WHERE'S THE GOLD?

Federal Reserve Bank of New York's underground vaults

New York Tops The List

Although Fort Knox is perhaps the most famous repository of U.S. gold, more gold is actually stored in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's underground vaults seen in this photo. Far and away, the United States has more gold in its reserves than any other country. In fact, the United States holds around 25 percent of the more than 31,500 tonnes of gold currently held in national treasuries. Total: 8,133.5 tonnes (source: World Gold Council, February 2013)

Fort Knox

Fort Knox

Stacks of gold bars held in Fort Knox are seen in this rare photo taken during the only public visit to the vaults made in 1974. The United States Bullion Depository, known commonly as Fort Knox, is a fortified vault building located within the confines of the U.S. Army base at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The facility has been used to store a large portion of United States gold reserves since the late 1930s. For security reasons, no visitors are allowed inside the depository grounds. This policy has been enforced ever since the vault opened except for one visit made by members of the United States Congress and the news media on September 23, 1974 when this photo was made.

German gold bars

Germany Takes Back Gold

Bars of gold are piled up during a press conference at the headquarters of the German Bundesbank in Frankfurt, Germany. The German Federal Bank announced in early 2013 that it wants to start taking back German gold reserves stored in Paris and New York. Germany is the largest economy in the Eurozone and it also has the largest reserves of gold in Europe. After reunification, Germany began calling in its gold reserves that had been largely held in foreign banks during the Cold War. Total: 3,401 tonnes (source: World Gold Council, February 2013)

French and Italian Gold

French and Italian Gold

A vault worker hauls gold bars (with a standard weight of 12.4 kg) inside the main vaults of the French National Bank, the Banque De France, that is home to the country's principal gold holdings. Both France and Italy hold just over 2,400 tonnes with each tonne worth about 51 million U.S. dollars. Total: 2,435.4 tonnes (source: World Gold Council, February 2013)

gold in China jewelry store

Walking On Gold

Customers stroll on a glass walkway showcasing 1000 gold bars worth about 400 million yuan (64 million US dollars) as part of a jewelry store promotion in Binzhou City, China in January 2013. It might be surprising that the world's second largest economy is in only fifth place on the list, but China is committed to increasing its gold holdings as an essential step in strengthening the power of its currency. Total: 1,054.1 tonnes (source: World Gold Council, February 2013)

Hong Kong Ingots

Hong Kong Ingots

Gold ingots carrying traditional Chinese dealer stamps -- like these seen in a Hong Kong bank -- have been used in trade across East Asia for hundreds of years. As a semi-autonomous player in the larger Chinese economy, Hong Kong has been pulling all of its physical gold holdings from depositories in London and transferring them to a high-security depository newly built at the city's airport. The facility would support Hong Kong's emergence as a Swiss-style trading hub for bullion and facilitate China's purchase of more gold reserves.

Gold-Rich Switzerland

Gold-Rich Switzerland

Gold bars of various weight are stacked in the vault of the Credit Suisse Bank. Beyond watches, chocolate and pocket knives, Switzerland is best known as one of the world's leading financial centers. The Swiss National Bank directs Switzerland's monetary policy and protects the country's gold reserves. In addition, many private Swiss banks, like Credit Suisse, hold their own sizeable gold assets. Total: 1,040.1 tonnes (source: World Gold Council, February 2013)

Japanese Bank Backup

Japanese Bank Backup

A Japanese bullion shop saleswoman offers 1kg gold bars for sale during a mild bank panic in April 2002. Japanese investors continue to be worried about the safety of Japan's banks and often turn to gold. Although Japan's 765.2 tonnes of gold is enough to make the top 10 list, that gold only constitutes a very small percentage of its overall reserves which consist mostly of U.S. dollars. Total: 765.2 tonnes (source: World Gold Council, February 2013)

India's Jewelry Passion

India's Jewelry Passion

India's love for gold is almost a religion. Beyond being a symbol of wealth and status, gold is also part of worship and culture -- a tradition that goes back thousands of years. The world's second most populous country barely made the top 10 list. Although India purchases more gold than any other county, most of the metal ends up in household jewelry and not in its national banks. Total: 557.7 tonnes (source: World Gold Council, February 2013)

Bank of England Gold Vault

Bank of England Gold Vault

Gold bars are displayed in the main gold vault at the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street in London. Great Britain once held vast gold reserves but now sits in the lower part of the world's top 20. Part of the reason for this slide came from the ultimately disastrous decision by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to sell about half of the UK's gold reserves between 1999 and 2002. Nevertheless, the London Bullion Market is the global trading center for physical gold, and the Bank of England holds gold on behalf of other central banks. The amount of this "held" gold has declined recently, but London remains a major player in the global gold market.

South Africa's Gold Mines

South Africa's Gold Mines

Pallets stacked with gold ingots fill a vault at the Bank of South Africa in Pretoria, South Africa. As one of the world's leading gold producers for decades, South Africa could have easily built up enormous reserves but instead continues to sell over 90 percent of the gold from its mines. The South African economy depends heavily on gold, minerals and other metals as its chief exports.

Gold Follows Oil

Gold Follows Oil

A security guard moves one kilo gold bars made by the Swiss refining firm Valcambi into a secured vault in Dubai. With billions of oil dollars flowing into most Persian Gulf states over the past decades, many of these nations and their citizens have converted much of their wealth into gold. As of early 2013, Saudi Arabia has larger gold reserves than the UK.

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