NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When it comes to playing precious metals, no shiny material gets more press than gold. This yellow metal has consistently been looked to in times of turmoil as the ultimate play on market uncertainty.
As the global economy started its journey down the road to recovery last year, increasing skepticism over the rally's longevity, plus inflation fears, sent investors pouring into the gold market, boosting prices to record-breaking levels.
Because of its chemical make-up, gold is too soft to serve any industrial use. Given this quality, the metal's price is not affected by the performance of the market, thereby making it an ideal way to protect against market downturns and uncertainty.
In order to gain access to this "barbarous relic," investors have long had the option of buying up physical gold and storing it in a vault. Today, however, investors have been increasingly turning to the wildly popular physically backed gold ETFs, gold miner ETFs and gold mutual funds currently available.Some of the more popular products available today include the iShares COMEX Gold Trust ETF (GLD), the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) and the Tocqueville Gold Fund (TGLDX). Unfortunately for gold bugs holding these funds, as the global market has continued higher, a lot of the fear that served as fuel for the metal's rally has fallen by the wayside as the U.S. dollar has strengthened. In response, gold prices have leveled off. At the height of its popularity, the metal was breaking the $1,200 per ounce level. Recently, though, the price of an ounce of gold hovered closer to $1,100. Gold's stumble can be viewed as a sign that the average investor's appetite for risk is returning. Rather than seeking out the safety and security that gold provides, investors have turned their attention to riskier asset classes. This flight to risk includes taking on more industry dependent precious metals as a part of their portfolio. One of the more popular options has been platinum. Typically, platinum prices will lag gold in times of trouble, while outperforming in times of market strength. Today, it appears we are in the midst of the latter scenario.