Gold, either through mining stocks such as the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GDX) or in its physical form through the ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares (Nasdaq:SGOL), has become immensely popular with investors. Gold's status as an inflation fighter and safe haven in times of trouble is in focus as investors continue to pump money into the asset class. However, many commodities gurus have recently been pointing to gold's twin as the money metal.

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Jim Rogers on Silver
Outspoken commodities bull, Jim Rogers has recently been taking a shine to silver. While, he isn't abandoning his gold positions just yet, he said that depressed metals such as silver and palladium represent some of the best buys right now. Silver is currently trading at nearly 60-70% below its all time highs. Silver reached its high of $50.35 in 1980.

Analysts predict that silver prices could reach $21 to $22 by the end of the year. From an investment point of view, silver has performed pretty well during the past 20 years. Poor man's gold has risen in price from a low of around $3.50 in the early '90s to the current highs of around $18. This has given investors an annual return of about 9%.

Aside from being a possible value play in relation to gold, silver has a lot going for it in the industrial world. The metal has several uses in automotive sector and electronics manufacturing. Silver may get a boost from new uses in renewable energy. New technologies in solar cells and silver-oxide smart grid batteries could use demand for the mineral skyrocket. Currently accounting for 70% of the world's total industrial use, consumption in China is on the rise.

Small Silver Stocks
Both the iShares Silver Trust (NYSE:SLV) and ETFS Physical Silver Shares (Nasdaq:SIVR) represent physical holdings of bullion and are directly tied to the price of the underlying silver bars. They make perfect additions to a portfolio for investors wanting to profit from the price of silver. However, additional gains can be had if investors place their bets with the miners of such metals. The Global X Silver Miners ETF (NYSE:SIL) recently debuted and follows a basket of silver miners. Here are some of the more interesting stories from the fund.

As the second largest primary silver producer in the world, Pan American Silver (Nasdaq:PAAS) has managed to increase its production nearly 104% since 2004. The company operates eight silver mines and four new early stage projects in politically friendly Peru, Mexico and Argentina.

Location of projects is just as important as number. Just ask investors in Crystallex International (NYSE:KRY) on what can happen. Pan American has nearly 234 million ounces of proven reserves and approximately 940 million ounces in inferred supply. Pan American trades at a forward P/E of 18.

Silvercorp Metals (NYSE:SVM) is an interesting play on the increasing demand from China. The miner operates four projects in Ying province of China. The company has one of the lowest costs of production, zero long-term debt, nearly $95 million in cash on its balance sheet and pays a 1.2% dividend.

Producing silver since 1891, Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) is one of the oldest miners around. The company is also the largest producer of silver based in the United States. Thorough its mines in 2009, Hecla produced 10.9 million ounces of silver at an average total cash cost of $1.91 per ounce. Shares of the miner trade for a forward P/E of 15.

The Bottom Line
While, gold still gets all the attention, silver could be a great value play. Trading at a 60% discount to its all time highs, the metal could see hefty price gains as industrial demand keeps increasing. Either through physical bullion or through silver miners, investors can profit on the metals rise. The previous picks are just of the few out in the sector. (Learn about strategies to trading silver in Trading The Gold-Silver Ratio.)

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