The Facts on Gold

Gold is a hot topic. China is buying it and TV pitchmen are selling it. The Tea Party – and a growing number of economists – are calling for a return to a gold currency standard. Gold has largely replaced Tupperware at home sales parties and record gold prices are regularly making news.

What’s all the excitement about?

Gold is an Element, atomic number 79 and chemical symbol Au. It is further classified as a metal and is considered a precious metal. It is among the heaviest, most malleable and least chemically reactive of metals – gold lost at sea 500 years ago is still shiny and uncorroded. Most important for industrial purposes, gold is an excellent conductor of electricity.

What’s the Price of Gold? Gold trades globally. That means that in one form or another, gold is being bought and sold continuously, somewhere in the world, nearly every day. And because supply and demand vary slightly around the globe, the price in a given location may also vary. Vary from what? The London Bullion Market Association publishes the London Gold Fix at 10:30 and 3pm (GMT) every business day. While the Fix prices don’t necessarily control any other transaction, they function as the international reference price.

How Much Gold is There? Gold inventory numbers are not easy to come by, nor are they necessarily accurate. Most countries report their official holdings to the International Monetary Fund. Those numbers are then massaged by the private World Gold Council which publishes the most authoritative summary available. Their most recent estimate is that about 30,000 tons of gold are held in reserve by central banks. They also estimate that about 165,000 tons have been mined in all of human history – only enough to form about a 20 meter cube. Finally, geologists estimate that as much as 80% of the world’s gold remains unmined – either underground or suspended in seawater.

Gold Weights and Measures The primary system for measuring the mass or weight of gold is the Troy ounce. The standard specification for a London Bullion Market Association bar – the kind you see stacked in vaults – is 350 to 430 Troy ounces, which are not converted to pounds because pricing is based on the ounce. Gold is also traded in grams and kilograms in countries where the metric system prevails. In addition, several Asian countries have measures which are only used within their own borders.

Gold has been a measure and store of value for about 6,000 years – and that probably won’t change anytime soon.


Nick Flamel is a longtime risk management consultant. He is also the proprietor of, a website that promotes gold as the ultimate inflation hedge. There you can find further details on how to use gold as a hedge and how to generate income from any gold you may own.

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