Gold is a precious metal that not only serves as a store of value but also has cultural and emotional significance. Individuals, institutions and central banks consider it a safe haven investment. If our existing economic structure collapses and the paper money loses its value, gold could be used to facilitate trade. Almost every central bank keeps some amount of gold in its vault. Here we take a look at the top 10 countries with the largest gold reserves.
The ranking below is based on data from World Gold Council as of February 2020. It reflects the amount of gold held by the governments and central banks, not the general population. China and India are two of the world’s largest consumers of gold. People in these countries buy the yellow metal mostly in the form of jewelry.
10- The Netherlands, 612.5 metric tons
As of February 2020, the small European nation held 612.5 metric tons of gold. The yellow metal accounts for nearly 70% of its forex reserves. Its gold stockpile has declined dramatically from the peak of 910 metric tons a couple of decades ago.
In 2016, the Netherlands decided to move its gold from the center of Amsterdam to a new location in Camp New Amsterdam owned by the defense ministry. The move is aimed at better protecting the gold reserve. Previously, the Dutch central bank used to store gold in several locations including London, New York, Ottawa, and Amsterdam.
9- India, 626 metric tons
The world’s second most populous country has 626 metric tons of gold. The Indian central bank has been aggressively buying gold for the last several years. The Reserve Bank of India holds only half of the country’s gold reserve. The other half is jointly stored with the Bank of England and the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland.
India is one of the world’s biggest drivers of gold demand. Wedding season witnesses massive demand for gold jewelry in the country. According to some estimates, the Indian households own more than 20,000 metric tons of the precious metal. That’s much higher than the country’s official gold reserve.
8- Japan, 799.2 metric tons
Japan has one of the world’s largest gold reserves. But the yellow metal accounts for just 2.8% of the country’s forex reserves. Japan’s gold holdings have remained roughly the same over the last decade. Notably, the Asian nation’s gold reserves include coins that are about 500 years old! Japan doesn’t need a lot of gold in its reserves because its currency yen also acts as a safe haven currency.
7- Switzerland, 1,040 metric tons
This European country with a population of around 8.5 million has 1,040 metric tons of gold. It makes Switzerland the country with the largest gold reserve per capita. What makes it even more impressive is that Switzerland has reduced its gold holdings by more than 60% since 2000. The precious metal accounts for only 6% of Switzerland’s forex reserve.
About 70% of Switzerland’s gold reserves are at the Swiss National Bank. The country has kept 20% of its gold with the Bank of England and the remaining 10% with the Bank of Canada.
6- China, 1948.3 metric tons
China is the world’s largest producer of gold. It’s also the largest consumer. The yellow metal has cultural significance in China. People started hoarding gold more than ever before when the government passed laws in 1990 to make it easier for consumers to buy the metal. The world’s most populous country held 1,948.3 metric tons of gold in February 2020, up from just 395 metric tons in 2000.
China has been adding to its gold reserves steadily over the years. Amid the global economic uncertainty and trade tensions with the US, Beijing could continue to add to its gold reserves. The metal accounts for merely 2.9% of China’s forex reserves.
5- Russia, 2,271.2 metric tons
Russia is the third largest producer of gold on the planet. The US has imposed strict sanctions on Russia. The Russian economy is also vulnerable to geopolitical tensions. So, it makes sense for Russia to insulate its economy from outside shocks by adding to its gold reserve. The Russian central bank has been the world’s largest buyer of gold for at least seven consecutive years.
As of February 2020, Moscow had 2,271.2 metric tons of gold reserves. The metal makes up 19.9% of Russia’s forex reserves. Given the pace at which Russia is buying gold, it could soon overtake France to occupy the fourth spot.
4- France, 2,436 metric tons
France is not far behind Italy in terms of gold reserves. According to World Gold Council, staggering 63.2% of the country’s forex reserves are in the form of gold. France had about 3,000 metric tons of gold in 2000, but it has fallen to 2,436 tons in 2020. The French central bank holds its gold in a vault underneath its own building. The International Monetary Fund’s gold is also kept in the same place.
3- Italy, 2,451.8 metric tons
The Italian economy might be a mess. It was hit hard by the Eurozone crisis, and is still struggling with high unemployment rates. But its gold reserve is the third largest in the world. Its gold stash had fallen to just 22 metric tons during Second World War. After that, it steadily built up its reserves over decades. Italy’s gold reserves have remained roughly the same since 1999. The precious metal accounts for 68.3% of its forex reserves.
2- Germany, 3,366.5 metric tons
Germany has more gold than any other country except the United States. It witnessed a devastating hyperinflation during the 1920s. Germany went through decades of political and economic turmoil after the Second World War. In the last few years, Germany has repatriated its gold from the US and France. Some of its gold is still kept with the Bank of England in London.
1- United States, 8,113.1 metric tons
The United States has by far the largest gold reserve in the world. It has nearly as much gold as the next three countries combined. Gold accounts for 77% of the United States’ forex reserve, more than any other country. The US dollar is the most powerful international currency, so the country doesn’t need to hoard a huge pile of other currencies. Much of the American gold is stored at Fort Knox in Kentucky, the Philadelphia Mint, San Francisco, Assay Office, and Denver Mint.