Gold, a precious metal, mostly appears in alloys and only rarely in its pure form. Because of its physical properties, it is resistant to air, moisture, heat and many solvents. Gold also has a high density. Gold is regarded as a secure investment and is very popular as a means of coverage in times of crisis. Its high value and its rarity and uniqueness make gold a secure financial investment which also withstands inflation.
Gold was extracted in Egypt as early as 2000 B.C. and the first gold coins were minted in 50 B.C. in Rome. This shows that people have always been fascinated by gold and by its rarity, durability and beauty.
Because of its properties, gold is also one of the most important industrial raw materials. The yellow precious metal is easily workable and conducts electricity and heat. Because of its excellent conductivity, gold is used particularly in the electrical industry. Gold has also been used in dental technology for around 3000 years. However, gold is used most frequently in the jewelry industry. This line of business accounts for around 75 per cent of the gold worked. Apart from the Antarctic, where mining is not allowed due to international regulations, the precious metal is mined on all continents. With a market share of 16 per cent, South Africa is the most important producer of gold.
Global stocks of gold have continuously increased in recent decades and are currently at their highest level. This is also due to the fact that gold, unlike other raw materials, is virtually indestructible and is not consumed. As a result, the global quantity of gold is steadily increasing. The highest gold reserves are located in the USA (around 8.133 metric tons/287 million ounces). Germany has the second highest stocks of gold (3,417 metric tons /120 million ounces) followed by the International Monetary Fund with 3,217 metric tons /113 million ounces. Next is France (2,586 metric tons /91 million ounces). The price of gold has virtually experienced a surge in recent years. After the price of gold passed the mark of 1,000 US dollars per ounce for the first time in March 2008, by the end of 2011 it had already reached 1,600 US dollars per ounce.
Investments in gold are seen as a safe haven and a crisis-resistant capital investment. It is possible to invest in the yellow precious metal both in the form of securities and through a physical purchase. Gold in its physical form can be purchased from banks, coin and precious metal dealers as bars or bullion coins. However, the safe keeping of gold at banks usually gives rise to considerable costs which are not incurred when securities are traded. However, if gold is traded by way of a physically deposited purchase in the form of securities, trading or stock market fees must be paid. It is possible to invest in the precious metal on the stock exchange or through brokers in the form of gold certificates, gold funds or gold ETFs, without receiving any physical gold. Another form of investing in gold is Xetra-Gold, a no-par loan, which is denominated in gold holdings. This can be purchased on the stock exchange and transferred in the same way as a share.
The most important trading venues for trading in gold are Zurich, London, New York and Hong Kong. The most important stock exchanges are the New York Mercantile Exchange (COMEX), the Chicago Board of Trade, the Euronext/LIFFE, the London Bullion Market, the Tokyo Commodity Exchange, the Bolsa der Mercadorias e Futuros and the Korea Futures Exchange.