With gold prices sitting near record highs and the amount of publicity the yellow metal garners, it is easy to forget its less-popular cousin - silver. The price of silver has doubled since the low in 2008 and it is closing in on the best level since the spike in 1980.

IN PICTURES: 4 Biggest Investor Errors

The metal varies slightly from gold because gold is typically viewed as a precious metal that is used in jewelry and could be considered an alternative to currencies. Silver on the other hand is also a precious metal, but it also has qualities that allow it to be used in various industries including autos and electronics. The diversification of silver makes the metal an interesting investment opportunity as a secondary play on money flowing into gold.

Investing in Silver Bullion
If you watch television there is a good chance you have noticed the influx in commercials attempting to sell you silver via the mail. Since the fees for these services can be exorbitant, consider instead gaining access to the movements of silver bullion by purchasing the iShares Silver Trust ETF (NYSE:SLV).

The ETF owns silver bullion, and the investment is designed to move in unison with the underlying price of silver. With a small annual expense ratio of 0.5% and the fact SLV can be bought or sold at any time during regular market hours, the ETF is much more convenient than buying and storing the silver bullion.

Silver Stocks
One of the largest publicly traded silver companies on a major U.S. exchange is Silver Wheaton (NYSE:SLW) with a market capitalization of $7.23 billion. SLW is not your typical silver company and the company refers to themselves as the largest metals streaming company in the world.

Instead of mining the silver from the ground, SLW has the right to buy the silver from mines around the globe after paying an upfront fee. The 2010 forecast has SLW's production at 23.5 million silver equivalent ounces and that number jumps to 40 million by 2013. Investors that want direct exposure to the rise in silver prices without the downside risk of the miners, SLW is your ticket.

Pan American Silver (Nasdaq:PAAS) has not performed as well as SLW even though it reported record silver production in the latest quarter. The company's silver production increased by 18% to 6.9 million ounces and net income surged by 79% to $0.17 per share. The Canadian-based firm recorded a sales increase of 32% during the quarter, but it has not been enough to help the stock get back to the June high.

Investors that do not want the company-specific risk and volatility that goes along with stocks can turn to the Global X Silver Miners ETF (NYSE:SIL). For a 0.65% expense ratio, SIL offers exposure to 25 silver mining stocks with SLW the top holding, making up 14% of the entire allocation.

Bullion versus Miners
The age-old question of whether an investor should invest in the metal or in the companies that mine the metal remains alive and well. My best answer is to invest in both. With the introduction of ETFs, investors can now invest in a basket of silver miners located around the globe and the actual silver bullion with two purchases. (For related reading, take a look at Silver Thursday: How Two Wealthy Traders Cornered The Market.)

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

Related Articles
  1. Economics

    India: Why it Might Pay to Be Bullish Right Now

    Many investors are bullish on India for all the right reasons. Does it present an investing opportunity?
  2. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Altria's Return on Equity (ROE) (MO)

    Learn about Altria Group's return on equity (ROE) and analyze net profit margin, asset turnover and financial leverage to determine what is causing its high ROE.
  3. Investing Basics

    Building My Portfolio with BlackRock ETFs and Mutual Funds (ITOT, IXUS)

    Find out how to construct the ideal investment portfolio utilizing BlackRock's tools, resources and its popular low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
  4. Fundamental Analysis

    Performance Review: Commodities in 2015

    Learn how commodities took a big hit in 2015 with a huge variance in performances. Discover how the major commodities performed over the year.
  5. Investing News

    Icahn's Bet on Cheniere Energy: Should You Follow?

    Investing legend Carl Icahn continues to lose money on Cheniere Energy, but he's increasing his stake. Should you follow his lead?
  6. Stock Analysis

    Analyzing Google's Return on Equity (ROE) (GOOGL)

    Learn about Alphabet's return on equity. How has its ROE changed over time, how does it compare to its peers and what factors are driving ROE for the company?
  7. Investing News

    Is Buffett's Bet on Oil Right for You? (XOM, PSX)

    Oil stocks are getting trounced, but Warren Buffett still likes one of them. Should you follow the leader?
  8. Investing

    3 Things About International Investing and Currency

    As world monetary policy continues to diverge rocking bottom on interest rates while the Fed raises them, expect currencies to continue their bumpy ride.
  9. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in SandRidge Stock

    Learn about the significant risks of investing in SandRidge. Read how the company may not be able to service its substantial debt load.
  10. Investing News

    Chipotle Served with Criminal Probe

    Chipotle's beat muted expectations and got a clear bill from the CDC, but it now appears that an investigation into its E.coli breakout has expanded.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Which mutual funds made money in 2008?

    Out of the 2,800 mutual funds that Morningstar, Inc., the leading provider of independent investment research in North America, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Should mutual funds be subject to more regulation?

    Mutual funds, when compared to other types of pooled investments such as hedge funds, have very strict regulations. In fact, ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Do ETFs pay capital gains?

    Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can generate capital gains that are transferred to shareholders, typically once a year, triggering ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How do real estate hedge funds work?

    A hedge fund is a type of investment vehicle and business structure that aggregates capital from multiple investors and invests ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Are Vanguard ETFs commission-free?

    While some Vanguard exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are available commission-free from third-party brokers, a large portion ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Do Vanguard ETFs require a minimum investment?

    Vanguard completely waives any U.S. dollar minimum amounts to buy its exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and the minimum ETF investment ... Read Full Answer >>
COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center