Gold reserves across the world: which countries detain the most

Oluwatosin Jegede

Gold has always been more than just a shiny metal: gold reserves is a symbol of prestige, power, and history. For over 5,000 years, from ancient civilizations to modern economies, people have been captivated by the allure of gold. And while we’ve found it on almost every continent, there’s a surprising fact: all the gold ever mined would only fill sixty semi-trailer trucks.

It’s not just about the glint or the glamour. Gold is incredibly versatile. It’s great at conducting electricity, can be shaped and molded as we like, and it doesn’t lose its shine or tarnish like other metals. This makes it invaluable to various industries, from jewelry to electronics.

Where does gold come from?

Gold is more than just a precious metal; it’s a celestial relic. Born from the violent collisions of stars long ago, it’s a finite treasure that wasn’t crafted by human hands. Picture this: vast oceans with gold scattered around, surrounding vents from deep-sea eruptions. That’s one of gold’s hiding spots.

Here’s an intriguing thought: When Earth took shape, gold, being heavy, sunk deep to its core. This is why places buzzing with volcanic and tectonic action often strike gold. Literally!

South Africa boasts a goldmine—quite literally. With the world’s largest land-based gold deposits, a staggering 40% of all the gold ever mined came from just one spot: Witwatersrand. But gold’s reach isn’t limited there. Many nations, especially those along the fiery ‘ring of fire’ or near gold-rich rivers, have abundant reserves of this starry treasure.

Top 10 nations with the largest gold reserves

1. United States of America

The US leads the world in gold reserves, boasting nearly 8,200 tons. To put that into perspective, it’s almost as much as the next three countries combined. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York houses this treasure, owning the largest stash of monetary gold globally.

During World War II, many nations trusted the US as a sanctuary for their gold, inflating its reserves. By the mid-20th century, an innovative idea to stabilize currencies and spur international trade emerged. This plan saw the US swapping dollars for gold, further boosting its reserves.

2. Germany

Germany’s love for gold shines brightly with the world’s second-largest reserve, amounting to around 3,300 tons. While a significant chunk is kept within its borders, sizable quantities are safeguarded in the US and UK. Germans traditionally value tangible wealth, like gold and cash, over electronic currency.

Post World War II, Germany’s gold reserves were almost empty due to reparations. However, using the exchange system noted earlier; they gradually rebuilt their gold wealth.

3. Italy

For Italy, gold symbolizes and safeguards its fiscal resilience. Their impressive reserves, standing at roughly 2,452 tons, are a testament to the nation’s finesse. As of 2021, this golden cache was valued at a staggering 120 billion euros. While the lion’s share is stored in Italy, significant amounts rest in the US, with Switzerland and the UK holding smaller portions.

Italy’s storied gold relationship faced scrutiny when a 2019 proposal aimed to shift control of gold reserves from the Bank of Italy to the state. Touted as a strategy to monetize the gold for addressing fiscal challenges, the controversial bill, however, did not see the light of day.

4. France

In gold reserves, France nearly matches Italy, holding a significant 2,436 tons. This stash is not just a marker of wealth but symbolizes the nation’s strength and stability. Put in perspective, every French citizen, in essence, holds a stake of 38 grams of gold. France took the bold step of repatriating its gold from the US, a move that heralded the end of the gold-for-dollars exchange system.

5. Russia

With a keen strategic move, Russia recently surpassed China, boasting the world’s 5th largest gold reserve, totaling 2,295 tons. Driven by political strategy, Russia’s gold acquisition spree aimed to diminish its reliance on US assets.

Interestingly, they now have more gold than US dollars. Blessed with the globe’s second-largest untapped gold reserves, Russia’s potential to bolster its gold coffers is unparalleled, with these untouched deposits worth billions.

Read also: What is driving gold prices in relation to inflation? An analysis

6. China

China, a gold behemoth, holds reserves tallying 1,948 tons. Astonishingly, this nation mines the most gold globally, a title it’s proudly held since 2007. While its gold mining prowess is unmatched, gold only constitutes 3% of China’s staggering $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange holdings, highlighting its diversified economic strength.

7. Switzerland

Switzerland, a petite nation, holds a sizable 1,040 tons of gold. Once higher in the ranking, financial strains led them to sell some of their reserves. In 2011, the Swiss populace voiced their desire to keep all the nation’s gold within its borders, prompting increased transparency.

Despite the motion’s rejection, the event ensured better information sharing. Today, Switzerland safeguards 70% of its gold domestically, with the remainder in the UK and Canada.

8. Japan

Japan, possessing a legacy interwoven with gold, has 846 tons in its coffers. This is notable given the nation’s age-old affinity for the metal, which is abundant within its volcanically active islands.

Post-World War II, Japan ceased domestic gold mining, only recently reopening its doors to foreign miners. Economic challenges during the COVID-19 crisis saw Japan selling a portion of its reserves.

9. India

India, with its 754 tons of gold reserves, is on a trajectory of growth. This gold-hungry nation made significant purchases recently – 200 tons in 2009 and 77 tons in 2021, making it the year’s second-largest buyer.

Reports suggest India aims to bolster its gold reserves by 10% soon, viewing it as a safety net during economic downturns, a strategy that is gaining global traction.

10. The Netherlands

For a nation of its stature, the Netherlands packs a punch with its gold reserves. Surpassing larger nations like the UK and Canada, it boasts 612 tons. Mirroring other European peers, the Netherlands took the audacious step of repatriating a portion of its gold from New York, a mission executed flawlessly.

Gold remains an emblem of value, sought for its multifaceted applications in tech, healthcare, aerospace, and as a cornerstone financial asset. Extracted worldwide using diverse methods, the demand for this timeless treasure is perpetually on the rise. Humanity’s millennia-old fascination with gold seems far from waning.

Read also: The 10 countries with the most valuable natural resources worldwide

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