For the companies exploring for gold, a deposit that has more than one gram of gold for every tonne of earth is an exciting prospect. In fact, in our 2013 report summarizing the world’s gold deposits, we found that the average grade of gold deposits in the world is around that amount: about 1.01 g/t.
Think about that for a moment. One gram (0.035 oz) is equal to the mass of a small paper clip. This small amount of gold is usually not even in one place – it is dispersed through a tonne of rock and dirt in smaller amounts, most of the time invisible to the naked eye. For some companies that have the stars align with easy metallurgy, a deposit near surface, and open pit potential, this gram per tonne deposit may even somehow be economic.
It’s hard to believe that such a small amount of gold could be worth so much, and that is why great visualizations can help us understand the rarity of this yellow metal. Luckily, the folks at Demonocracy.info have done the heavy lifting for us, putting together a series of 3D visualizations of gold bullion bars showcasing the world’s gold that has been mined thus far. Note: these visualizations are a couple of years old and optimistically have the value of gold pegged at US$2,000 per oz, presumably for the ease of calculations.
For those interested, we have also put together a similar slideshow on the topic, showing how much gold, silver, copper, and other metals are mined each year.
Smaller denominations of gold plates: 1 gram, 5 grams, 10 grams, 20 grams, and 1 troy oz of gold.
Larger denominations of gold plates: 50 grams, 100 grams, 250 grams, 500 grams, and 1 kg of gold.
This 400 oz gold bar, at $2,000 per oz gold, is worth the $800,000 cash beside it. The gold bar is extremely heavy, weighing more than three full milk jugs.
Here’s what one tonne of gold looks like. At $2,000 per oz, it’s worth $64.3 million.
Gold is so heavy that the suspension of an average truck would break if it held anymore than pictured above. Even if the truck’s suspension broke, the load of gold in the back could buy 2,660 brand new trucks at an MSRP of $40,000 per truck.
Here’s 10 tonnes of gold compared to 100 tonnes of the yellow metal.
This semi-truck is carrying the maximum load it can legally carry, which is about about 25 tonnes. Here there are 24.88 tonnes of gold, worth $1.6 billion.
The Northrop Grumman B2 Spirit Bomber program cost $44.75 Billion for a total of 21 units built, which averages to $2,130,952,380 per unit. Shown here is the amount of gold it costs to buy one unit.
Here’s the entire gold reserves of the United States government, which is 8,133.5 tonnes.
Here’s the world’s gold reserves by government circa 2012. This is slightly outdated, with China and Russia both having significant increases since then.
All gold mined in history, stacked in 400 oz bars. The 166,500 tonnes here is actually divided into four levels: the bottom level is jewelry (50.5% of all gold), the 2nd level is private investment (18.7%), the third level is world governments (17.4%), and the highest level is other uses for gold such as industry (13.4%).
Lastly, we finish off with an image of all of the world’s mined gold in one cube with dimensions of 20.5m. If it was all melted, it would fit within the confines of an Olympic Swimming Pool.
Want to learn everything you need to know about gold in about 20 minutes? Our five-part Gold Series covers everything from its rich history, supply and geology, demand drivers, investment properties, and market trends.
Why Gold is Money: A Periodic Perspective
Gold has been used as money for millennia. People often attribute this to beauty, but there are basic physical properties for why gold is money.
Why Gold is Money
The economist John Maynard Keynes famously called gold a “barbarous relic”, suggesting that its usefulness as money is an artifact of the past. In an era filled with cashless transactions and hundreds of cryptocurrencies, this statement seems truer today than in Keynes’ time.
However, gold also possesses elemental properties that has made it an ideal metal for money throughout history.
Sanat Kumar, a chemical engineer from Columbia University, broke down the periodic table to show why gold has been used as a monetary metal for thousands of years.
The Periodic Table
The periodic table organizes 118 elements in rows by increasing atomic number (periods) and columns (groups) with similar electron configurations.
Just as in today’s animation, let’s apply the process of elimination to the periodic table to see why gold is money:
- Gases and Liquids
Noble gases (such as argon and helium), as well as elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine and chlorine are gaseous at room temperature and standard pressure. Meanwhile, mercury and bromine are liquids. As a form of money, these are implausible and impractical.
- Lanthanides and Actinides
Next, lanthanides and actinides are both generally elements that can decay and become radioactive. If you were to carry these around in your pocket they could irradiate or poison you.
- Alkali and Alkaline-Earth Metals
Alkali and alkaline earth metals are located on the left-hand side of the periodic table, and are highly reactive at standard pressure and room temperature. Some can even burst into flames.
- Transition, Post Transition Metals, and Metalloids
There are about 30 elements that are solid, nonflammable, and nontoxic. For an element to be used as money it needs to be rare, but not too rare. Nickel and copper, for example, are found throughout the Earth’s crust in relative abundance.
- Super Rare and Synthetic Elements
Osmium only exists in the Earth’s crust from meteorites. Meanwhile, synthetic elements such as rutherfordium and nihonium must be created in a laboratory.
Once the above elements are eliminated, there are only five precious metals left: platinum, palladium, rhodium, silver and gold. People have used silver as money, but it tarnishes over time. Rhodium and palladium are more recent discoveries, with limited historical uses.
Platinum and gold are the remaining elements. Platinum’s extremely high melting point would require a furnace of the Gods to melt back in ancient times, making it impractical. This leaves us with gold. It melts at a lower temperature and is malleable, making it easy to work with.
Gold as Money
Gold does not dissipate into the atmosphere, it does not burst into flames, and it does not poison or irradiate the holder. It is rare enough to make it difficult to overproduce and malleable to mint into coins, bars, and bricks. Civilizations have consistently used gold as a material of value.
Perhaps modern societies would be well-served by looking at the properties of gold, to see why it has served as money for millennia, especially when someone’s wealth could disappear in a click.
Animation: How Billionaires are Preparing for the Next Bear Market
No one likes to lose money, even if you have billions to spare. See how the world’s most elite investors – like Ray Dalio – are protecting themselves.
How Billionaires are Preparing for the Next Bear Market
No one likes to lose money, even if you have billions to spare.
It’s why the prospect of a bear market – a prolonged downturn which sees stock prices fall by at least 20% over two months or more – is something that keeps even the world’s most elite investors awake at night.
To hedge against this concern, the world’s billionaires use a variety of strategies and tactics to protect their wealth, including setting up their portfolios with specific asset allocations that can help soften any blow caused by an extended market downturn.
Today’s animation comes to us from Sprott Physical Bullion Trusts and it highlights a strategy being used by billionaires ranging from Ray Dalio to John Tudor Jones II.
Because market sentiment can change so quickly in the market, these elite investors protect themselves by having diverse portfolios that include uncorrelated assets.
While this sounds complicated, uncorrelated assets are simply investments that don’t move up or down in the same direction as the other asset classes in the portfolio. A small allocation to these uncorrelated items can help protect the value of a portfolio when market sentiment changes.
The King of Uncorrelated Assets
What kind of asset classes can be used for this kind of purpose?
While options like real estate, commodities, and cash can contribute to a more diversified portfolio beyond traditional stocks and bonds, many experts say that gold is the undisputed king of uncorrelated assets.
The price of gold doesn’t usually doesn’t move with the wider stock market – and often, because of its history, the yellow metal can even increase in price during the course of a bear market.
Here are some of the reasons billionaires turn towards an allocation in gold:
- Gold has acted as a store of value for thousands of years
- Gold can lower the volatility of a portfolio
- Gold can act as a hedge against inflation in some scenarios
- Gold is a traditional safe haven asset that investors flock to when the market goes astray
To kick off 2019, a new billionaire jumped onto the gold bandwagon – along with previous advocates such as Ray Dalio, David Einhorn, John Paulson, and John Tudor Jones II.
The newest entry to the club is Sam Zell, the pioneer behind real estate investment trusts (REITs). He bought gold for the first time in January, citing that it is “a good hedge” and that “supply is shrinking” as new mine discoveries dries up.
With market volatility back in the fray, it’ll be interesting to see how many more of the world’s elite investors also jump on the bandwagon.
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