When it comes to bullion bars, one might think that they’re all the same. Each consists of a specific concentration of very fine precious metal and, beyond that, there is very little to consider. While this line of thinking makes logical sense, it should be noted that there are differences in bullion bars that you may not notice unless you look close enough to the details of manufacturing and production.
In reality, there are two types of precious metal bullion bars that are produced: poured bars and pressed bars. The latter is usually referred to as an ingot. Why are there two different types of bullion bars, and what are the key differences and similarities between them? Let’s take a closer look and determine how gold ingots and gold-poured bars compare.
Gold-Pressed Bars (Gold Ingots)
To produce gold-pressed bars, metal must first be extracted from a source. It then will be cut to a specific size and weight. Once meeting the necessary standards of weight and size, the extracted precious metal will be pressed, and the details of the bar’s purity, origin, weight, and location of minting will be inscribed. This process, fairly simple and requiring little production, results in bars that have smaller premiums over the spot price.
Compared to gold-pressed bars, gold-poured bars require a bit more production, as the precious metal must be heated until it is a molten metal that can be poured into a mold or cast. After pouring the molten metal into the cast, manufacturers will wait for the precious metal to cool. The bar will be weighed for accuracy, and it will receive all necessary mint certification engravings, including its origin, purity, and weight.
Unlike the natural sheen and perfect styling found with pressed bars, poured bars often have a sort of authenticity that collectors and investors appreciate, having unique qualities—softer edges, a dull finish, mild imperfections—that give them an aesthetic appeal compared to the perfect-looking pressed bars. The increased production required results in a higher premium for these products, though.
The History and Significance of Production
Gold bars have long been hand poured throughout human history. Before the advent of expensive, state-of-the-art technologies that allowed for precise pressing, humans would take the necessary time to heat metal until it had become molten, then pouring it into casts to meet the shape that most met their needs, whether that metal was to be used as a precious metal bar or as a tool. However, with today’s technology, hand-pouring precious metal bars is not as useful, as the time and production required take longer than simply pressing the bars.
Two distinct differences between poured-gold bars and pressed-gold ingots come down to production time and feasibility. One reason that most mints press gold ingots nowadays is due to the ease it provides producers. Twenty-four-karat gold has a melting point of 1,945 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that the gold must be heated to somewhere around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for it to be used for hand-pouring. It takes a great deal of energy to heat a precious metal to such temperatures.
It is easier for a producer to simply press a gold bar instead. However, when a large bar needs to be pressed, difficulties might arise when pressing—the machines in a production plant might not be large enough to do it. When creating large gold bars, it is much easier for a mint to hand pour them, as there are fewer limitations on the process. Most mints now rely on pressing gold bars when they are smaller and hand pouring them when larger.
Which of These Methods Produces Real Gold Bars?
Both methods—pressing gold ingots and hand-pouring gold bars—produce real gold bars. Fundamentally, there is no difference in the fineness of the metal contained within a 1-oz .9999 fine gold bar produced by pouring or pressing: Each contains the same quantity of gold, as they each weigh one Troy ounce and have the same fineness.
If you have any more questions about these two types of gold bars, consider reaching out to one of our customer service representatives to discuss the finer details of the production process.