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History of Gold

The story of gold is as rich and complex as the metal itself.

In 3600 BC, the first smelting of gold was undertaken. Egyptian goldsmiths carry out the first melting or fusing of ores in order to separate the metals inside. They use blowpipes made from fire-resistant clay to heat the smelting furnace.

Wars have been fought for it; love has been declared with it. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs portray gold as the brilliance of the sun; modern astronomers use mirrors coated with gold to capture images of the heavens.

By 325 BC the Greeks had mined for gold from Gibraltar to Asia Minor. In 1300 the world's first hallmarking system, scrutinising and guaranteeing the quality of precious metal, is established at Goldsmith's Hall in London - where London's Assay Office is still located today.

In 1717 Britain moves onto a de facto pure gold standard, as the government links the currency to gold at a fixed rate (establishing a mint price of 77 shillings, ten and a half pennies per ounce of gold). In 1848 AD James Marshall found flakes of gold whilst building a sawmill near Sacramento and so triggered the gold rush in California.

By 1900 all major countries other than China switch to the gold standard, linking their currencies to gold. The practice of bimetallism is abandoned. However in 1971 President Nixon of USA "closes  gold window", suspending US dollar convertibility to gold. The world enters its present day system of floating exchange rates. In 2004 with the launch of Gold Shares, the market is transformed by an innovative, secure and easy way to access the gold market. Six years later SPDR® exceeds $55bn in assets under management.

In the second quarter of the year 2009, central banks collectively become net purchasers of gold for the first time in two decades. This reflects a combination of slowing sales from European banks and growing purchases by emerging market countries.

In 2010, gold price sustains record highs. Fiat currencies are undermined by inflation fears and successive financial crises. The London pm fix achieves 35 separate successive highs in the year to date.

Held securely in national vaults as a reserve asset, gold has an irrefutable logic; released from the tombs of pharaohs and emperors alike, gold has an undeniable magic. 

Bullion coins and small bars offer private investors an attractive way of investing in relatively small amounts of gold. In many countries - including the whole of the European Union - gold purchased for investment purposes is exempt from Value Added Tax.

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