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Victorian-era silver 'fix' gets electronic revamp

The 117-year-old London method to set a price for silver, known as the "fix," is coming to an end on Friday, replaced by a new electronic pricing mechanism that regulators hope will bring more transparency to the system.

Under the old 'fix', three banks -- HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Bank of Nova Scotia -- held a daily conference call to set silver's global benchmark, allowing traders to buy and sell the metal at a single price.

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Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Earlier this year, Deutsche Bank, attempted to sell its "fixing seat" as part of its scaling-back of its commodities business. However, no buyer could be found and, because the system could no longer run with just two members, U.K. financial watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) put plans in place for a new electronic system.

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"Silver is a $5 trillion market, there are thousands of contracts that underpin this market and they need to reference something during the contracts, if you are a refiner or a jewellery company, you need a benchmark," said Ross Norman, CEO at precious metal sellers Sharps Pixley.

The last final conference call between the three banks took place on Thursday after the FCA asked Deutsche Bank to wait until an alternative process to fix the metal's price was put in place.

The new system, called the London Silver Price is an electronic auction that will take place at midday London time on a trading platform provided by exchange CME Group and jointly administered by Thomson Reuters.

The London Bullion Market Association, which headed up the project of setting up a new electronic system said HSBC, Mitsui & Co Precious Metals and the Bank of Nova Scotia have registered for the new London Silver Price system. The group said more institutions would follow suit once legal and compliance issues were worked out.

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Norman said just hours ahead of the first electronic fix, he did not know who to call to put trades through.

"We are told we will know the participants, the routes through which we can put our silver trades between now and midday, but it remains to be known who exactly that will be. So we will almost certainly have a valid silver price today, but we don't know how it's going to happen," he told CNBC.

By CNBC's Jenny Cosgrave: Follow her on Twitter @jenny_cosgrave