How Much Gold Is There in the Entire World?

It’s certainly an intriguing question – not just for scientific minds, but for investors and economists too. Gold has been an integral part of our society for thousands of years. It’s been used in trade, and has long been a sign of opulence and wealth. But can we measure all the gold in the world? That means every gold watch, every nugget, every ancient coin… Is it even possible?
The answer is an ambiguous ‘yes’ and ‘no’. There have been a number of estimates, all based on historical fact and figures. But they each vary wildly. So which figures can we trust, if any at all?
First, what do we mean when we say ‘all the gold in the world’? We’re not talking about the gold that is still in the ground. We are referring to the gold that has already been mined – whether it’s taken shape as a piece of jewellery or traded on the black market. There are, of course, some systems in place to track the amount of gold that is mined. But this is a relatively recent development, especially considering some historians say we have been mining gold for as much as 6,000 years.
The estimates: high or low?
Let’s begin with the most recent figures. According to Thomson Reuter’s GFMS Gold Survey, in 2013 there were 171,300 tons of gold above ground in the world. Spatially, that’s enough gold to fit into a cube with sides measuring 20.7m: a stance that is corroborated by one of the world’s most affluent investors, Warren Buffet. In a separate statement, he declared that the world’s gold would fit into a cube with 20m sides. To put that into context, that’s 5 metres smaller than the length of an average swimming pool. Perhaps surprisingly small for all the gold in the world!
That’s not to say these figures are uncontested. Some, like James Turk – the founder of Gold Money – say there is actually less, at around 155,244 tons. His reasoning is quite simple – the figures predating 1492 have been overestimated. He argues that mining methods were too primitive to have extracted 12,780 tons (the figure stated by the GFMS survey), and instead the numbers should be much lower at 297 tons. After 1492, James Turk is in broad agreement with GFMS.
On the other end of the scale, some experts claim there are some 2.5 million tons of gold above ground. That’s a staggering number, but considering the amount of undeclared mining in countries such as China and Colombia, it is not worth dismissing this figure. Experts also make the point that 1.5 tons of gold was used to make Tutankhamen’s coffin. What about all of the other undiscovered tombs?
Gold and the future
One thing is for sure – it is near-on impossible to measure all the gold in the world, but we can make a reasoned estimate. As for the future, the interesting part is not the quantity of gold that we mine, but the quantity that we actually consume. With gold being used in minute quantities by the technology sector, we are consumers of gold for the first time in history. Instead of it being repurposed from an ornament to a necklace, for example – it is consumed because these tiny amounts are too small to be recycled. It’s a new dynamic that any future gold estimations will have to take into account. This new story about gold nandroplets in medical applications is the perfect example.
If you’re interested in all thing golden, you may also be fascinated to hear that a gold mine laboratory nestled 5,000 feet below the earth is soon to become an underground campus which could detect dark matter. Want to read more? Take a look at this news story: Gold Mine Laboratory Searches for Dark Matter.

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