Why Gold is Money
The economist John Maynard Keynes famously called gold a “barbarous relic”, suggesting that its usefulness as money is an artifact of the past. In an era filled with cashless transactions and hundreds of cryptocurrencies, this statement seems truer today than in Keynes’ time.
However, gold also possesses elemental properties that has made it an ideal metal for money throughout history.
Sanat Kumar, a chemical engineer from Columbia University, broke down the periodic table to show why gold has been used as a monetary metal for thousands of years.
The Periodic Table
The periodic table organizes 118 elements in rows by increasing atomic number (periods) and columns (groups) with similar electron configurations.
Just as in today’s animation, let’s apply the process of elimination to the periodic table to see why gold is money:
- Gases and Liquids
Noble gases (such as argon and helium), as well as elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine and chlorine are gaseous at room temperature and standard pressure. Meanwhile, mercury and bromine are liquids. As a form of money, these are implausible and impractical.
- Lanthanides and Actinides
Next, lanthanides and actinides are both generally elements that can decay and become radioactive. If you were to carry these around in your pocket they could irradiate or poison you.
- Alkali and Alkaline-Earth Metals
Alkali and alkaline earth metals are located on the left-hand side of the periodic table, and are highly reactive at standard pressure and room temperature. Some can even burst into flames.
- Transition, Post Transition Metals, and Metalloids
There are about 30 elements that are solid, nonflammable, and nontoxic. For an element to be used as money it needs to be rare, but not too rare. Nickel and copper, for example, are found throughout the Earth’s crust in relative abundance.
- Super Rare and Synthetic Elements
Osmium only exists in the Earth’s crust from meteorites. Meanwhile, synthetic elements such as rutherfordium and nihonium must be created in a laboratory.
Once the above elements are eliminated, there are only five precious metals left: platinum, palladium, rhodium, silver and gold. People have used silver as money, but it tarnishes over time. Rhodium and palladium are more recent discoveries, with limited historical uses.
Platinum and gold are the remaining elements. Platinum’s extremely high melting point would require a furnace of the Gods to melt back in ancient times, making it impractical. This leaves us with gold. It melts at a lower temperature and is malleable, making it easy to work with.
Gold as Money
Gold does not dissipate into the atmosphere, it does not burst into flames, and it does not poison or irradiate the holder. It is rare enough to make it difficult to overproduce and malleable to mint into coins, bars, and bricks. Civilizations have consistently used gold as a material of value.
Perhaps modern societies would be well-served by looking at the properties of gold, to see why it has served as money for millennia, especially when someone’s wealth could disappear in a click.
Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation?
Although inflation may have hit its peak, several countries around the world are still facing double-digit inflation in 2022.
Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation Rate?
Inflation is surging nearly everywhere in 2022.
Geopolitical tensions are triggering high energy costs, while supply-side disruptions are also distorting consumer prices. The end result is that almost half of countries worldwide are seeing double-digit inflation rates or higher.
With new macroeconomic forces shaping the global economy, the above infographic shows countries with the highest inflation rates, using data from Trading Economics.
Double-Digit Inflation in 2022
As the table below shows, countless countries are navigating record-high levels of inflation. Some are even facing triple-digit inflation rates. Globally, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, and Venezuela have the highest rates in the world.
|Country||Inflation Rate, Year-Over-Year||Date|
|🇿🇼 Zimbabwe||269.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇧 Lebanon||162.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇻🇪 Venezuela||156.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇾 Syria||139.0%||Aug 2022|
|🇸🇩 Sudan||103.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇷 Argentina||88.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇷 Turkey||85.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||66.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇷 Iran||52.2%||Aug 2022|
|🇸🇷 Suriname||41.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇭 Ghana||40.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇺 Cuba||37.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇦 Laos||36.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇩 Moldova||34.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇪🇹 Ethiopia||31.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇼 Rwanda||31.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇭🇹 Haiti||30.5%||Jul 2022|
|🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||29.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇰 Pakistan||26.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇦 Ukraine||26.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇼 Malawi||25.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇹 Lithuania||23.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||22.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇮 Burundi||22.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe||21.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇻 Latvia||21.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇭🇺 Hungary||21.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇬 Nigeria||21.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇰 Macedonia||19.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇲 Myanmar||19.4%||Jun 2022|
|🇰🇿 Kazakhstan||18.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇱 Poland||17.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇬 Bulgaria||17.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇲 Turkmenistan||17.5%||Dec 2021|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||17.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇪 Montenegro||16.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇴 Angola||16.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||16.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇪🇬 Egypt||16.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇲 Comoros||15.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan||15.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇴 Romania||15.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇾 Belarus||15.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||15.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇸 Serbia||15.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇰 Slovakia||14.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇳 Mongolia||14.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇱 Netherlands||14.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇿 Azerbaijan||13.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇫 Afghanistan||13.6%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇲 Gambia||13.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇭🇷 Croatia||13.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇼 Botswana||13.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇳 Senegal||13.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇱 Chile||12.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇽🇰 Kosovo||12.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇷🇺 Russia||12.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇳 Guinea||12.4%||Jul 2022|
|🇧🇪 Belgium||12.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇴 Colombia||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇿 Uzbekistan||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇬 Congo||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇮 Nicaragua||12.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇾 Cayman Islands||12.1%||Jun 2022|
|🇲🇺 Mauritius||11.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇿 Mozambique||11.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇹 Italy||11.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇱 Mali||11.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇷 Mauritania||11.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||11.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇹 Austria||11.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇪 Sweden||10.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇬 Uganda||10.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇪 Georgia||10.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇪 Germany||10.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇭🇳 Honduras||10.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇰 Denmark||10.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇹 Portugal||10.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇯🇲 Jamaica||9.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇮 Slovenia||9.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇹 Guatemala||9.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇿🇲 Zambia||9.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇪 Kenya||9.6%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇲 Armenia||9.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇸 Iceland||9.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇬 Madagascar||9.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇮🇪 Ireland||9.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇸 Lesotho||9.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇳 Tunisia||9.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇷 Greece||9.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇾 Uruguay||9.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇷 Costa Rica||9.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇩 Bangladesh||8.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇾 Cyprus||8.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇫🇴 Faroe Islands||8.8%||Sep 2022|
|🇩🇿 Algeria||8.7%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇵 Nepal||8.6%||Sep 2022|
|🇸🇧 Solomon Islands||8.5%||Aug 2022|
|🇲🇽 Mexico||8.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇼 Guinea Bissau||8.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇦🇱 Albania||8.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇧 Barbados||8.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇫🇮 Finland||8.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇦 Morocco||8.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇪 Peru||8.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||8.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇻 Cape Verde||8.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇾 Paraguay||8.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇱 East Timor||7.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇬 Togo||7.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇭 Philippines||7.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇺🇸 U.S.||7.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇲 Cameroon||7.6%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇴 Norway||7.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||7.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||7.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇸🇻 El Salvador||7.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇲🇹 Malta||7.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇺 Australia||7.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇪🇸 Spain||7.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇩 Chad||7.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||7.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇿 Belize||7.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇦 Namibia||7.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇼 Aruba||7.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇨🇦 Canada||6.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇱🇺 Luxembourg||6.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇴 Somalia||6.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇮🇳 India||6.8%||Oct 2022|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||6.8%||Jun 2022|
|🇬🇾 Guyana||6.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇷 Liberia||6.5%||Jul 2022|
|🇧🇷 Brazil||6.5%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇸 Bahamas||6.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇨🇮 Ivory Coast||6.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago||6.3%||Aug 2022|
|🇫🇷 France||6.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇩🇯 Djibouti||6.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇷 Puerto Rico||6.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇹 Bhutan||6.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇹 Qatar||6.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇭 Thailand||6.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇿 Swaziland||5.8%||Aug 2022|
|🇮🇩 Indonesia||5.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇷 South Korea||5.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇯 Tajikistan||5.7%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||5.5%||Jun 2022|
|🇰🇭 Cambodia||5.4%||Jul 2022|
|🇮🇶 Iraq||5.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇯🇴 Jordan||5.2%||Oct 2022|
|🇫🇯 Fiji||5.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇮🇱 Israel||5.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇳🇨 New Caledonia||5.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇹🇿 Tanzania||4.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇲 Bermuda||4.5%||Jul 2022|
|🇪🇷 Eritrea||4.5%||Dec 2021|
|🇲🇾 Malaysia||4.5%||Sep 2022|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong||4.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇵🇸 Palestine||4.4%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇳 Brunei||4.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇱🇾 Libya||4.3%||Sep 2022|
|🇻🇳 Vietnam||4.3%||Oct 2022|
|🇪🇨 Ecuador||4.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇧🇭 Bahrain||4.0%||Sep 2022|
|🇯🇵 Japan||3.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇰🇼 Kuwait||3.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇳🇪 Niger||3.2%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇻 Maldives||3.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇬🇦 Gabon||3.0%||Jul 2022|
|🇱🇮 Liechtenstein||3.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||3.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇭 Switzerland||3.0%||Oct 2022|
|🇸🇨 Seychelles||2.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea||2.9%||Dec 2021|
|🇧🇴 Bolivia||2.9%||Oct 2022|
|🇹🇼 Taiwan||2.7%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇫 Central African Republic||2.7%||Dec 2021|
|🇻🇺 Vanuatu||2.7%||Mar 2022|
|🇴🇲 Oman||2.4%||Sep 2022|
|🇧🇯 Benin||2.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇨🇳 China||2.1%||Oct 2022|
|🇵🇦 Panama||1.9%||Sep 2022|
|🇲🇴 Macau||1.1%||Sep 2022|
|🇸🇸 South Sudan||-2.5%||Aug 2022|
*Inflation rates based on the latest available data.
As price pressures mount, 33 central banks tracked by the Bank of International Settlements (out of a total of 38) have raised interest rates this year. These coordinated rate hikes are the largest in two decades, representing an end to an era of rock-bottom interest rates.
Going into 2023, central banks could continue this shift towards hawkish policies as inflation remains aggressively high.
The Role of Energy Prices
Driven by the war in Ukraine, energy inflation is pushing up the cost of living around the world.
Since October 2020, an index of global energy prices—made up of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and propane—has increased drastically.
Compared to the 2021 average, natural gas prices in Europe are up sixfold. Real European household electricity prices are up 78% and gas prices have climbed even more, at 144% compared to 20-year averages.
Amid global competition for liquefied natural gas supplies, price pressures are likely to stay high, even though they have fallen recently. Other harmful consequences of the energy shock include price volatility, economic strain, and energy shortages.
“The world is in the midst of the first truly global energy crisis, with impacts that will be felt for years to come”.
-Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA
Double-Digit Inflation: Will it Last?
If history is an example, taming rising prices could take at least a few years yet.
Take the sky-high inflation of the 1980s. Italy, which managed to combat inflation faster than most countries, brought down inflation from 22% in 1980 to 4% in 1986.
If global inflation rates, which hover around 9.8% in 2022, were to follow this course, it would take at least until 2025 for levels to reach the 2% target.
It’s worth noting that inflation was also highly volatile over this decade. Consider how inflation fell across much of the rich world by 1981 but shot up again in 1987 amid higher energy prices. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell spoke to the volatility of inflation at their November meeting, indicating that high inflation has a chance of following a period of low inflation.
While the Federal Reserve projects U.S. inflation to fall closer to its 2% target by 2024, the road ahead could still get a lot bumpier between now and then.
Explained: India’s Gold Demand During Diwali
Why do Indians buy gold during Diwali?
India’s Gold Demand During Diwali
In India, gold’s significance goes far beyond investment and jewelry. The yellow metal is woven into India’s cultural history and is revered by a population of over 1.3 billion.
India is one of the largest markets for gold consumption, with jewelry, bars, and coins accounting for the bulk of annual demand. Indian gold demand typically peaks between October and December on the back of Diwali, the festival of lights, followed by thousands of weddings.
But why do Indians buy gold during Diwali?
Gold’s Significance During Diwali
Indians consider it auspicious to purchase gold—a symbol of wealth, purity, and prosperity—on many festive occasions, and Diwali is the biggest one of them.
Diwali is a five-day festival that celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, based on Hindu mythology. For many Indians, this festival is associated with welcoming good luck, positivity, and prosperity.
People often dedicate gold purchases during Diwali to deities, especially Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Gold is also a popular festive and wedding gift at this time of the year.
India’s Record Gold Demand in Diwali 2021
India’s gold consumption in the second half of every year is typically higher than in the first half, coinciding with Diwali in October (beginning of Q4), according to data from the World Gold Council.
|Year||Gold Jewelry, Bar, and Coin Demand |
|YoY % Change|
Following a significant drop in demand in 2020, Indians bought a record amount of gold jewelry in Q4 2021 at 265 tonnes, worth $15.3 billion at the time. Overall, gold jewelry, bar, and coin demand in H2 2021 saw an 82% increase year-over-year.
This increase was largely driven by the festive season and pent-up demand from subdued celebrations and consumption in 2020. As of the first half of 2022, gold demand was up 7.3% relative to 2021.
With Diwali celebrations in full swing, will India see another record quarter for gold demand? It remains to be seen, with gold’s festive tailwinds likely to meet economic headwinds in the form of uncertainty and higher import duties.
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