What is Gold Bullion?
In simple terms, the term 'bullion' refers to gold, silver and other precious metals in the form of bars, ingots, and coins. It is the form in which precious metals are traded on the commodity markets.
The origins of the word are unclear, although there is general agreement over the fact that it comes from the French language. Popular theories include the ideas that the word derives from the French ‘bouillon’ (the act of boiling), bille (an ingot), or even that the word is taken from French king Louis XIII’s Minister of Finance, Claude de Bullion. Gold bullion is defined by its mass and fine gold content which, along with wider economic forces, determines its value.
Gold Bullion Products
Ingots and bars
Two terms often associated with gold bullion are ‘ingots’ and ‘bars’, the most obvious difference being their size. The word ‘ingot’ refers to the molds in which the larger bars are cast, while smaller bars are usually made by minting or stamping. While the classic image is that of vaults full of large, heavy ingots, bullion is available in a variety of sizes and weights. Bullion can be purchased in bars as small as 1g and range through 1 troy ounce, 100g, 500g, 1kg and 12.5kg bars.
Alongside bars and ingots, gold bullion is also produced in the form of coins by the various mints around the world. Although they may have a nominal monetary value, bullion coins resemble bars more closely than they do normal currency and their real value is measured by multiplying their precious metal content with the gold price. Examples include the Gold Sovereign, the U.S. Gold Eagle, the Gold Britannia, and the Canadian Maple Leaf.
Typically smaller than most bars, they are considered a flexible, convenient and cheap way of buying gold, as their small size makes them an easy-to-liquidate asset in times of need or if you decide to cash in on your investment.
Purity and value
Gold bullion’s value is largely driven by demand, and is thus rooted in both its scarcity and quality.
Bullion mints and dealers will not use any old gold , and its suitability for use as investment bullion depends on its purity level, which is required to be 24 carat, or 999.9% pure.
Bullion therefore differs from other gold products, then, as its value is not effected by artistry or craftsmanship. In this respect it differs hugely from other products such as jewellery or numismatic coins made from precious metals, whose prices may be impacted by sentiment based on their beauty or rarity. For example while the price of a proof coin commemorating a certain event may be inflated due to its collectibility, a gold bullion coin's value is calculated by simply multiplying the spot price by its fine gold content.
It is this rarity and purity that makes gold bullion such a popular investment. There is only so much gold that exists in the world and it can not, therefore, be produced out of thin air in the same way that money can, and therefore can not lose value in the same way either. While gold is not considered a high yielding investment, it is extremely popular with those who want to protect a part of their wealth by investing in an asset whose value will endure the most difficult of times.
London Bullion Market Association
Quality standards are set by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), whose Good Delivery Rules are considered the international regulatory standard for gold and silver bullion. The standard LBMA gold bar weighs around 400 troy ounces, and must have a minimum purity of 995.0 parts/ thousand fine gold (99.5%). They must be marked with a serial number, the refiner’s hallmark, its fineness and the year of production. Silver bullion bars are required to contain 999.0 parts/ thousand silver (99.9%) and must show the same marks.
Good Delivery List
It is only natural that an investor wants to be assured of the quality of their gold bullion and to know that the gold they have purchased comes from a refiner that meets the LBMA’s Good Delivery standards set by the LBMA. The Good Delivery List is a regularly reviewed list of the refiners whose adherence to the industry standards has been acknowledge by the LBMA, and is widely accepted as the point of reference when looking for a creditable, high quality gold refiner.
Given BullionByPost’s commitment to quality, three of our gold bar suppliers- PAMP, Heraeus and Metalor- not only appear on the Good Delivery List , but are also three of only five accredited Good Delivery Referees ; companies given the authority to supervise, assess and advise refineries on the list to ensure their adherence to the LBMA standards.
Do you have more questions about gold? See some of our other articles for more information: