Thursday, March 19, 2009

All About Gold Bars

This is an article all about gold bars and contains some detailed information about gold bars, the various types there are and who manufactures them.

What is a Gold Bar
All gold is measured in troy ounces and the purity is measured in karats (not to be confused with the weight measurement of carats for diamonds), and comes in a variety of forms sizes and weights. The definition of a gold bar is considered to be:

"A bar of gold made by a recognized bar manufacturer regardless of shape and size and upon which is reported the exact weight and purity of the gold as well as a registration number."

The larger bars are called ingots and are made by casting. That is poring molten gold into moulds. The smaller bars are made by pressing gold strips with a huge multi tonne stamp much in the same way gold coins are made. These are usually called biscuits, although not so crunchy. All bars of gold, regardless of size, should have stamped on them, the weight, the size and the manufacturers stamp. Also a registration number that corresponds with a certificate, which should also accompany every bar.

The advantage of smaller bars is of course the convenience. Gold is heavy and toting around 400 ounce bars is not for everyone. A couple of ounces of gold can be carried around in a pocket however. Smaller bars are easier to buy and sell due to the lower cost involved they are easier to store and transport. The disadvantage is the price. They carry a higher premium over the value of the gold due to the costs involved in manufacture.

The advantage of buying larger bars or ingots is that the premium is considerably lower per ounce and usually a fraction above the spot price of gold for the day of the sale. The disadvantages of course are the shipping and storing considerations. They are much more difficult to move around and store due to their weight. It is also harder to sell a larger bar or ingot than a smaller one due to the shipping, security and costs involved. In fact most of the larger ingots are stored in bank vaults around the world and the ownership is simply transferred by paper. The gold itself is rarely moved.

Types of Gold Bars
In 2008, the Bank of England Museum hosted the International Gold Bars Collection. Here all the various types of gold bars were displayed. There were literally hundreds of these from the basic 400 ounce bars to donuts and double pendants to fillets of wafer thin gold bars. Many of the most common bars which, with a little searching, you can find are described here.

400 ounce or 12.5 kg Gold Bar

There are about 55 active manufacturers worldwide whose 400 ounce or 12.5 kg gold bars are known and accepted internationally as London Good Delivery. All 400 ounce London Good Delivery gold bars weigh between 350 ounces and 430 ounces with a minimum gold purity of 99.5%. About 150,000 are made each year

Kilogold Bars

The Kilogold bar (1000 grams) is popular among investors and fabricators being traded at a low premium above the spot price of gold and is probably the world’s most widely traded small gold bar.
Most Kilogold bars have a flat international shape, but many investors and fabricators in Europe prefer traditional Kilogold bars in the shape of a brick.

'Tezabi' Gold Bars

These roughcast gold bars are manufactured in Pakistan by the thousand in small backyard gold bar manufacturers. They are to a theoretical 99.9% purity. The gold bars are not manufactured to any specific weight but are usually around 99.9% pure. The size can depend on the amount of gold available to the manufacturer as they are usually made from old gold or melted down gold jewelery.

You often find that the Tezabi will resemble some of the earliest known gold coins made by the Lydian kings of Asia Minor in the 7th century BC. The method used by Pakistanis in the manufacture of Tezabi gold bars is not believed to have changed in over 2,000 years. The Exhibition displays Tezabi gold bars manufactured by Saleh Mohammed in Pakistan.

Tael Gold Bars
A tael is more widely known as a Chinese unit of weight. One tael is equivalent to 1.2 ounces or 37.4 grams. Tael gold bars, which are cast not pressed, ranging from 1 tael to 10 taels, and are widely traded in Chinese-speaking countries, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Cast tael gold bars are manufactured in 3 shapes: 'biscuits', 'doughnuts' and 'boats' The 'boat' shape is known to have been used for silver and other Chinese coinage as far back as the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) so it is not unexpected that gold 'boats' should be made also.

The most popular is the 5 Tael 'biscuit' cast gold bar, 6 onces or 187 grams. these gold bars, manufactured in Hong Kong by the Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange (founded in 1910), are traded in large quantities. Minted tael gold bars, normally made outside Hong Kong, are also available.

Lastly, the Tael gold bars, known as 'donuts', are available in smaller sizes with a hole in the center. This makes it easy for the donut gold bars to be securely stacked or bound together with string.

Baht Gold Bars
The baht is the unit of weight in Thailand. The most popular gold bar here is the 10 baht gold bar. This is usually 4.9 ounces or 150.4 grams and is 96.5 percent pure gold.

Tola Gold Bars
The tola is the Indian unit of weight. The most popular cast gold bar being the 10 tola equal to 3.75 ounces or 116.64 grams in weight. These are very popular with over two million cast each year in Europe, imported and widely traded in such places as the Middle East, India, Pakistan and Singapore.

The ten-tola bar is distinctive in that it has no serial number and is often used for smuggling. The edges are round rather than sharp and so are an ideal for smuggling, inside a smuggler’s body. Round tola gold bars very form part of 'marriage necklaces' weighing over 500 grams in Pakistan where they are very popular.

Chi Gold Bars
The chi is a Vietnamese unit of weight. 1 chi weighs 3.75 grams. 10 chi (or 1 cay or 1 luong) weighs 37.5 grams. Pamp (Switzerland) was the first among the accredited manufacturers to produce a range of chi denominated minted gold bars for Vietnam.

Decorative Gold Bars
Prior to 1980 gold bars were rather plain. Then decorated, even hologramed gold bars began to make their appearance. The manufacture of decorative gold bars is dominated mainly by manufacturers in Switzerland, Germany and Brazil with Pamp Suisse(Switzerland) pioneering multi-coloured hologram designs to minted gold bars in the 1990s. These gold bars are distributed worldwide and are very popular in the Middle East.

'Rainbow' Gold Bars
Mitsubishi (Japan), traditionally with a finger in very pie, is the pioneer manufacturer of multi-coloured ‘rainbow’ gold bars. This process produces various karat gold tones resulting in an infinite variety of gold patterns. The 'Rainbow' gold bar purity is set at 75 percent or 19 karat gold

Fine Gold Cards
Mitsubishi also pioneered fine gold business cards in the 1980s. These gold cards are very popular in Japan to impress VIP clients. Multi-coloured printed designs are available on the very thin sheet cards available from under 200 dollars each. Gold business cars up to 1000 g are available but the most popular and common card is the one gram gold card. They are available all over Japan as well as on the net by Mitsubishi.

'Yin-Yang' Gold Bars

Ishifuku, in Japan, have created to unusual kidney shaped gold bars representing the harmony of opposites in the Zen philosophy.

'Koban' Gold Bars
Tokuriki Honten, Also in Japan, has been manufacturing the ‘Koban’ gold bars since the early 1960s. These range in weight from 5 grams up to 50 grams. These gold bars commemorate the oval shape of traditional Japanese gold coinage issued between the 16th and 19th centuries.

'Twin-Coin' Gold Bar

Yoo Long Kim Kee (Thailand) was the first to manufacture a decorative cast gold bar to a precise weight through injecting gold into an enclosed mould under pressure. The Exhibition displays an experimental 1 baht gold bar, described as a ‘twin-coin’ gold bar, which was manufactured in 1992.

'Gold Leaf' Gold Bars
Widely used by Vietnamese refugees during the Vietnam war are the “Gold Leaf” gold bars. From the 1930s right up until 1975 these ultra thin bars were manufactured all over Vietnam. Being so thin they were easily hidden in clothing, placed between the soles of shoes and rolled up into narrow tubes. The standard “Gold Leaf” gold bar weighs around 15 g.

'Gold Fillet' Gold Bars
'Gold Fillet' gold bars, manufactured from thin rolled gold strips, are produced mainly for display purposes to demonstrate the official stamps of 400 oz or 12.5 kg gold bars. They illustrate the official stamps and other markings which appear only on London Good Delivery 400 oz gold bars.

Pendant & Double Pendant Gold Bars

Degussa (Germany) is recorded as the first among accredited manufacturers to have manufactured in 1978 a minted gold bar in an unconventional (hexagonal) shape, incorporating a hole so it can be used as a pendant. This concept was expanded by Pamp Suisse in 1984, with the production of minted gold bars in a number of unusual shapes. These are still around and can sometimes be bought from gold dealers and jewellers. In 1996, Pamp (Switzerland) launched the ‘double-pendant’ gold bars in the Middle East. These are available 10 gram, 7.5 gram and 5 gram with two inner shapes: heart and circular design.

Bank Gold Bars
Some banks have issued minted gold bars, marked with their own name but manufactured by an external manufacturer. In Europe and Brazil, minted ‘bank’ gold bars are widely available

Commemorative Gold Bars

Many countries commission the manufacture of Commemorative gold bars, Most notably Degussa (Germany) and Degussa (Brazil). The Chinese have also issued commemorative gold bars of Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan bars commemorating important national or international events. The minting of ‘commemorative’ gold bars, incorporating the mark of the accredited manufacturer, is not yet widespread but a selection of commemorative gold bars are displayed.

Heart Gold Bars
Innovative 'heart' gold bars, defined as heart-shaped or incorporating a heart design, were first made by Pamp SA in 1994, the outcome of a World Gold Council initiative in Singapore. The ‘heart’ gold bars of ARY Traders (UAE), launched in 1997, have aroused much interest in UAE, Pakistan and India and the Exhibition displays ‘heart’ gold bars from both manufacturers.

Kinegold Bars™
Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), through its subsidiary refinery, Argor-Heraeus SA, has applied a KINEGRAM™ as a security device to the reverse of its minted gold bars since December 1993. This new gold bar is called kinegold bar™. KINEGRAM™ is the trade mark of the security device developed by Landis & Gyr Communications.

Bas-Relief Gold Bar

Buan Hua Long (Thailand) marks its standard 5, 10 and 25 baht gold bars in bas-relief. This is done when the bars are cast. The marks are carved into the base of the gold bar mould and formed as soon as the molten gold is poured into the mould eliminating the need for conventional marking tools: dies, punches and hammers.

Cartoon Gold Bars

Even cartoon gold bars are available. Pamp (Switzerland) introduced designs in 1996, from Warner Bros such as Tweety and Bugs Bunny, and, later, in 1997, from Disney, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Spanish Gold Bars

SEMPSA (Spain) has manufactured a 50 gram bar in the shape of a brick'. It is possibly the only minted gold bar among accredited gold bar manufacturers worldwide to have tapered sides, closely resembling the shape of typical large 400 oz or 12.5 kg London Good Delivery gold bars.

'Dore' Gold Bars
Most major gold mines process their gold-bearing ore at the site of the mine, producing low purity 'dore' gold bars. These rough gold bars are sent to gold refineries for upgrading into tradeable gold bars of high purity (99.5% or more). ‘Dore’ gold bars are normally quite large, some weighing as much as 25 kg. They are mainly used for transporting gold and not for trade.

'Garimpo' Dore

'Garimpo' dore gold bars are made by 'Garimpeiros', Brazilian peasants who independently mine gold in the Amazon jungle. Brazil was the world’s major source of newly-mined gold in the 18th century and still produces around 75 tonnes each year.

Gold Manufacturers & Refiners

Here we have a list of the world gold manufacturers and refiners. They are listed by country and in alphabetical order. Sometimes a gold bar might bear more than one assay stamp. In that case the lower value stamp is the one taken.

Disclaimer: As manufacturers and refiners come and go and various countries are subject to political, economic and other upheavals from time to time, there is no guarantee that any of the following are still operational although it is expected that most are. It is suggested that one does one’s own due diligence and checks out the manufacturer or refiner of one’s choice before approaching any to buy gold.

AGR Matthey — Newburn, since 24.1.2003
Mark: AGR MATTHEY in oval around three stacked bars

Umicore SA, Business Unit Precious Metals — Hoboken, since 1930 (estimated)
Mark: umicore and company logo above the word HOBOKEN and 9999

Umicore Brasil Ltda — Guarulhos, since 11.12.92
Mark: umicore and company logo above the word BRASIL
AngloGold Ashanti Minerção Ltda — Nova Lima, since 21.3.86
Mark: AngloGold Ashanti

Johnson Matthey Limited — Brampton, since 15.6.61
Mark: Johnson Matthey JM and crossed hammers in diamond, and JM Ltd Canada Assay Office in oval
Royal Canadian Mint — Ottawa, since 1919 (estimated)
Mark: ROYAL CANADIAN MINT and MONNAIE ROYALE CANADIENNE in maple leaf logo with four digit year mark
Xstrata Canada Corporation — Montréal, since 1.1.55
Mark since 16.02.07: CCR

The Great Wall Gold and Silver Refinery of China — Chengdu, since 1981
Mark: Refined by Great Wall Gold & Silver Refinery in oval around China, plus Great Wall logo and assay seal
Inner Mongolia Qiankun Gold and Silver Refinery Share Company Limited — Huhhot, since 27.10.99
Mark: Horse’s head logo surrounded by QIANKUN GOLD AND SILVER in Roman and Chinese characters and assay mark with Chinese characters for Inner Mongolia, China in Chinese characters and CHINA in Roman characters
Jiangxi Copper Company Limited — Guixi City, since 30.08.05
Mark: Company Logo above JCC
Shandong Zhaojin Gold & Silver Refinery Co Ltd — Zhaoyuan City, since 13.23.07
Mark: Triangle with two interlocking half circles and ZHAOJIN in Chinese characters within the triangle.
Zhongyuan Gold Smelter of Zhongjin Gold Corporation — Sanmexia City, since 28.03.06
Mark: Circular logo round Chinese character with CHN GOLD below.
Zijin Mining Group Co. Ltd — Shanghang, since 28.03.06
Mark: Double crescent logo with ZIJIN MINING in Roman and Chinese characters.

W.C. Heraeus GmbH — Hanau, since 15.7.58
Mark: Heraeus Hanau in rectangle
Norddeutsche Affinerie Aktiengesellschaft — Hamburg, since Before 1934/ 12.8.53
Mark: Norddeutsche Affinerie Hamburg in rectangle and NA
Allgemeine Gold- und Silberscheideanstalt A.G. — Pfrozheim, since 08.04.08
Mark: Allgemeine above logo (a small circle on the inside circumference of a large circle)

Hong Kong
Metalor Technologies (Hong Kong) Ltd — Kwai Chung, since 15.08.01
Mark since 05.05.07: METALOR and the assay mark is M over HK (vertically) within an inverted triangle with the words ASSAYERS and MELTERS along the sloping sides of the triangle.
Heraeus Ltd Hong Kong — Fanling, since 23.01.06
Mark: Heraeus Hong Kong in rectangle

PT Aneka Tambang (Persero) Tbk — Jakarta, since 1.1.99
Mark: LM logo and Logam Mulia Antam Jakarta in oval

Chimet SpA — Arezzo, since 27.7.96
Mark: Chimet Trattamento Metalli Preziosi Badia Al Pino AR in oval
Metalli Preziosi SpA — Paderno Dugnano, since Before 1962
Mark: Metalli Preziosi S.p.A Milano Affinazione in oval round MP in diamond

Asahi Pretec Corp — Kobe, since 12.09.08
Mark: AKK within a horizontal diamond
Ishifuku Metal Industry Co., Ltd. — Soka, since 30.6.82
Mark: Ishifuku Tokyo Melters and Ishifuku Tokyo Assay Office in circles round Japanese ‘Bun’ character
Japan Mint — Osaka, since 13.12.07
Mark: JAPANESE MINT OSAKA in Japanese and Roman script in oval around leaf symbol
Matsuda Sangyo Co., Ltd. — Iruma, since 11.1.00
Mark: Matsuda Tokyo Assayer-Melter in oval with M
Mitsubishi Materials Corporation — Kagawa, since 20.5.81
Mark: Three diamonds mark and three diamonds mark with Assayer Melter in rectangle
Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co., Ltd. — Takehara, since 20.5.81
Mark: Logo consisting of three horizontal lines inside diamond inside circle.
Nippon Mining & Metals Co Ltd — Saganoseki, since 3.5.00
Mark: Hollow circle above NSS with Nippon Mining at right
Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., Ltd. — Saijo, since 17.6.81
Mark: Sumitomo with logo and Sumitomo Assay Office with logo
Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K. — Hiratsuka, since 7.9.78
Mark: Tanaka Tokyo Melters round logo and Tanaka Tokyo Assay Office round logo
Tokuriki Honten Co., Ltd. — Shoumachi, since 21.10.81
Mark: Tokuriki Tokyo Melters Assayers in circle round Japanese ‘Toku’ character

Kazzinc Joint Stock Company — Ust-Kamenogorsk, since 20.6.96
Mark: Stylised K and ‘Kazakstan’ in Cyrillic script in oval with running stag. The year of production is shown as a separate three-digit number and the bar weight is in troy ounces and metric.

Korea, DPR
Central Bank of the DPR of Korea — Pyongyang, since 22.04.76
Mark: Central Bank Pyongyang, Refiners, Melters, Central Bank DPR of Korea and assay mark

Korea, Republic of
Korea Zinc Co Ltd — Onsan (2), since 9.8.2000
Mark: KOREA ZINC CO., LTD. 1974 in circle around KZ
LS-Nikko Copper Inc — Onsan, since 20.5.1994
Mark since 12.7.2005: LS logo and LS Assayer Melter in rectangle

Kyrgyz Republic
Kyrgyzaltyn JSC — Karabalta, since 27.10.99; name & brand changed 1.5.01
Mark: KYRGYZ REPUBLIC in oval round ALTYN on crossed globe logo

Met-Mex Peñoles, S.A. — Torreon, since 22.11.91
Mark: Met-Mex Peñoles SA DE CV in oval

Schöne Edelmetaal — Amsterdam (1), since Before 1934
Mark: Umicore company logo with a separation line and the word Feingold

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) — Quezon City, since 6.9.79
Mark: Central Bank of the Philippines Gold Refinery & Mint in oval round crucible pouring mould and similar assay mark

JSC Ekaterinburg Non-Ferrous Metal Processing Plant — Ekaterinburg, since 11.1.99
Mark: Ekaterinburg logo, Cyrillic ED and Россия (‘Russia’ in Cyrillic script) in oval
FSE Novosibirsk Refinery — Novosibirsk, since 11.1.99
Mark: Novosibirsk logo, Cyrillic NV and Россия (‘Russia’ in Cyrillic script) in oval
OJSC “The Gulidov Krasnoyarsk Non-Ferrous Metals Plant” (OJSC Krastvetmet) — Krasnoyarsk, since 29.11.99
Mark: Krasnoyarsk logo, Cyrillic KR and Россия (‘Russia’ in Cyrillic script) in oval
OJSC Kolyma Refinery — Khasyn, since 17.09.04
Mark: Company logo and Россия (‘Russia’ in Cyrillic script) in oval
Moscow Special Alloys Processing Plant — Moscow, since 11.05.07
Mark: Cyrillic ‘Z’ inside Cyrillic ‘C’ and Россия (‘Russia’ in Cyrillic script) in oval
Prioksky Plant of Non-Ferrous Metals — Kasimov, since 29.11.99
Mark: Prioksky logo, Cyrillic PM and Россия (‘Russia’ in Cyrillic script) in oval
SOE Shyolkovsky Factory of Secondary Precious Metals — Shyolkovo, since 27.10.99
Mark: Shyolkovsky logo, Cyrillic SCH and Россия (‘Russia’ in Cyrillic script) in oval
JSC Uralectromed — Verkhnyaya Pyshma, since 12.05.2006
Mark: Company logo in oval and Россия (‘Russia’ in Cyrillic script) in oval

South Africa
Rand Refinery Limited — Germiston, since 1921(estimated)
Mark: Rand Refinery Limited and Rand Refinery Ltd. South Africa in circle round head of springbok

SEMPSA Joyeria Plateria SA — Madrid, since -.1.84
Mark: Sociedad Española de Metales Preciosos SA in circle round Fundidores Afinadores and star

Boliden Mineral AB — Skelleftehamn, since -.1.84
Mark: Boliden with logo

Argor-Heraeus SA — Mendrisio, since 28.8.61
Mark: Argor-Heraeus SA in circle round AH and AH Melter Assayer in rectangle
Cendres & Métaux SA — Biel-Bienne, since 20.5.81
Mark: Cendres et Métaux SA. CH Bienne in circle round CM logo and CM Essayeur Fondeur in rectangle
Metalor Technologies SA — Marin, since Before 1934
Mark: METALOR® and assay mark showing Essayeur Fondeur with MP in triangle
PAMP SA — Castel San Pietro, since 10.6.87
Mark: PAMP SA Switzerland with PAMP logo and Essayeur Fondeur in rectangle with PAMP logo
Valcambi SA — Balerna, since 20.5.68
Mark: Valcambi SUISSE with assay mark (a rectangle enclosing CHI in a circle and ESSAYEUR FONDEUR)

Johnson Matthey Inc — Salt Lake City, since 22.5.89
Mark: Johnson Matthey with JM and crossed hammers in diamond, and JMI Assay Office in oval round SLC
Metalor USA Refining Corporation — North Attleboro, since 19.7.91
Mark: METALOR® and MUS assayer’s mark including year

Almalyk Mining and Metallurgical Complex(AMMC) — Almalyk, since 28.10.97
Mark: Uzbekistan in Cyrillic and Roman script in circle round globe and AMMC logo with Melter Assayer in rectangle
Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combinat — Navoi, since 17.10.94
Mark: Uzbekistan, in Cyrillic and Roman script in circle round globe and NMMC logo with Melter Assayer in rectangle
Former Melters & Assayers of Good-Delivery gold Bars

Gold Bars are a popular and convenient way of storing and preserving assets regardless of the vagaries of currency. Gold continues to hold its own in the face of economic depressions, recessions and inflation and understanding all about gold bars is a very good start to maintaining ones assets these days.

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