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Some folks will never buy gold, no matter the strength or duration of the metal's bull market run. Thankfully, for those who disparage gold because it clashes with their definition of utility, the "poor man's gold" waits in the wings to serve as their alternate precious-metal hedge.
Although it is incorrect to assert that gold has no industrial demand, silver does exhibit a more diverse demand profile than gold. With a one-two punch of surging investment demand and growing industrial consumption of the metal, the outlook for silver investors may shine more brilliantly than gold.
Precious-metals consultancy GFMS recently released a report, The Future of Silver Industrial Demand, which depicts a future wherein silver is patently unlikely to lose its luster. Silver is everywhere around you. It's in your car, your cell phone, your computer, and even your watch battery. Before you go and melt down your iPhone to recover its silvery treasure, however, understand that each unit may only contain some 250 milligrams. If you toss your car into a crucible, a lucky few might recover nearly one ounce of silver.
While these per-unit amounts may sound deceptively inconsequential, consider that some 1.6 billion cell phones were produced in 2010. That's 13 million ounces of silver right there. Computers stripped another 22 million ounces of supply from the market in 2010, which is roughly equivalent to Silver Wheaton's (NYSE: SLW ) production for the year. Exploding onto the scene in recent years, silver consumption by makers of thick-film photovoltaic (PV) cells for the solar energy industry has grown from nearly imperceptible levels a decade ago, to 47 million ounces in 2010.
And then there are the new and emerging industrial uses likely to make their presence known in the coming years. Between 2010 and 2015, silver consumption by these novel applications is projected to quadruple from about 10 million ounces to more than 40 million ounces annually. Next-generation batteries, solid state lighting, water purification, medical uses, and those soon-to-be-ubiquitous radio frequency identification (RFID) tags account for some of the fastest-growing of these new applications.
All told, GFMS forecasts a 37% increase in global industrial silver demand -- from 487 million to 666 million ounces -- between 2010 and 2015. For investors who may be wary of precious metals on the basis of investment demand alone, silver's significant and expanding footprint of industrial offtake offers a second and similarly powerful driver of upward price momentum.
So by all means, skip the golden highfliers like New Gold (AMEX: NGD ) , and promising gold juniors like Claude Resources (AMEX: CGR ) , if you must. But to avoid missing out entirely on this incredible bull market run, I urge consideration of some silver exposure as an ideal golden compromise. Great Panther Silver (AMEX: GPL ) remains my personal favorite in the space, while Coeur d'Alene Mines (NYSE: CDE ) has finally regained its mojo in a very big way.
To review the recent silver report prepared by GFMS for the Silver Institute, click here. If the never-boring silver mining industry piques your Foolish curiosity, be sure to add these stocks to your free, personalized watchlist and follow all the precious news to come: