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(Story updated to reflect silver and silver stock price changes, more data from BullionVault)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Silver prices reached a 30-year high as ongoing European debt-contagion fears and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's talk about a possible third round of quantitative easing brought out the sparkle in gold's cheaper alternative.

Silver for March delivery was testing $30 in midday trading. Silver prices were rising 68 cents to $29.96 as investors sought the inflation protection attributes of gold's "poorer cousin" and security from economic uncertainties. Speculators took advantage of the spike.

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In an interview with CBS'

60 Minutes

over the weekend, Bernanke signaled that the central bank could expand its $600 billion Treasury-purchase program to address the high unemployment rate, fueling inflation sentiment.

Spot silver prices were leading the precious metals complex during midday trading, rising more than 1%, according to Kitco's spot price index.

BullionVault's head of research Adrian Ash recently said that "silver's popularity is clearly spreading." BullionVault began offering silver bullion to its users in January and has witnessed new enquiries for silver rise by more than a fifth in one recent month. For the full year, online gold and silver trading at BullionVault grew nearly 29% by volume to $1.33 billion.

Shares of the

iShares Silver Trust

(SLV) - Get iShares Silver Trust Report

were up 2.6% to $29.33, while

Silvercorp Metals

(SVM) - Get Silvercorp Metals Inc. Report

fell 3.7% to $13.09 as the company announced it has agreed to sell to a syndicate of underwriters, led by


TheStreet Recommends


BMO Capital Markets

, 8 million common shares at $12.70 a common share for aggregate gross proceeds of about $101.6 million.

Silver Standard Resources


was popping by 4.2% to $29.16 and

Coeur d'Alene Mines

(CDE) - Get Coeur Mining, Inc. Report

was jumping by 4.1% to $26.96.

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-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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