The world’s largest - and smallest - bars

The smallest cast bar in grammes weighs 10 g, first made in Brazil by Degussa (since 1985) as well as subsequently by Ourinvest and CRM. The smallest cast bar in ounces is the ‘button’ bar made by the Perth Mint (Australia) since 1976.

Tanaka (Japan) has manufactured the world’s smallest minted bars, mainly for the jewellery industry, since 1990. They weigh only 0.5 g and 0.3 g. 1 g minted bars, first issued by Credit Suisse (Switzerland) in 1980, are manufactured by 12 accredited manufacturers worldwide, including Degussa and Heraeus.

The world’s largest standard minted bars are the 20 oz and 500 g which are manufactured by Johnson Matthey (Canada).

Historical Rothschild Bars

NM Rothschild & Sons Limited (United Kingdom) manufactured gold bars in London for more than 100 years until 1967. Both the 100 g bar and a 50 g bar were made.

Oldest Stamp

An official stamp on a bar identifies the name of the issuing company. Among accredited manufacturers worldwide, the oldest official stamp still in use is that of the Homestake Mining Company (USA) which has been using the same stamp since 1878.

Oldest Assay Mark

In addition to an official stamp, many bar manufacturers apply an assay mark to the bar, certifying the weight and purity. Among accredited manufacturers worldwide, the oldest assay mark still in use is that of Schnne Edelmetaal BV (Netherlands). The same mark, depicting a mercury staff and two snakes, has been used for more than 200 years.

Bullion Coins

For many investors bullion coins, denominated in ounces and issued by national mints, offer the easiest way to hold gold. The Krugerrand (South Africa) was the first gold coin to be issued with a precise weight in ounces. The 1 oz coin was launched in 1967, the smaller sizes in 1980.

Gold Nuggets

The discovery of gold nuggets stimulated four great gold rushes in the 19th century: USA (1840s), Australia (1850s), South Africa (1880s) and Canada (1890s). These four countries, together with Russia, still dominate the world’s supply of newly-mined gold. While most nuggets are small, the largest known nugget was the ‘Welcome Stranger’. Discovered in Australia in 1858, it weighed 2,284 oz (71 kg).

Gold-Bearing Ore

Almost all newly-mined gold is laboriously extracted from this gold-bearing ore. Typically, around 5 - 10 tonnes of ore is processed to yield just one ounce of gold. Much gold is mined at great depths below ground. In South Africa, the world’s largest gold producing country, these depths can exceed 3 km.

Dore’ Bars

Most major gold mines process their gold-bearing ore at the site of the mine, producing low purity ‘dore’ bars which are sent to gold refineries for upgrading into tradeable bars of high purity (99.5% or more). ‘Dore’ bars are normally large, some weighing as much as 25 kg.

Garimpo’ Dore

‘Garimpo’ dore bars are made by ‘garimpeiros’, Brazilian peasants who mine gold independently or in small groups in the Amazon jungle. Brazil was the world’s major source of newly-mined gold in the 18th century. It still yields around 75 tonnes annually.

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