Heavy metal Featured

A refinery in Switzerland that produces a valuable commodity: gold and other precious metals

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30 April 2013

The Midas touch is an enduring legend, from the mythological king right through to Goldfinger. The legend becomes reality at Valcambi, a gold refinery where every day, precious metals are recovered from all sorts of base materials, such as primary ores supplied by mining companies, industrial scrap, recycled jewellery, and precious metals owned by financial and government institutions. The values at stake are enormous, and so the company's skill at applying the best and fastest method of refining is fundamental to ensure that the products are made accessible as soon as possible.

Valcambi is a company that was founded in 1961, at Balerna, in Ticino, Switzerland. It refines about 2,000 tons of precious metals per year, which means just over three tons of gold, and almost four of silver, per day. This company is one of the four major Swiss gold refineries, who together process about two-thirds of the world's gold. The value of their products is such that while Valcambi and its competitors are not familiar to the general public, it is a global economic player. It also means that security is a major consideration. Valcambi is constantly concerned with protecting their employees, clients, and their clients' assets, around the clock.

Valcambi's cast and minted bars are recognized worldwide and accepted by all the main precious metals markets and financial institutions. Over the years, it has developed a series of new products in response to changing demand from investors, from gold investment bars in sizes ranging from 1 kg down to 0.5 g, and including the innovative CombiBar, a 50-gram slab of gold whose scored structure means that it can be snapped apart into much smaller pieces, ready for whatever sort of distribution you need – one could imagine numerous lucky grandchildren, or employees, whatever... but in actual fact, high net worth people in Europe are buying this product because it is perfect as a replacement for money in a crisis. The CombiBar can be personalized for the client both on obverse and reverse, as long as the compulsory marks are retained.

There is no doubt that gold is an extraordinarily compact method of encapsulating monetary value. An ingot weights about 12.5 kilogrammes, with a value of around €502,000. A 1,000-gram bar, about the size of a bar of chocolate, represents about €40,000 (of course values are changing all the time). Valcambi also provides a precious metals storage service in its armoured vaults. Your metal ingots are kept separate from others, identified by means of their serial numbers. This service becomes a sort of alternative bank, because customers have access to the international precious metals market and can convert their gold into cash whenever required. Alternatively, the bullion can be delivered to anywhere in the world. There are minimum quantities for this service: 100 kilograms of gold, 500 kilograms of silver, and so forth.

 

Valcambi has close relationships with watchmakers, supplying them with precious metal alloys, and also manufacturing parts such as watchcases and bezels using dies supplied by the client or made to their specifications.

Demand for gold reflects its value as an alternative to bonds, equity and real estate. Like any commodity, it is subject to speculation, but in actual fact it behaves more like a currency than a commodity. Its value is partly due to its limited supply. Imagine a cube with sides 20 metres long: this would contain all the gold ever mined in the world. About 2,500 tonnes of gold are mined every year, of which 2,000 tonnes are used for jewellery, watches, dental and industrial products. The rest goes to investors. The value of gold rises during moments of crisis, such as recent years. Prices rose from about $340 per troy ounce in July 2001 to a peak of around $1900 in August 2011. Some analysts have predicted that gold will reach $11,000 per ounce over the next five years, while others think that it has reached its peak and is destined to go down. This is the grist of financial analysts, but one thing is certain: gold has that primeval lure that strikes a cord in everyone's heart, whatever the climate, ensuring that whatever the market does, gold is always going to be in high demand.

 

Valcambi s.a.
Via Passeggiata 3
CH-6828 Balerna, Switzerland
Tel. +41 (0)91 2600 563
valcambi.com