Instead of profiling a company like Newmont or Barrick, I’ve decided to help you find ways to mine more information and become informed about all that glitters. With most of these Web sites, the adage, “he who pays the piper calls the tune,” comes to mind. Keep it in mind when getting your investment advice from a Web publisher who’s primarily in the business of selling gold, or selling advice about gold, or even directly taking sizable commissions from covered firms in exchange for promoting their stocks. Some of the Web sites link to a lot of commentary, but bear in mind that much gold-related commentary is more inclined to conspiracy theorists than investors: The Federal Reserve is illegal, central banks are a vast right-wing conspiracy, gold is the only real money, gold mines’ hedging against price moves are inherently fraudulent–that sort of thing.

But you don’t have to be irrational to be somewhat exuberant about gold. One site worth visiting is TheBullionDesk.com. TBD is a London-based group whose free site provides the best collection of quotes and market news to be found. The main page of the site leads with real-time precious metals quotes. In addition to gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, TBD has quotes on more obscure precious metals (rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, osmium, rhenium; note that while the bid/ask spread is under 0.2% for gold, and about 0.5% for silver, and 1% for platinum, it jumps up to 6% for palladium and considerably higher for these lesser-known platinum-group metals). This top section also shows metals lease rates, major currencies, and a few bellwether equities (six miners, including Newmont, as well as four traders).

Listed at the left on the site, “Today’s Market News” includes TBD’s “Bullion Market Newswire,” which offers about 100 stories each day (market reports, commentary, and company news). “Today’s Market News” also links to “Top 10 Gold & Silver” and “Top 10 PGM” (Platinum Group Metal) stories for a short, focused look at each market.

Daily and periodic market reports are found at left just below Market News, and on fixed links to the likes of Barclays, UBS Warburg, Johnson Matthey, and Mitsubishi. While most sites feature price graphs, you generally can’t do anything with them. But TBD’s quote options offer a number of ways to see precious metals and currency price tables and charting.

The site also offers useful links to firms and sites related to mining and exploration, refiners and traders, hedge funds, consumers, equipment, markets and exchanges, assayers, consultants, and central banks. The site’s sponsors include Alex Stewart Assayers, IFX, Umicore, Engelhard-Clal, Merrill Lynch, OMG, and Anglo Platinum.

Another site worth a look is www.goldseek.com, a much smaller site, but it does have a few market commentaries that are updated more frequently than on other sites. For well-designed sights with, to be sure, industry propaganda, check out the World Gold Council (www.gold.org) and the Silver Institute (www.silverinstitute.org), with news on production, demand, history, and uses of their respective metals. These are basically the PR arms of the leading mining companies.

You might also consider the sites of the bullion and coin dealers, Monex and Blanchard, if you’re looking to buy gold now. Both sites are rather limited in size, and both contain more than a few questionable arguments (“Right now, with metal prices at a fraction of their all-time highs, this may be an ideal time to invest in precious metals”).

A final way to test a proposed investment in a precious metals (or other mining or oil drilling) stock is to check out Project Underground (www.moles.org). The Project is a Berkeley, California-based left-wing pressure group dedicated to slamming extraction industries’ effects on the environment and human rights, with intemperate headlines like “What is Your Share in Death and Destruction?” They may break some of the most scandalous of bad news, but it’s debatable, to say the least, whether they’re slamming the worst offenders, or merely the biggest firms (like Newmont) just because they’re the biggest. But if you’d want to read Upton Sinclair before eating your sausage, check out this site.