Since humanity has been producing gold, more than 190,000 tonnes of the precious metal have been mined and distributed throughout the world. We give an overview of the biggest gold owners – as far as they can be identified.
Gold can be bought anonymously. That applies at least to private investors. Up to an amount of 9,999.99 euros one does not have to leave any personal data with the stationary dealer. Gold does not appear on bank statements. In corporate and bank balance sheets, the precious metal is often lumped together with other assets. The central banks’ accounts do not distinguish between “paper gold” (derivatives) and real gold. Gold, unlike all other forms of financial assets, can not be completely identified and captured. It lies in vaults, is located on the body of billions of people, is processed in works of art, part of electronic components or lies undetected on the seabed or buried in forest and corridor.
So who has the most gold?
The World Gold Council (WGC) recently estimated that the amount of gold mined by humanity to date amounts to 193,472.4 tonnes (at the end of 2018). This corresponds to the volume of a fine gold cube with an edge length of 21.6 meters. First of all, one can distinguish between private and institutional gold ownership. By the latter we mean gold owned by central banks / banks, states, corporations, museums and other organizations.
World gold reserves total 33,871 tonnes, according to WGC. The largest gold nations are the USA with 8,133 tons, followed by Germany with 3,369 tons and Italy (2,451 tons). The International Monetary Fund is the largest supranational gold holder among financial institutions. Officially, there are 2,814 tons of gold.
Vatican / Catholic Church
In 2013, the Vatican Bank revealed its finances. There was talk of “gold, medals and fine coins” worth 41.3 million euros. At that time, that corresponded to about 1.3 tons of gold. The true gold treasure, especially gold in the form of jewelry, religious artifacts and artifacts, however, is distributed throughout the world in the possession of the Catholic Church. Italian author Claudio Rendina (“L’oro del Vaticano”) estimates that over the centuries the local church has accumulated around 30,000 tonnes of gold. That would be just under 16 percent of the amount of gold ever extracted. However, one can assume that the actual stocks are now significantly lower, because gold in international payments (after the abandonment of the gold standard) plays no paramount role and the church also lost or sold stocks over the years.
Many question marks are entwined with estimates of how much gold is already in China. For years, we have seen large physical stocks migrate from the West to the Far East. In 2003, the Chinese central government ended the private gold ownership ban and promoted gold purchases by the people. Officially, the country last had gold reserves of 1,874 tons. Critical market observers have calculated from Chinese import and trade data that China’s power elite already has access to more than 20,000 tons of gold. This number is highly speculative.