Total gold above ground is estimated at 160,000 tons or 5.144 billion ounces.
Divide this figure by a world population of 6.88 billion and you arrive at 0.75 ounces per capita.
A list compiled from World Gold Council data and Wikipedia population figures shows only 11 of the biggest gold holding nations come in above above the cutoff point at 0.75 ounces per capita.
In medieval times a man's life was considered to have the value of one ounce of gold. This was the price to get somebody off the gallows.
TABLE: In the world of official gold holdings Europe still sits comfortably on top, mixed together with resource-rich countries. These are the 30 countries with the biggest absolute official gold reserves listed by grams/ounces of gold per capita.The table above is probably misleading, though. It only accounts for official central bank gold holdings which are estimated to be around 20% of total gold above ground. Even this figure is not undisputed. French investment house Cheuvreux suspected in 2006 (pdf) that central banks have secretly sold off or leased 10,000 to 15,000 tons, effectively halving their reserves.
Who Holds The Other 80%?
So who holds the other 80%? This question can never be answered correctly and leaves room for wide guesstimates.
As gold never lost its value it can be presumed that most of it is still stashed away in the form of jewellery. After gold ETFs Indian housewives may be a large investor as a group as are Arabic countries, remembering that India alone sucked up most of the gold sold under the Central Bank Gold Sales Agreement in this decade. In general it can be surmised that the less developed a country is financially, the higher private gold holdings will be in the absence of other options to save. Just ask 1 billion Indians.
China is another blank spot on the global gold holdings map. The Chinese government has been actively touting gold and silver investments on TV while gobbling up almost the entire production of the world's biggest gold producer it has become in the last decade.
Western private households are probably at the bottom of the list of gold holders, having been driven into paper investments in the past 25 years. It is believed that the Western world holds only less than 3% of its assets in gold. This allocation percentage could mushroom as all other markets turn south while gold continues to climb the wall of worry.
For more data on the global gold market Erste Group's Ronald Stöferle has written this 70-page report (pdf) that has become the gold standard of gold research earlier this year.