Investment demand for gold bars has taken off in India even as jewellery sales appear subdued given the high price of the precious metal and the separate making charges involved with each piece of jewellery. Investors who had purchased gold bars two months ago are dipping into their savings yet again and purchasing bars and coins, said traders. 

“Many consumers are buying coins and bars these days and we have registered a 30% to 40% increase in sales from September,” said Dinesh Jain of the All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation.

Given the extreme price volatility in gold, many investors have bought back bars they sold a few days ago at lower prices. Many are also opting for recycling old gold jewellery rather than buying any new items. 

“There has been a 50% rise in recycled gold in recent months,” said Jain. “With such high rates, it is not possible for families to go in for new gold jewellery given the marriage season,” he added.

Gold has touched record high prices several times this year, mainly brought on by the global economic slowdown. On September 6, it hit a historic high of $1,920 per ounce in the international markets. 

In India, the rupee’s depreciation against the dollar has also driven gold to new highs, touching a record Rs 29,500 ($567) per 10 gram mid-November. On Friday, gold slid by Rs 47 ($0.91) as compared to Thursday’s close in the Mumbai market to touch $563.86 per 10 gram.

Although jewellery outlets continue to buzz with customers, traders said most consumers were looking at gold bars and coins rather than jewellery. Given the increase in demand, many banks and private institutions have launched new offerings. 

The South Indian Bank has launched the sale of gold coins and gold bars in South India. The pure gold bars and coins consist of 999.9 pure gold minted at the leading refinery PAMP in Switzerland. The bars are now available at select branches in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, with aims to take it to different areas in the south.

Reliance Spot Exchange, part of Reliance Capital, has also announced the launch of EGold Souk, a physical trading platform in bullion. The firm has said given the high demand, it is aiming at trade of over $960 million in the first year.

“This is a business to business bullion exchange platform. Buyers and sellers will be able to place orders with a margin of 5% but will have to pay in balance funds by the settlement time. Besides, buyers can pay vaulting charges and hold the gold in exchange accredited vaults,” said an official.

As long as the gold is lying in the exchange accredited vaults the holders of such gold bars shall be able to sell the same on the exchange platform.

Availability of gold will be in the form of LBMA approved gold bars of denominations 1 kilo and 100 gram. The price quote will be in rupee per 10 gram and excluding value added tax and other local taxes, but inclusive of octroi charges. Quality specifications will be 995 purity for 1 kilo gold bars and 999 purity for 100 gram gold coins.

“Our extensive multi city research has shown that there is a demand for smaller quantities at better prices, hence we will also be offering 100 gram bars and not just coins,” Reliance Spot Exchange CEO Kapil Bali said.

The World Gold Council had also said that all markets saw strong double digit growth in demand for gold bars and coins. While in China, demand for gold bars and coins expand by 24% from a year ago levels to 60.2 tonnes, demand for gold bars and coins increased 29% to reach 390.5 tonnes, up from 303.0 tonnes in Q3 2010. In value terms, demand for bars and coins in Q3 2011 equated to $21.4 billion compared to $12.0 billion in Q3 2010.

Even in the UAE, demand for gold bars and coins has risen 12% year on year in the third quarter of 2011. Many Indian investors in the UAE are propelling demand, said traders.

iPad Version – Picture: Bank employee holds a 500 gram high purity 999.9 hallmark gold ingot before selling it to a client at a Sberbank office :Ilya Naymushin / Reuters