Commodities & Metals

These Are the Countries That Own the World's Gold

Douglas A. McIntyre

Most large nations own gold, held by their central banks. The World Gold Council reports that central banks are buying gold at levels not surpassed since 2013, and they bought 146 tons of the precious metal in the first quarter. Many of these nations are among the 25 richest countries in the world.

A small number of nations have over 1,000 tons, and several of those have bought aggressively recently. Central banks tend to hold gold as a hedge against inflation and the fluctuations of currencies they might own. As Bloomberg pointed out recently: “Gold — a finite asset as opposed to a fiat currency — can help stabilize economies amid times of market turmoil. Bullion has a time-honored appeal as a haven and hedge against inflation.”

The United States owns the most gold at 8,134 tonnes at the end of the first quarter. A tonne, which is how gold reserves are measured, is also called a metric ton, which equates to 2,206 pounds. The U.S. owns the most gold, but this is the world’s largest gold producer.

The second largest national owner of gold is Germany at 3,370 tonnes. The International Monetary Fund, not a country at all but still part of the World Gold Council’s central bank list, holds 2,814 tonnes. It is followed by Italy with 2,452 tonnes, France at 2,436 tonnes, Russia at 2,168 tonnes, China at 1,886 tonnes and Switzerland at 1,040 tonnes.

Among the 40 nations that own the world’s gold, those at the bottom end hold very small amounts compared to the world’s leading central banks. Only 23 countries on the list have reserves above 200 tonnes. Only 37 hold over 100 tonnes. These figures are more evidence of how the United States dominates the list and how huge an inventory of 8,115 tonnes actually is.

One nation with the largest supplies added aggressively to its number in the first quarter. According to The World Gold Council, China added 33 tonnes in the period. Among smaller countries: “Ecuador bought gold for the first time since 2014, boosting gold holdings by 10.6t (tonnes). Turkey also continued its programme of gold accumulation, purchasing 40.1t and India, which began purchasing gold again in 2018 after a nine-year hiatus, bought 8.4t in Q1.” Some of these are among the most productive nations in the world.

Top 20 Reported Official Gold Holdings (as of March 2019)

Rank Bank Tonnes
1 United States 8,133.5
2 Germany 3,369.7
3 IMF 2,814.0
4 Italy 2,451.8
5 France 2,436.0
6 Russian Federation 2,168.3
7 China, P.R.: Mainland 1,885.5
8 Switzerland 1,040.0
9 Japan 765.2
10 Netherlands 612.5
11 India 608.8
12 ECB 504.8
13 Taiwan Province of China 423.6
14 Portugal 382.5
15 Kazakhstan 361.7
16 Uzbekistan 348.4
17 Saudi Arabia 323.1
18 United Kingdom 310.3
19 Turkey 293.6
20 Lebanon 286.8

Source: World Gold Council