The Complete Guide to Silver ETFs

Silver exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have become a popular way for investors to gain exposure to the white metal. Silver ETFs provide an easy and liquid method to invest in silver, without the need to physically buy and store silver bars or coins.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about investing in silver ETFs.

What is a Silver ETF?

A silver ETF (exchange-traded fund) is a fund that tracks the price of silver. It allows investors to buy and sell shares that represent a portion of the fund’s holdings, which are made up of silver bullion, silver futures contracts, and silver mining company stocks.

The value of a silver ETF closely follows the spot price of silver. When the price of silver rises, the ETF will rise proportionally. The same happens in reverse when silver prices fall.

Silver ETFs provide a cost-effective and convenient way to invest in silver, without having to deal with the storage and insurance requirements of owning physical silver. They offer greater liquidity and lower transaction costs compared to buying silver bars and coins directly.

Some key benefits of silver ETFs:

  • Easy and liquid way to gain exposure to silver prices
  • Lower costs than buying physical silver
  • No storage/insurance costs
  • Provides diversification to investment portfolios
  • Allows shorting silver and using options strategies
  • Trades like stocks on major exchanges

Top Silver ETFs

There are a variety of silver ETFs available from different providers. Here are some of the most popular silver ETFs for investors to consider:

iShares Silver Trust (SLV) – One of the largest and most heavily traded silver ETFs, with over $9 billion in assets. Fully backed by physical silver bullion.

Aberdeen Standard Physical Silver Shares (SIVR) – Holds physical silver bullion in secure vaults. Charges low management fee of 0.30%.

Invesco DB Silver Fund (DBS) – Tracks futures contracts for silver. Provides leveraged exposure for more aggressive investors.

ETFS Physical Silver (PSLV) – Stores silver bullion in Canada. Focuses on reducing counterparty risks.

Sprott Physical Silver Trust (PSLV) – Popular trust that holds solely physical silver bullion. Trading at a premium to NAV.

GraniteShares Silver Trust (BAR) – New ETF with low expenses. Stores silver in London vaults.

When selecting a silver ETF, investors should consider factors like expenses, assets under management, vault locations, and investment objectives. Having a diversity among silver ETF types can provide exposure to different segments of the silver market.

How Do Silver ETFs Work?

Silver ETFs can track silver prices either through direct ownership of physical silver, or through the use of derivatives like futures contracts.

Physical silver ETFs – These ETFs hold bullion bars and coins in vaults and charge a custodian to store it securely. Each share represents direct ownership of a portion of the underlying physical silver. This structure closely tracks the spot silver price.

Futures-based silver ETFs – These funds track silver futures contracts rather than holding physical metals. The ETF rolls over the contracts as they near expiration to avoid taking delivery of silver. They can provide leveraged exposure to silver prices.

No matter how they are structured, the net asset value (NAV) of silver ETFs is tied to the price of silver. The ETFs have mechanisms in place to keep their value in line with the market price of silver.

Shares in a silver ETF can be created or redeemed according to market demand, just like with gold ETFs. This helps maintain alignment with silver’s prevailing price.

Benefits of Investing in a Silver ETF

Investing in a silver ETF provides significant benefits including:

Diversification – Silver ETFs help diversify portfolios beyond just stocks and bonds. Silver tends to move independently from other asset classes, providing an alternative driver of returns.

Liquidity – Shares of silver ETFs are highly liquid and can be bought and sold on exchanges just like stocks. This provides ready access to your investment.

Lower Costs – Investing in silver ETFs avoids the higher markups, storage fees, insurance, and transportation costs of physical silver ownership.

Convenience – Silver ETFs spare investors the hassles of taking physical delivery/storage of silver and provide easy access through ordinary brokerage accounts.

Transparency – Silver ETFs publish their holdings daily, providing full transparency into the fund’s backing of silver assets.

Flexibility – Investors can go long or short silver ETFs. Many ETFs have options available, offering additional leverage and hedging strategies.

For these reasons, silver ETFs have become a preferred vehicle for getting exposure to silver prices among many investors.

Key Factors that Influence Silver ETF Prices

Silver ETF prices are driven by a combination of factors related to both the silver market and general financial markets. The most important influences on silver ETF valuations include:

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Spot Silver Prices – The spot price of silver has the biggest impact on silver ETF values. ETF shares rise and fall largely based on the daily moves in silver bullion prices.

Inflation Expectations – Silver is seen as an inflation hedge. Rising inflation lifts silver demand, as investors turn to hard assets. Higher inflation boosts silver ETF prices.

USD Value – Silver is priced globally in dollars. A weaker dollar tends to push up dollar-denominated silver prices, lifting silver ETFs.

Investment Demand – Silver ETFs track investment flows into silver. Increased investment demand pushes up silver ETF values. Outflows have the opposite effect.

Gold Prices – Silver tends to follow gold, albeit with more volatility. Rising gold prices generally provide a boost to silver and silver ETFs.

Economic Growth – Strength in the global economy boosts industrial demand for silver, providing support for prices. Slowdowns drag on silver ETF valuations.

Equity Markets – Silver ETFs tend to track stocks, falling when equities decline due to silver’s exposure to economic growth.

Interest Rates – Higher bond yields make non-yielding assets like silver less attractive, weighing on silver ETF prices.

What Drives the Silver Price?

The price of silver ultimately comes down to supply and demand dynamics in the global silver market. Here are the key factors that drive silver prices higher or lower:

Industrial Demand – The largest source of silver demand globally comes from industrial uses like electronics and solar panels. More economic activity lifts industrial silver demand.

Investment Demand – Silver coins, bars, and ETFs have grown as an investment asset. Higher demand for silver as a store of value boosts prices.

Jewelry and Silverware – Jewelry and silverware fabrication accounts for around 20% of annual silver demand. This provides a steady baseline level of demand.

Photography – Photography uses have declined but still account for around 10% of demand. This segment continues to provide underlying support.

Silver Mining Supply – Mined silver output meets much of global silver demand. Falling mine supply due to low prices can lead to supply squeezes.

Recycled Silver – Recycled silver accounts for around a quarter of total supply. High prices lead to more melting of jewelry and silverware.

Speculators and Investors – Futures traders and silver investors influence prices in the short run. Speculative dynamics can sometimes overshoot silver’s supply/demand fundamentals.

Central Bank Activity – Central banks were net sellers of silver during the 1990s and 2000s. Purchases by banks could restrict supply.

Geopolitical Events – Financial market turmoil and geopolitics prompt safe haven demand for silver as a store of value, pushing up prices.

What are the Best Silver ETFs?

With the variety of silver ETFs available, what are the best options for investors? Here are the top silver ETFs based on key criteria:

iShares Silver Trust (SLV) – The largest and most liquid silver ETF with over $9 billion in assets. Offers exposure purely to physical silver.

Aberdeen Standard Physical Silver Shares ETF (SIVR) – Ideal for low costs with a 0.30% expense ratio. Stores silver in secure vaults globally.

Invesco DB Silver Fund (DBS) – Provides leveraged performance using silver futures contracts. Good for tactical short-term exposure.

ETFS Physical Silver Shares (PSLV) – Focuses on allocated silver bullion stored in Canada, avoiding counterparty risks.

Sprott Physical Silver Trust (PSLV) – A popular institutional silver ETF, trading at a premium to NAV due to high demand.

GraniteShares Silver Trust (BAR) – New cheaper competitor, with expenses at just 0.17% of assets.

Diversifying across both physical and futures-based silver ETFs can be a savvy approach to gain broad exposure to silver investment opportunities.

Pros and Cons of Investing in Silver ETFs


  • Easy, liquid way to invest in silver
  • Lower costs than physical silver
  • Avoid hassles/costs of storage and insurance
  • Gains from rising silver prices
  • Hedge against inflation and dollar weakness
  • Diversification beyond stocks and bonds


  • No ownership of physical silver
  • Vulnerable to financial system and counterparty risks
  • Subject to ETF management costs/fees
  • Tracking error versus spot silver prices
  • No silver in hand for bartering if catastrophes occur
  • Gains taxed at higher collectibles rate if held over 1 year

Common Silver ETF Investing Strategies

Silver ETFs provide exposure to silver prices while allowing various investing strategies:

Portfolio Diversification – Adding a small 3-10% allocation to silver ETFs helps diversify overall investment risk.

Inflation Hedge – Increase exposure to silver ETFs during periods of accelerating inflation to offset rising prices.

Short-Term Tactical Bets – Use silver ETFs directionally to capitalize on near-term price movements driven by silver market developments.

Pair Trading Against Gold – Rotate between silver and gold ETFs when the silver/gold ratio reaches extremes.

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Options Strategies – Writing covered calls or buying puts on silver ETFs generates income. Cushions against unexpected silver price declines.

Technical Trading – Some traders apply technical analysis indicators to trade short-term trends and ranges in silver ETFs and silver futures.

Long-Term Buy and Hold – Silver’s role as a store of value supports long-term accumulation of silver ETF shares, holding through price swings.

Common Silver ETF Terms

Here are some key terms related to silver ETF investing:

Authorized Participants – Large financial institutions that create and redeem ETF shares directly with the fund manager.

London Fix – The globally accepted price for an ounce of silver set in London twice daily. Used as a benchmark.

Precious Metals Dealer – A dealer that buys and sells physical precious metals like silver bullion.

Securities Exchange Act – Legislation that established reporting requirements for ETFs and requirements to register shares.

Silver Futures Contracts – Standardized contracts for future delivery of silver traded on exchanges like COMEX.

Spot Price – The current market price at which silver is trading in the physical market.

Spread – The difference between the bid (buy) and ask (sell) prices for shares of a silver ETF.

Vault – A secured facility where silver ETFs store the physical silver bullion that backs shares.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the tax implications of investing in silver ETFs?

Gains on silver ETFs held over one year are taxed at the higher 28% collectibles capital gains rate rather than the typical 15% capital gains rate. Under one year, gains are taxed at your ordinary income rate.

Can you take physical delivery of silver from a silver ETF?

No, silver ETFs do not allow share conversions to physical silver. To own physical silver, investors need to purchase from a bullion dealer, not an ETF.

How much does it cost to buy into a silver ETF?

Silver ETFs trade like stocks, with trading commissions typically $5 or less per trade at discount brokers. The ETFs themselves have annual expense ratios ranging from 0.17% to 0.50% per year.

What is the largest silver ETF?

The largest silver ETF is the iShares Silver Trust (SLV). It has over $9.3 billion in assets under management and offers the most liquid trading volumes.

Are silver ETFs safe?

Silver ETFs come with risks like any investment, but they provide secure exposure to silver prices. The largest ETFs store bullion in insured vaults and avoid issues that can impact smaller ETFs.

The Bottom Line

Silver ETFs offer investors an efficient means to gain exposure to the price movements of the white metal. By choosing a well-established silver ETF, investors can incorporate silvers diversification and inflation hedging benefits in their investment portfolio.

Using smart strategies with silver ETFs allows exposure to silver bullion value changes. However, investors should use ETFs as part of an balanced portfolio approach, rather than overweighting in silver or any single commodity asset.

Here is a continuation of the draft blog article on silver ETFs:

Choosing the Right Silver ETF

With the growing number of silver ETFs available, it’s important to pick the right product that aligns with your investment objectives and risk tolerance. Here are some key factors to consider:

Type of Exposure – Determine whether you want an ETF holding physical silver or one using derivatives like futures contracts. Physical ETFs more closely track spot silver.

Location of Vaults – For physical silver ETFs, consider where bullion is stored. Vaults in financial centers like London and Switzerland may offer more security.

Expenses – Compare expense ratios between ETFs, which range from 0.17% to 0.50% annually. Lower costs minimize drag on returns.

Assets Under Management – Bigger ETFs tend to have tighter bid/ask spreads and more trading liquidity. They also spread costs over more assets.

Premium/Discount to NAV – Watch for deviations between market price and the net asset value of the silver holdings. Wider gaps signal less efficient pricing.

Trust Structure – Ensure the ETF provider offers full transparency over silver holdings with independent audits and tests for purity.

Liquidity and Volume – More liquid ETFs make it easier to trade in and out of positions without significant slippage from quoted prices.

Investing in Silver Mining Stocks vs Silver ETFs

Beyond straight silver ETFs, some investors look to silver mining company stocks as another way to gain exposure to silver prices. Here’s how the two options compare:

Silver Mining Stocks

  • Gain leverage to changes in silver prices
  • Returns boosted by production/resource growth
  • Risks from poor management, politics, floods, etc

Silver ETFs

  • Direct price correlation to spot silver
  • Holdings are pure bullion not dependent on mines
  • Transparent structure limits risks
  • More diversified across silver assets
  • Overall lower risk profile
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In general, silver mining stocks carry greater risks but can reward investors through greater upside when silver prices rise. Silver ETFs offer more direct and stable exposure to silver prices themselves.

Using a blended approach with some silver miners and physically-backed ETFs allows tapping into silver’s upside while diversifying exposure.

Outlook for Silver Prices

Silver has outshone gold over the past year, boosted by a pickup in industrial activity and inflation hedge demand. Here are some factors that may affect silver’s price outlook going forward:

Rising Inflation – High inflation looks set to persist through 2023, supporting rising safe haven bids in silver as a store of value.

Dollar Weakness – An overvalued dollar could decline further, lifting commodities across the board.

Volatile Energy Prices – Surging oil and gas prices threaten industry activity levels, limiting industrial silver demand.

China Economy – Weakness in China’s real estate sector may weigh on its economic growth, crimping global silver demand.

Fed Policy Tightening – Aggressive Fed interest rate hikes to fight inflation could slow the economy and sink silver prices short term.

Supply Deficits – Years of muted silver exploration may lead to mine production lagging increased investment demand.

Technical Trading – Silver’s rise above key long-term resistance near $21 suggests further momentum to the upside.

On balance, silver still appears poised for a bullish run as inflationary pressures and tight supplies provide a constructive backdrop. Periodic pullbacks related to dollar and economic strength may emerge as buying opportunities.

Final Thoughts on Silver ETF Investing

Silver ETFs offer an efficient means of participating in the expected appreciation of silver as global economic uncertainties persist. Focus on well-established products that avoid unnecessary risks. Track silver’s macro backdrop, while keeping an eye on the silver-gold price ratio for opportunities.

Use silver ETFs as part of a diversified commodity allocation, rather than making huge bets on silver alone. Rebalance periodically to lock in some gains when silver has major runs. Maintain a long-term perspective when investing in this precious metal.

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