NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As gold hits record highs day after day, the performance of other precious metals and hard-asset producers have been largely overlooked.

Investors looking to gain exposure to precious metals and commodities have options beyond the popular bullion-backed

SPDR Gold Shares

(GLD) - Get Report

and equity-backed

Market Vectors Gold Miners

(GDX) - Get Report

and

Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners

(GDXJ) - Get Report

. The massive

iShares Silver Trust

(SLV) - Get Report

offers physically-backed exposure to silver, while

Market Vectors Hard Asset Producers

(HAP) - Get Report

offers diversified exposure to hard asset producers.

iShares Silver Trust

: Silver is the most plentiful and least expensive of the precious metals. Unlike gold, silver is a necessary ingredient for a number of industries, including jewelry producers and photography, and it has several industrial uses as well. This demand will continue to rise as the global economy picks up.

Most investors looking for a pure play on silver have turned to the iShares Silver Trust. This massive fund boasts $5.5 billion in assets and has gained nearly 63% year to date. SLV is backed by physical silver held by the iShares Silver Trust, which according to the fund's Web site currently amounts to 9,252.02 tons. The fund is very liquid, with an average volume of 11.9 million shares trading hands each day.

The

ETFs Physical Silver Shares

(SIVR) - Get Report

is also backed by physical silver held in a vault by custodian HSBC. This fund, launched July 24, has gained 33.25% through Nov. 23. With $181.7 million in assets and an average trading volume of 180,000, it still has plenty of ground to cover before it catches up with SLV.

While SLV and SIVR provide investors with direct exposure to the metal, the

PowerShares DB Silver Fund

(DBS) - Get Report

tracks silver through the Deutsche Bank Liquid Commodity Index -- Optimum Yield Silver Excess Return. This index is made up of silver futures contracts and is intended to accurately reflect performance. DBS is even smaller than SIVR, with $106.3 million in assets and trades close to 17,500 shares on average. Year to date, this fund has gained 62%.

Market Vectors Hard Asset Producers

(HAP) - Get Report

: With more than $105 million in assets under management, HAP tracks the Rodgers-Van Eck Hard Assets Producers Index, which was developed in concert with international investor Jim Rogers and is described by the fund's website as the definitive global benchmark for commodity equities. HAP seeks to track the largest global hard asset companies, who are engaged in the production and distribution of hard assets and related products and services.

The top five holdings in the fund's portfolio are

Monsanto

(MON)

,

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

,

Potash

(POT)

and

Syngenta

(SYNN)

. A total of more than 280 underlying holdings helps to provide investors with diversified exposure while limiting security-specific risk. The fund's net expense ratio is 0.75% and HAP has a three month average daily trading volume of 89,000 shares.

Hard Assets are the building blocks of the global economy, and the companies in HAP's portfolio will be central to the expansion of the global economy, particularly in the emerging markets. As countries like China experience phenomenal growth, they will demand the essential services provided by these companies in the energy, agriculture and infrastructure areas.

Gold equity and bullion ETFs are a great way to diversify a well-rounded portfolio with a precious metal hard asset. Funds like SLV and HAP, however, provide an alternative to gold ETF funds. Whether you choose gold, silver, or hard asset equities, these funds are a good addition for a small portion of your portfolio.

-- Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.

A special note from Don: To put it simply, I want to help you profit from ETFs. You don't have to be an expert trader -- there are potential profits for investors at every level. And I think there's no better way to jump into the world of ETFs than my brand new service, TheStreet ETF Action by Don Dion. Membership is limited, so click here to get in on the action!

At the time of publication, Dion Money Management was long Market Vectors Gold Miners, Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners and iShares Silver Trust.

Don Dion is president and founder of

Dion Money Management

, a fee-based investment advisory firm to affluent individuals, families and nonprofit organizations, where he is responsible for setting investment policy, creating custom portfolios and overseeing the performance of client accounts. Founded in 1996 and based in Williamstown, Mass., Dion Money Management manages assets for clients in 49 states and 11 countries. Dion is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts and Maine and has more than 25 years' experience working in the financial markets, having founded and run two publicly traded companies before establishing Dion Money Management.

Dion also is publisher of the Fidelity Independent Adviser family of newsletters, which provides to a broad range of investors his commentary on the financial markets, with a specific emphasis on mutual funds and exchange-traded funds. With more than 100,000 subscribers in the U.S. and 29 other countries, Fidelity Independent Adviser publishes six monthly newsletters and three weekly newsletters. Its flagship publication, Fidelity Independent Adviser, has been published monthly for 11 years and reaches 40,000 subscribers.