Gold Bars

by humagaia

Here you will find details about many of the gold bars that are or have been produced, both for investment and for storage. The basic storage bar is the kilobar.

Gold is the bedrock of all finance. It has been extracted and utilised for currency, ornamentation and jewelry for millennia. It has been held in convenient bar form, from rough smelted bars, to those of 100% purity, throughout that period. With its intrinsic value it has been traded extensively and in recent years various gold bars have been produced, both for large and small investors and those that wish to hold their wealth in other than paper currency. Gold is a safe haven in times of high inflation.

The different types of bar are described below.

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The most widely traded small gold bar is the kilobar (weight = 1,000.grams). It is the most popular gold bar for investors as it trades at a low premium above the value of gold content. It is popular with fabricators as it is easy to produce and allows for quick turnaround due to its investor popularity.

Traditional kilobars are made in the shape of a ‘brick’. This form is still preferred by some investors and fabricators in Europe. Most kilobars, however, are now produced in a flat ‘international’ shape.

These kilobars are produced by approved manufacturers of the world’s major gold dealing exchanges in London, New York, Tokyo and Zurich.

Standard Shape Gold Bars

Decorative Bars

Attractive decorative designs have only been applied to the reverse side of a standard minted bars since about 1980.

Accredited manufacturers in Switzerland, Germany and Brazil are the predominant manufacturers of decorative minted bars.

The one opposite was produced in Switzerland by Volksbank.

Decorative Gold Bar

Decorative Gold Bar
Decorative Gold Bar
'Rainbow' bars

Mitsubishi (Japan) pioneered the manufacturer of multi-coloured ‘rainbow’ bars. The manufacturing process combines different carat gold color tones in order to create an infinite variety of attractive patterns. Experimental bars, made in 1993, illustrated ‘rainbow’, ‘woodgrain’, ‘textile’ and ‘polka dot’ patterns. The bar purity is 75% (18 carat).

‘Hologram’ Bars

Pamp (Switzerland) pioneered the application of multi-colored hologram designs to minted bars in 1990. These bars, popular in the Middle East, a variety of which are now distributed worldwide.

‘Gold Leaf’ Bars

From the 1930s until the end of the Vietnam war in 1975, unusual ‘gold leaf’ bars were widely manufactured in Vietnam. Their thinness makes them extremely portable, easily placed inside shoes, sewn into the lining of clothes or rolled into narrow tubes. Thousands of these bars, smuggled by Vietnamese refugees, were sold to gold dealers, mainly in South East Asia. The standard bar weighs around 15 g.

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Fine Gold Cards

Fine gold cards, pioneered by Mitsubishi (Japan) in the mid-1980s, enable multi-coloured printed designs to be applied to their smooth surfaces. Although gold cards up to 1000 g are available, the 1 g card is the most widely sold in Japan and the cards have been issued by a variety of Japanese manufacturers.

‘Bank’ Bars

Many banks issue minted bars, marked with their own name, but manufactured by an external manufacturer. In Europe and Brazil, minted ‘bank’ bars are widely available.

‘Commemorative’ Bars

Some accredited manufacturers, most notably Degussa (Germany) and Degussa (Brazil), issue minted bars commemorating important national or international events. The minting of ‘commemorative’ bars, incorporating the mark of the accredited manufacturer, is not yet widespread.


Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), through its subsidiary refinery, Argor-Heraeus SA, has applied a KINEGRAM as a security device to the reverse of its minted bars since December 1993. This new bar is called kinebar.

KINEGRAM is the trade mark of the security device developed by Landis & Gyr Communications.

‘Fine Art’ Bars

Two series of innovative gold proof bars with a gold purity of 99.99% were minted by the Singapore Mint in 1994. Four decorative ‘Art Ingots’ including ‘Balinese Girl’ (75 g) and four decorative ingots depicting historical banknotes, including ‘$10: The Government of the Strait Settlement’ (41 g) were produced.

‘Bas-Relief’ Bar

Buan Hua Long (Thailand) manufactures an unusual bar which marks its standard 5, 10 and 25 baht bars in bas-relief. The marks, carved into the base of the bar mould, are formed as soon as the molten gold is poured into the mould. This traditional method of marking cast bars eliminates the need for conventional marking tools: dies, punches and hammers.

‘Cartoon’ Bars

Famous cartoon characters have been depicted on small gold bars. In 1996, Pamp (Switzerland) introduced designs from Warner Bros (eg Tweety and Bugs Bunny) and, in 1997, from Disney (eg Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck).

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Minted ‘Brick’ Bars

SEMPSA (Spain) manufactured a 50 g minted bar in the shape of a ‘brick’, which is unique. It was the only minted bar among accredited bar manufacturers worldwide to have tapered sides, closely resembling the shape of typical large 400 oz (12.5 kg) London Good Delivery Bar.

‘400’ oz (‘12.5’ kg) bar

There are only 55 active manufacturers worldwide whose ‘400 oz’ (‘12.5 kg’) bars are accepted internationally as London Good Delivery.

A list may be found here: 

‘400 oz’ London Good Delivery bars are permitted to weigh between 350 oz and 430 oz. Minimum gold purity: 99.5%.

Gold Bars Non-Standard Weight Denominations

Tael Bars

A tael is a Chinese unit of weight. One tael is equivalent to 1.2 oz or 37.4 g. Tael bars, ranging from 1/3 tael to 10 taels, are widely traded in Chinese-speaking countries, mainly Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Cast tael bars are manufactured in 3 shapes: ‘biscuits’, ‘doughnuts’ and ‘boats’.

‘Boat’ Bars

Tael bars, described as ‘boats’, range from 1/3 tael to 10 taels. The traditional ‘boat’ shape is known to have been used for silver and other Chinese coinage as far back as the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD).

‘Biscuit’ Bars

The most popular tael bar weight is the 5 tael ‘biscuit’ cast bar (6 oz or 187 g). 5 tael ‘biscuits’, manufactured in Hong Kong and accredited to the Chinese Gold & Silver Exchange (founded in 1910), are traded in large quantities. Minted tael bars, normally made outside Hong Kong, are also available.

‘Doughnut’ Bars

Tael bars, described as ‘doughtnuts’, are available in 3 small sizes, 1/2, 1 and 2 taels. The ‘doughnut’ shape is a traditional Chinese shape for coinage. The hole enables many bars to be securely stacked together on wooden rods or bound together with string.

Baht Bars

The baht is a Thai unit of weight. The most popular bar is the 10 baht cast bar, equivalent to 150.4 g or 4.9 oz. The traditional gold purity of baht bars is unusual: 96.5%.

‘Twin-Coin’ Bar

Yoo Long Kim Kee (Thailand) was the first to manufacture a decorative cast bar to a precise weight through injecting gold into an enclosed mould under pressure. An experimental 1 baht bar, described as a ‘twin-coin’ bar, was manufactured in 1992.

‘Mirror’ Bar

An unusual ‘mirror’ bar, available in 1, 2 and 4 baht weights, was manufactured by Yoo Long Kim Kee (Thailand) in 1989.

Tola Bars

The tola is an Indian unit of weight. The most popular weight is the 10 tola cast bar, equivalent to 3.75 oz or 116.64 g. More than 2 million are manufactured annually. Tola bars, most of which are imported from Europe, are widely traded in the Middle East, India, Pakistan and Singapore.

10 tola bars are distinctive in two ways. They have smooth rounded edges and are an ideal size for smuggling, if necessary inside the smuggler’s body. They have no serial numbers. Round minted tola bars are often incorporated into jewellery, especially in Pakistan where ‘marriage necklaces’ can weigh 500 g or more

Chi Bars

The chi is a Vietnamese unit of weight. 1 chi weighs 3.75 g. 10 chi (or 1 cay or 1 luong) weighs 37.5 g. Pamp (Switzerland) was the first among accredited manufacturers to produce a range of chi denominated minted bars for Vietnam.

Shaped Gold Bars

‘Yin-Yang’ Bars

Several unusual ‘Yin-Yang’ bars were issued by Ishifuku (Japan) in 1993. The innovative ‘kidney’ shaped bars depict the Zen religious symbol representing the harmony of opposites.

‘Koban’ Bars

Tokuriki Honten (Japan) has manufactured attractive ‘Koban’ bars since the early 1960s, ranging from 5 g to 50 g. The bars commemorate the oval shape of traditional Japanese gold coinage issued between the 16th and 19th centuries.

‘Bone’ Bar

An innovative 100 g cast bar in an unconventional ‘bone’ shape was manufactured by Degussa (Brazil) in 1982.

‘Pendant’ Bars

Degussa (Germany) is recorded as the first among accredited manufacturers to have manufactured, in 1978, a minted bar in an unconventional (hexagonal) shape and incorporating a hole to facilitate its use as a pendant. In 1984, Pamp (Switzerland) expanded the concept, pioneering the production of minted bars in many unusual shapes, as well as incorporating hangers.

‘Full-Colour’ Bars

One dimensional designs in full colour are now applied to decorative gold bars. In 1996, Pamp (Switzerland) issued a range of 10 g oval pendant bars depicting characters from Indian mythology (eg Krishna, Laxmiji) in full colour.

‘Double Pendant’ Bars

In 1996, Pamp (Switzerland) launched ‘double-pendant’ bars in the Middle East. They were available in three weights (10 g, 7.5 g and 5 g) with two inner shapes: heart and circular.

‘Heart’ Bars

Innovative ‘heart’ bars, defined as heart-shaped or incorporating a heart design, were first made by Pamp SA in 1994, the outcome of a World Gold Council initiative in Singapore. The ‘heart’ bars of ARY Traders (UAE), launched in 1997, aroused much interest in UAE, Pakistan and India.

‘Bullion Watch’ Bars

A remarkable range of ‘bullion watches’ was pioneered by Pamp SA (Switzerland) that are designed to be traded, like bullion bars or coins, according to the prevailing value of their fine gold content. Launched internationally in Hong Kong in 1994, they incorporated circular dials which contain either 1 oz or 1/2 oz of 99.99% gold. They were available in more than 100 different styles and designs in 3 categories designated: ‘man’, ‘woman’ and ‘unisex’. Straps could be in gold, steel or leather.

‘Model’ Bars

LG Metals Corporation (South Korea) issued, since 1991, a traditional range of ‘model’ bars (average purity 99.98%) in the form of pigs (a symbol of wealth), toads (good fortune) and turtles (longevity). Denominated in ‘Dons’, a Korean unit of weight (1 ‘don’ equals 3.75 g), they were normally traded at a small premium above the gold price. ‘Model’ bars were especially popular among Koreans as gifts for weddings and anniversaries.

Non-Standard Gold Bars and Other Gold Forms

‘Tezabi’ Bars

These rough cast bars are manufactured by thousands of small ‘backyard’ bar manufacturers in Pakistan to a theoretical ‘99.9%’ purity. The bars are not made to any precise weight but depend on the variable amount of gold available, usually old gold jewellery, to be melted in the crucible.

They resemble the earliest known gold coins made by the Lydian kings of Asia Minor in the 7th century BC. The method used by Pakistanis in the manufacture of ‘tezabi’ bars is not believed to have changed in over 2,000 years.

‘Gold Fillet’ Bars

‘Gold Fillet’ bars, which are manufactured from thin rolled gold strips, are sometimes produced to display the official stamps of ‘400 oz’ (12.5 kg) bars where they are not used in the manufacture of smaller bars. They illustrate the official stamps and other markings which appear only on London Good Delivery ‘400 oz’ bars.

Bullion Coins

For many investors bullion coins, denominated in ounces and issued by national mints, offer the easiest way to hold gold. The Krugerrand (South Africa) was the first gold coin to be issued with a precise weight in ounces. The 1 oz coin was launched in 1967, the smaller sizes in 1980.

Gold Nuggets

Gold in its original form is as ore or nuggets. The discovery of gold nuggets stimulated four great gold rushes in the 19th century: USA (1840s), Australia (1850s), South Africa (1880s) and Canada (1890s). These four countries, together with Russia, still dominate the world’s supply of newly-mined gold. While most nuggets are small, the largest known nugget was the ‘Welcome Stranger’. Discovered in Australia in 1858, it weighed 2,284 oz (71 kg).

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Gold-Bearing Ore

Gold-bearing ore comes from a variety of countries. Almost all newly-mined gold is laboriously extracted from this gold-bearing ore. Typically, around 5 - 10 tonnes of ore is processed to yield just one ounce of gold. Much gold is mined at great depths below ground. In South Africa, the world’s largest gold producing country, these depths can exceed 3 km.

‘Dore’ Bars

Most major gold mines process their gold-bearing ore at the site of the mine, producing low purity ‘dore’ bars. These are rough bars which are sent to gold refineries for upgrading into tradeable bars of high purity (99.5% or more). ‘Dore’ bars are normally large, some weighing as much as 25 kg.

Updated: 02/06/2021, humagaia
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blackspanielgallery on 02/07/2021

I like fractional gold, less then one ounce, because it s easier to find buyers when liquidation must be. Fractional coins are good for this.
If you must have gold in bar, not coin, form the Perth Mint makes the swan and the Dragon, Dragon bars are also coins, since there is a denomination printed on them.
While they take up more space per value, silver has growth possibilities, and is certainly more affordable. Have you considered silver as an alternative or to supplement a gold holding?

Great topic, and well covered.

DerdriuMarriner on 02/06/2021

humagaia, Thank you for the pictures, practicalities and products.
It's interesting about Brazil and Germany being gold bar manufacturers through Degussa. Perhaps their gold originates in the mineral-rich state of Minas Gerais ("general mines") and owes their operation to descendants of 20th-century German immigrants, who, like those of 19th-century southern American and 20th-century Japanese immigrants, preserve the homeland cultures and languages.
It's surprising to read about Vietnamese refugees being able to smuggle gold to then sell. They must not have been traveling by standard transportation means entailing, for example, airport security systems. But then non-standard means seem hazardous too, with the lack of protection and perhaps the suspicion that one is carrying one's assets on one's person.
Where would gold be kept by those who seek it for investment and storage?

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