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Visualizing the Metals You Can Buy with $1,000

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visualization of metals you can buy for $1,000

Visualizing the Metals you can Buy with $1,000

For millennia people have purchased and relied on metals for decorative and industrial uses, figuring out their values based on their practical applications and visual luster.

Today, precious and industrial metals markets quote figures in millions and billions as they exchange thousands of ounces, with varying densities and values of metals making it difficult to compare them.

Using price data from TradingEconomics, this graphic visualizes how much of each metal you can buy for $1,000 so you can see just how much, or how little, of each metal you get for your money.

How we Value Precious and Industrial Metals

Characterized by their natural shine, metals are valued using the two key principles of rarity and their industrial uses, with unique properties such as their appearance or cultural significance also affecting their value.

  • Rarity: A more scarce metal or resource will often have a higher value than one which is more abundant.
    • For example, while there are an estimated 2.1 billion tonnes of identified copper deposits, there are only 57,000 tonnes of underground gold reserves. While copper is valued at $0.24 per troy ounce, gold is worth around $1,815 per troy ounce.
  • Industrial uses: Metals which are needed for important industrial processes will often have a high demand from manufacturers, increasing their valuation.
    • For example, for most of its history cobalt was used decoratively for its striking blue color and for the creation of superalloys and steel products. However, when it was recently discovered that cobalt could be a key component in lithium-ion batteries for EVs, demand for cobalt surged sending its price from around $23,000 per tonne to more than $90,000 per tonne at one point.

Along with these two primary factors, unique properties and historical uses can also affect a metal’s valuation.

Former monetary metals like gold and silver are still sought after by investors for their potential ability to retain value over time compared to today’s fiat currencies. Meanwhile, platinum’s durability, resistance to tarnishing, and its bright white color makes it highly sought after for jewelry, raising the demand and value of the precious metal.

Getting Less for More: Comparing Metal Density

A key factor that determines the volume of a metal you get for a certain price is also the metal’s density. Precious metals tend to be more dense than industrial metals, with sometimes more than double the density depending on the specific metals compared.

As seen in the graphic above, $1,000 worth of highly dense metals like gold (19.32 g/cm³), iridium (22.56 g/cm³), and osmium (22.59 g/cm³) amount to small cubes less than a centimeter across. Meanwhile, $1,000 of a less dense (and also less valuable) metal like aluminum with a density of only 2.7 g/cm³ yields a large cube nearly two feet tall.

To put these densities in comparison, if gold had the same density as aluminum, its cube on the graphic above would be more than seven times larger.

While it’s impossible to directly compare the value of each metal’s industrial uses and applications, seeing just how much (or how little) of a metal you get for $1,000 can give some perspective to their value.

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Visualizing Global Gold Production in 2023

Gold production in 2023 was led by China, Australia, and Russia, with each outputting over 300 tonnes.

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Graphic breaking down global gold production in 2023

Visualizing Global Gold Production in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Over 3,000 tonnes of gold were produced globally in 2023.

In this graphic, we list the world’s leading countries in terms of gold production. These figures come from the latest USGS publication on gold statistics (published January 2024).

China, Australia, and Russia Produced the Most Gold in 2023

China was the top producer in 2023, responsible for over 12% of total global production, followed by Australia and Russia.

CountryRegion2023E Production (tonnes)
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia370
🇦🇺 AustraliaOceania310
🇷🇺 RussiaEurope310
🇨🇦 CanadaNorth America200
🇺🇸 United StatesNorth America170
🇰🇿 KazakhstanAsia130
🇲🇽 MexicoNorth America120
🇮🇩 IndonesiaAsia110
🇿🇦 South AfricaAfrica100
🇺🇿 UzbekistanAsia100
🇬🇭 GhanaAfrica90
🇵🇪 PeruSouth America90
🇧🇷 BrazilSouth America60
🇧🇫 Burkina FasoAfrica60
🇲🇱 MaliAfrica60
🇹🇿 TanzaniaAfrica60
🌍 Rest of World-700

Gold mines in China are primarily concentrated in eastern provinces such as Shandong, Henan, Fujian, and Liaoning. As of January 2024, China’s gold mine reserves stand at an estimated 3,000 tonnes, representing around 5% of the global total of 59,000 tonnes.

In addition to being the top producer, China emerged as the largest buyer of the yellow metal for the year. In fact, the country’s central bank alone bought 225 tonnes of gold in 2023, according the World Gold Council.

Estimated Global Gold Consumption

Most of the gold produced in 2023 was used in jewelry production, while another significant portion was sold as a store of value, such as in gold bars or coins.

  • Jewelry: 46%
  • Central Banks and Institutions: 23%
  • Physical Bars: 16%
  • Official Coins, Medals, and Imitation Coins: 9%
  • Electrical and Electronics: 5%
  • Other: 1%

According to Fitch Solutions, over the medium term (2023-2032), global gold mine production is expected to grow 15%, as high prices encourage investment and output.

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Charted: The Value Gap Between the Gold Price and Gold Miners

While gold prices hit all-time highs, gold mining stocks have lagged far behind.

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Line chart comparing gold price and gold mining stocks since 2000.

Gold Price vs. Gold Mining Stocks

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on Apple or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Although the price of gold has reached new record highs in 2024, gold miners are still far from their 2011 peaks.

In this graphic, we illustrate the evolution of gold prices since 2000 compared to the NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index (HUI), which consists of the largest and most widely held public gold production companies. The data was compiled by Incrementum AG.

Mining Stocks Lag Far Behind

In April 2024, gold reached a new record high as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signaled policymakers may delay interest rate cuts until clearer signs of declining inflation materialize.

Additionally, with elections occurring in more than 60 countries in 2024 and ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, central banks are continuing to buy gold to strengthen their reserves, creating momentum for the metal.

Traditionally known as a hedge against inflation and a safe haven during times of political and economic uncertainty, gold has climbed over 11% so far this year.

According to Business Insider, gold miners experienced their best performance in a year in March 2024. During that month, the gold mining sector outperformed all other U.S. industries, surpassing even the performance of semiconductor stocks.

Still, physical gold has outperformed shares of gold-mining companies over the past three years by one of the largest margins in decades.

YearGold PriceNYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index (HUI)
2023$2,062.92$243.31
2022$1,824.32$229.75
2021$1,828.60$258.87
2020$1,895.10$299.64
2019$1,523.00$241.94
2018$1,281.65$160.58
2017$1,296.50$192.31
2016$1,151.70$182.31
2015$1,060.20$111.18
2014$1,199.25$164.03
2013$1,201.50$197.70
2012$1,664.00$444.22
2011$1,574.50$498.73
2010$1,410.25$573.32
2009$1,104.00$429.91
2008$865.00$302.41
2007$836.50$409.37
2006$635.70$338.24
2005$513.00$276.90
2004$438.00$215.33
2003$417.25$242.93
2002$342.75$145.12
2001$276.50$65.20
2000$272.65$40.97

Among the largest companies on the NYSE Arca Gold BUGS Index, Colorado-based Newmont has experienced a 24% drop in its share price over the past year. Similarly, Canadian Barrick Gold also saw a decline of 6.5% over the past 12 months.

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