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Terence Bell

Terence\'s Metals Blog

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What is the London Gold Fix?

Sunday April 20, 2014

First conducted in 1919, the London gold fix - the internationally accepted process for determining gold barsgold prices - has changed very little over the course of nearly a century.

Five member banks negotiate, or 'fix', prices twice each weekday via secure phone line. No transcripts of the conversation, prices or volumes are recorded, and no outsiders are allowed to be party to the discussion.

The prices fixed just after 10:30am and 3:00pm (London time) each day then disseminates to miners, refiners, investors, futures and derivatives markets, jewelers, traders and the countless others who follow and speculate on gold prices.

While most benchmark market pricing mechanisms are now determined electronically, the London gold fix remains a staunchly traditional.

However, the closed-door nature of the price fixing is coming under increasingly intense scrutiny as many wonder whether its opaque nature is conducive to abuse. Read More...

Why Your Next Seat May be Made with Titanium

Sunday April 13, 2014

By reducing drag and weight, jet makers can create significant fuel-cost savings, which is why titanium's combination of strength and light weight has made the metal a critical component of the modern aerospace industry.

The use of titanium and titaniumtitanium expliseat alloys in aircraft has more than tripled since the 1960s. By bodyweight, titanium now comprises about 15% of modern Boeing commercial airliners.

Now, three French inventors have developed a lighter passenger seat made of titanium and composite materials, which they are marketing to jet makers and airlines. Read More...

Silver Coins to be Cast from Salvaged WWII Bullion

Sunday April 6, 2014

Silver bullion salvaged off the coast of Ireland will be cast into coins at the British Royal Mint 70 years after being sent to the sea floor by a German U-boat.

The SS Gairsoppa was carrying 2800 bars of the metal, along with tea and pig iron from India, Gairsoppa Silver Recoverywhen it was attacked and sunk on February 17, 1941. Only one sailor survived.

The ship rested on the sea floor 300 miles off the Irish coast until its discovery in 2011 by the US marine exploration company Odyssey. The deepest maritime rescue operation in history went 3 miles under the ocean surface to bring the silver bullion back to dry land. Read More...

A Look into Congo's Tin & Tantalum Mines

Sunday March 30, 2014

The mineral wealth possessed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, while undeniably attractive to foreign investors, has been a taboo topic for many years.

Congolese minerals, particularly tantalum, tin, gold, copper, cobalt and tungsten, have Congo Mineralsdrawn the ire of international organizations who link the mining and sale of these ores to corruption, warlords and conflict that has afflicted the country for years.

As a result of these concerns, US Congress enacted legislation in 2010 requiring all publicly listed companies that make use of coltan (a source of tantalum), cassiterite (tin), wolframite (tungsten) and gold to report whether any of the metals that they purchase and use may have supported conflict in the central African region.

While it took a number of years to clarify the requirements that befell thousands of manufacturers and the role of the Securities and Exchange Commission in monitoring the regulations, the first disclosures are expected on May 31st of this year. Read More...

Why Are Copper Prices Plummeting?

Sunday March 23, 2014

One could be forgiven if they thought production and consumption were still the determining factors in copper prices.

No longer is this the case.

The market for copper, which includes spot trading, futures contracts and exchange traded funds, is now so interwoven Iron Ore Miningwith financial dealings disconnected with the physical market that investors and money markets now drive prices as much as consumption.

The past two weeks have shown the importance and impact that financial dealings can have on prices for the red metal.

China's attempt to tighten liquidity have sent copper markets reeling. Cash starved companies, which had been dependent on bank loans and other lending arrangements for financing, have been selling off copper to raise funds.

Many - if not most - of these companies are not metals dealer, traders or consumers. They are financiers and traders who have purchased copper as an asset to take US dollar loans against, which banks made available at a lower rate than their renminbi (RMB) equivalents. Read More...

Palladium Market Reacts to Ukraine Turmoil

Sunday March 9, 2014

Fears that sanctions targeting Russia may impact the palladium market have sent prices for the platinum group metal (PGM) to their highest level in a year.

Russia is the world's largest producer of palladium, which is usedPalladium Bar to produce autocatalysts and multi-layer ceramic capacitors, as well as jewellery and dental alloys.

Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest nickel producer, extracts palladium as a by-product from it's nickel mines in Russia as well as from mines in Botswana and South Africa. The company accounts for about 40 percent of primary refined palladium production.

Prior to Russia's move into the Crimean peninsula, the market for PGMs had already been moving higher due to an ongoing strike in South Africa that has seriously impacted output from the world's second largest source of palladium.

Since the start of the year palladium metal prices have increased nearly 8 percent to around US$ 785 per troy ounce. Nearly half of this price gain has come in the last week. Read More...

What is Toledo Steel?

Sunday February 16, 2014

When Hannibal's army arrived in Gaul in 217 BCE it wasn't just the 90,000 troops and 3 dozen war elephants that invoked terror in his opponents: the Romans  already had knowledge of Carthaginian swords.

Cast from Toledo steel, the Carthaginian short swords - or falcatas Iberian Falcata- were stronger and more durable than any weapons the Romans possessed.

In the spring of the same year, Hannibal ambushed the Roman army on the shore of Lake Trasimenus, destroying the Roman army. A year later, the Romans raised another army - numbering as many as 100,000 - to strike Hannibal at Cannae. But, again, it was the Romans that suffered. An estimated two-thirds were killed or captured.

While strategy was critical, the advantage provided by Toledo steel swords was undeniable. Two layers of metal - a softer ferritic steel enveloped by a lower carbon pre-modern steel - produced stronger but comparably elastic blades.

In the following decades and centuries, Roman legions throughout Europe would adopt weaponry made from Toledo steel. Read More...

Meotorite-Studded Olympic Medals

Sunday February 9, 2014

Ten athletes at the winter Olympic Games in Sochi will have an opportunity to take home more than just a gold, silver or bronze medal.

The government of Chelyabinsk, which was hit with Sochi Gold Medala meoteorite last February 15th, will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the meteor strike by awarding medals studded with a piece of the space rock to the athletes who win gold medals on that day.

The medals have been made with gold and silver, and inset with a piece of the meteorite, which was mainly composed of iron, magnesium-containing silicate and sulfites. They were carved by specialists in the town of Zlatoust.

In total, 50 medals have been made. Ten will be awarded to athletes, while some 40 others will be sold to private collectors.  Read More...

A Short History of Stainless Steel

Friday January 31, 2014

One of the most important creations of the 20th century, stainless steel, is often attributed to one man, Harry Brearley. But Brearley was just one of many metallurgists Stainless Steel Cutleryand scientists to realize the importance of chromium in protecting against the corrosion of steel.

In 1912, Brearley stumbled upon this realization in Sheffield, England while working on a new alloy to reduce pitting and erosion of rifle barrels.

In Germany, Krupp engineers Benno Strauss and Eduard Maurer were experimenting with chromium-nickel steel for pyrometer tubes, developing the first austenitic stainless steel the same year.

Meanwhile in America, Elwood Haynes, who had earlier patented Stellite alloys, was also working with chromium steel, and submitted his patent for a corrosion resistant steel in 1912.

Haynes and Brearley would, ultimately, end up working together marketing and selling stainless steel (which, initially was primarily used in cutlery) in the US.

For more, read A History of Stainless Steel. Read More...

China Overtakes India as Largest Gold Consumer

Sunday January 26, 2014

As well as being the world's largest consumer of copper, aluminum and zinc, China Gold Barsis now the world's biggest consumer of gold.

Chinese purchases increased 32 percent to 1,189.8 tonnes in 2013, according to Thomson Reuters GFMS gold survey.

With gold prices falling by nearly one third last year, investors in the Middle Kingdom snapped up the metal as a hedge against inflation. Artificially low interest rates and greater wealth contributed to Chinese demand. Read More...

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