If asked to name the top performing commodity of the past decade, not many would answer silver because of its notorious volatility.
Yet, according to Lloyds TSB, silver prices have delivered the best gains since 2002.
Lloyds data shows that the shiny metal soared 572% over the past decade, beating gold's rise of 428%, which was second best among commodities.
Lloyds said silver beat gold because "[I]n addition to being perceived as a safe haven investment, high demand for industrial uses has also contributed to the strong rise in the price of silver."
The key question for precious metals investors is whether silver will continue to be a good performer in 2013.
Money Morning's Global Resource Specialist Peter Krauth thinks so. He forecasts that silver prices will hit "north of $60 per ounce" by spring.
If his forecast is on target, it bodes well for both holders of silver bullion and coins as well as for holders of ETFs such as the iShares Silver Trust (NYSE Arca: SLV).
Here are five key factors that show why Krauth's forecast for silver prices in 2013 could be right on the money.
Silver Prices in 2013: New Industrial Uses
One positive for silver has to be the aforementioned industrial uses.
At last month's Denver Gold Forum, the CEO of silver producer Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL) Phil Baker made an interesting observation.
He said there was a parallel to what happened to silver usage at the turn of the 20th century to what is happening today. At that time, photography became a major driver of demand of the silver market.
This time though Baker believes it will not be one industry solely driving demand, but a myriad of new users of silver looking to take advantage of the metal's unique properties (such as electrical conductivity) in the electronics and medical fields among others.
Silver's expanding usage in a large number of industries may help to offset the general weakness in the global economy.
Investment Demand for Silver
Another factor favoring silver prices is the continued investment demand for the precious metal from the average person around the world, due in large part to central bank policies.
Through Sept. 15, exchange-traded funds' holdings of silver totaled more than 608 million ounces and were valued at $20.5 billion.
"Investors and analysts are bullish on expectations that additional central banks will do more to attempt to stimulate economies in order to increase consumption and spur employment, leading to even greater investor attention on the 4,000 year allure of silver as a safe haven and a store of value," said Michael DiRienzo, executive director of the Silver Institute.
Let's not forget about the declining inventories of silver either. According to Comex, its stockpiles of the metal hit a four-month low in early August. That shows accumulation of silver by investors.
From the mining standpoint, there's a looming risk that could drive silver prices higher in 2013.
That's the growing threat of resource nationalism, the number one global strategic risk for mining companies, according to Ernst & Young.
The risk advisory firm Maplecroft said in its Political Risk Atlas for 2012 that "where [resource nationalism] does take place, businesses (mining companies) could lose control or possession of assets. . .or face higher taxes."
Such scenarios would put a crimp into production of resources like silver, and drive prices higher.