How Much Gold Is in the World?

News & TipsPrecious Metals 101

Published: April 28, 2022

An image of stacks of gold bars.

If you have begun investing in precious metals like gold (through your IRA, for example), it is important to understand how much gold is in the world and how that number affects your investment. Gold is a limited resource, and with its stable value as an investment, even through times of inflation or economic depression, there are a lot of reasons that people are interested in investing in gold. 

But gold is a limited resource. All of the gold that has ever been mined could fit into 3.27 Olympic-sized swimming pools. If you are planning to purchase gold as an investment, then it is essential to learn how much is available, where it is located, how much supply and demand exists, and what happens when gold runs out. Gold is no longer simply a resource for jewelry makers and a symbol of wealth. It is a vital component of the tech and medical industries as well. 

Understanding how gold fits into the global economy can help you make more informed plans for your investments and your retirement plans

The Amount of Gold on Earth

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, human beings have discovered 244,000 metric tons of gold in total. In 2016, the United States ranked fourth in overall gold production, however, the majority of the world’s supply of gold has historically come from China, South Africa, and Australia. These countries produce the most gold, but there are active gold mines all across the world that add to the global gold supply. 

While large amounts of gold have already been mined, researchers believe that there is much more currently sitting in the Earth’s crust. According to the BBC Science Focus Magazine, potentially a million tons of gold exists within the top kilometer of the Earth’s crust, however, extracting this gold is incredibly difficult, and in many cases, it does not make economic sense to do so. 

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Where Is the Majority of Earth’s Gold Located?

Substantial portions of the existing gold supply are held by large institutions and wealthy collectors. According to the World Gold Council, 184,000 tons of gold are sitting in bank vaults, private collections, and reserves held by government entities. In 2021, there was an 82% increase in the amount of gold bought by central banks around the world. 

These banks buy gold because it acts as a nest egg of sorts, keeping them safe during times of economic uncertainty. If somehow, the entire existing financial system collapses, then banks can use their gold to start over. This viewpoint is centuries in the making, with gold being long seen as a symbol of wealth in cultures around the world. 

Another large owner of gold supplies is the tech industry. In 2021, there was a 9% increase in the amount of gold used in technology and engineering. Gold can be found in electronics all over the world such as phones and computers, but it is also used in larger feats of engineering such as projects related to space exploration. 

On a national scale, the countries that produce the most gold are not always the ones that have the largest gold reserves. According to GoldHub’s latest data, the top five countries for reserved gold are China, Japan, Switzerland, the United States, and India. 

Supply and Demand of Gold

In the modern market, gold is in limited supply, but is slowly increasing in demand. The pandemic caused a 5% decrease in the global gold recycling supply in 2021, mostly due to the closure of many jewelry businesses during lockdown. The average increase in the gold supply sits at 1.1% in 2022 and 2023. These numbers indicate a gold supply that grows very slowly. 

In contrast, there is an ever-growing list of uses for gold that is increasing the demand. Gold has always been used in jewelry and as a backing for currency. However, in the 21st century, there are several new uses for gold

Gold is a vital component of many electronics and computers. It is also used in flight and space exploration, as well as in some procedures practiced in medicine and dentistry. Gold is durable and tarnish-resistant, meaning that it is long-lasting in ways that other metals are not. These attributes make it an appealing metal to use in important machinery and medical procedures. 

While the gold standard is not currently used, there is increased interest in investing in gold. Investors can buy the precious metal itself, or they can invest in mining companies. Some people are looking to gold as a stable investment for their retirement by opening Gold IRAs. By doing so, they can use gold as a way to protect their investments through times of economic hardship and uncertainty. This stability makes gold a wise choice for long-term retirement investments. 

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What Happens When the Gold Runs Out?

Gold is indeed a non-renewable resource, much like oil. However, unlike oil, gold is recyclable. It does not change its structure through use. It is hard to estimate when the gold supply will run out because of its recyclable nature and the fact that there is still an estimated 50,000 tons of underground reserves that haven’t been mined. 

In a future where those reserves are mined, that still might not be the last-ever growth of the gold supply. As we move forward, gold mining technology is also progressing. Artificial intelligence and smart-mining techniques are constantly evolving, increasing mining companies’ abilities to extract gold from the Earth’s crust in ways that were not possible before. This can increase the global gold supply in unforeseeable ways, making it hard for experts to make exact predictions about the future growth of the world’s gold supply. 

There is gold on the moon, at the bottom of the ocean, and sitting in old phones and computers in landfills. With all of these potential sources of gold, and the variety of different ways it can be recycled, experts are not worried about the supply running out any time soon.

News & TipsPrecious Metals 101
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