrial applications account for about 60% of silver demand each year. (To help take advantage of these increases, read Investing In The Metals Markets.)

Why It Will Get Even Hotter
Whereas gold might be in a cooling phase, silver could be set to soar for several reasons.

1. Industry and Investor Demand Are Set to Rise
These groups may both want to bulk up their silver holdings, but for different reasons. Whereas the pickup in hiring and other signs of economic recovery we've seen could spur higher demand from industry, investors may want more silver because they're not yet convinced the recovery is for real and still want a safe haven for their money.

2. Silver's Popular in Emerging Countries
While the United States and other Western economies have been struggling, China, India and many other emerging countries have been expanding by leaps and bounds. Their industries need lots of silver. Moreover, the number of investors in emerging countries is rising as those areas become more affluent, and many of those investors value precious metals like silver for the same reasons we do.

3. There's a Threat of Higher Inflation
Significant inflation isn't here yet, but it could be on the way (we've all seen food and gasoline prices go up). The government has been printing billions of dollars to cover its huge debt, creating more new money in the past couple years than at any other time in U.S. history. This sets the stage for higher inflation by diluting the money supply and reducing the value of the dollar. (To learn more on how metals increase and decrease in value, check out A Beginner's Guide To Precious Metals.)

The Bottom Line
The economy is at a crossroads of sorts: There are signs of recovery, yet conditions are ripe for inflation. In this situation, silver may be a better investment than gold because there are two sources of demand - investors and industry. Gold, by contrast, is much more at the whim of investors and tends to sink or swim based on their need to feel safe. If the economy really picks up steam and investors start to feel bullish about stocks, gold could quickly become yesterday's news. (To learn more on gold and silver, see Trading The Gold-Silver Ratio.)

Related Articles
  1. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 3 Japanese Bond ETFs

    Learn about the top three exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that invest in sovereign and corporate bonds issued by developed countries, including Japan.
  2. Taxes

    Here's How to Deduct Your Stock Losses From Your Tax Bill

    Learn the proper procedure for deducting stock investing losses, and get some tips on how to strategically take losses to lower your income tax bill.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    What Exactly Are Arbitrage Mutual Funds?

    Learn about arbitrage funds and how this type of investment generates profits by taking advantage of price differentials between the cash and futures markets.
  4. Stock Analysis

    3 Solar Stocks to Add to Your Portfolio

    Understand the growth and challenges of the renewable energy market and its success in 2015. Learn about the top three energy stocks to add to a portfolio.
  5. Investing News

    Glencore Shares Surge in Hong Kong

    Shares of Glencore International, a leading multinational commodities and mining company, jumped by around 15% on London Stock Exchange, after the shares had gained about 71% earlier on the Hong ...
  6. Professionals

    How to Sell Mutual Funds to Your Clients

    Learn about the various talking points you should cover when discussing mutual funds with clients and how explaining their benefits can help you close the sale.
  7. Investing

    Have Commodities Bottomed?

    Commodity prices have been heading lower for more than four years, being the worst performing asset class of 2015 with more losses in cyclical commodities.
  8. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top Three Transportation ETFs

    These three transportation funds attract the majority of sector volume.
  9. Investing Basics

    Statistical Proof That Buy-and-Hold Investing Pays Off

    Learn about how the data suggests that the buy-and-hold investment strategy still works, even after the huge declines of the Great Recession.
  10. Investing

    The Quinoa Quandary for Bolivian Farmers

    Growing global demand for quinoa has impacted Bolivian farmers' way of life. Should the American consumer be wary of buying this product?
  1. What are the main kinds of annuities?

    There are two broad categories of annuity: fixed and variable. These categories refer to the manner in which the investment ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are the risks of rolling my 401(k) into an annuity?

    Though the appeal of having guaranteed income after retirement is undeniable, there are actually a number of risks to consider ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do I get out of my annuity and transfer to a new one?

    If you decide your current annuity is not for you, there is nothing stopping you from transferring your investment to a new ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Are high yield bonds a good investment?

    Bonds are rated according to their risk of default by independent credit rating agencies such as Moody's, Standard & ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Where do penny stocks trade?

    Generally, penny stocks are traded through the use of the Over the Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) and through pink sheets. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Where can I buy penny stocks?

    Some penny stocks, those using the definition of trading for less than $5 per share, are traded on regular exchanges such ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  2. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
  3. Revenue

    The amount of money that a company actually receives during a specific period, including discounts and deductions for returned ...
  4. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a firm’s total revenue and total cost is equal to zero.
  5. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of a business on a day-to-day basis.
  6. Cost Of Funds

    The interest rate paid by financial institutions for the funds that they deploy in their business. The cost of funds is one ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!